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Anatomy of a planned gift: Relationships, purpose at core of philanthropic gifts


Behind the scenes of the $15 million gift to Iowa Health-Des Moines from the Michael R. Myers family for a new hospital in West Des Moines was one man whose job is to seek out wealthy donors and another man who has a passion for helping clients find philanthropic uses for their money.

As a senior vice president at the Iowa Health Foundation, the fund-raising arm of hospital operator Iowa Health-Des Moines, Don Ireland-Schunicht’s main job is to get to know professional money managers and financial planners to help attract money for the hospital group.

Three months ago, he received a call from Benjamin Renzo, an attorney who works at Capital Resource Group LLC, a boutique consulting company that provides firms with a range of services, including support on finance and tax-related issues.

Renzo didn’t know Ireland-Schunicht personally, but he learned of him when Renzo worked as head of a department at ING Groep, the Dutch financial services giant, that focused on planning for estates and charitable causes. From that call, agreements for the Myers donation, the second-biggest in Iowa Health’s history, were rapidly reached.

At the heart of any charitable gift is purpose, and the Myers gift comes amid a strong round of giving within Greater Des Moines. Philanthropic gifts have been central to efforts to build the new Science Center of Iowa, the Principal Riverwalk and the Des Moines Public Library. Private money may be used to reinvigorate the Des Moines Botanical Center and last year, the United Way of Central Iowa set a record during its annual fund-raising campaign.

“We’re really in a philanthropic renaissance in Des Moines,” said Dennis Linderbaum, president of the Iowa Health Foundation.

When it comes to health care, Linderbaum and Ireland-Schunicht said private money plays an especially key role. Iowa Health-Des Moines Chief Executive Eric Crowell has predicted that philanthropy will play an increasingly important role in his industry.

To help raise money and boost its profile, the Iowa Health Foundation hosts a Web site called the Planned Giving Design Center. The site boasts that it is the world’s largest site devoted to planned gift giving. It’s aimed at legal, tax and financial services professionals “who have the capacity to influence philanthropy.”

“An adviser can help a donor realize that they have the ability to do this,” Linderbaum said.

In more than 20 years with the Iowa Health Foundation and its predecessor, The Iowa Methodist Foundation, Ireland-Schunicht has developed an expertise in planned gift giving and helped raise $125 million, 60 percent of which has come through planned gifts. The foundation’s assets currently total about $65 million, though much of that money is earmarked for specific projects.

Many amenities and advanced technologies at Iowa Health, including a new surgical robot called the daVinchi Surgical System and a new linear accelerator, owe their presence to private gifts, Linderbaum said. Blank Children’s Hospital was paid for entirely with private money from the Blank family. Iowa Health’s Stoddard Cancer Center was the result of a $34 million gift from the John Stoddard family.

“There’s no way on tight hospital budgets that we would have anything that approaches what we have today,” Ireland-Schunicht said. “Medicare and Medicaid payers aren’t going to pay for us to innovate.”

Gifts tend to build on themselves. Since the Myers gift was announced, the Iowa Health Foundation has received more calls from people interested in donating to a West Des Moines hospital than it had before the Myers gift was announced, Ireland-Schunicht and Linderbaum said.

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