By Larry Collins
Three community banks with offices in the Hampshire County college town of Northampton are participating in a unique revenue-raising plan to help local Cooley Dickinson Hospital with an ambitious $50 million expansion, with other local banks contributing as well.
Cooley Dickinson Hospital is a 125-bed facility that serves a wide swath of Hampshire County. The hospital, which can claim Caleb Dickinson, cousin of the poet Emily, as one of its founders, was recently recognized as one of the country’s preeminent community hospitals by Newsweek magazine. Staffed by 1,650 employees, including 305 physicians and 403 nurses, the hospital is the second-largest employer in Hampshire County, after the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The hospital’s new $50 million addition, which was started in April 2005, will be a four-story, 116,000-square-foot facility containing larger operating rooms, same-day surgery and recovery areas, a centralized laboratory and equipment sterilization room, and 32 single-occupancy patient rooms. It is expected to be completed in the spring of 2007.
The “Caring for the Future” campaign has set a goal of $10.8 million, of which nearly $8 million has already been pledged, according to William T. Stapleton, chairman and CEO of Northampton Co-Operative Bank and co-chairman of the hospital campaign. The balance of the $50 million project will be financed through a bond issue.
Stapleton, former chairman of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, is credited with creating a formula that linked the donations of three local financial institutions – Northampton Co-Operative, Easthampton Savings Bank and Florence Savings Bank – with the amount of deposits they hold from their Hampshire County customers.
“When the hospital people asked me to be co-chairman of the campaign, I suggested that when we go to the banks this time, we ask for a donation according to the bank’s stake in the community, look at their deposits, which is public information, and make the request based on that,” said Stapleton.
Stapleton’s bank put up what was to become the initial contribution of $100,000, by far the largest contribution to a single entity in the bank’s 116-year history. This donation served as a benchmark for the fundraising formula, with successive donations scaled upward from that. With roughly four times the deposits of Northampton Co-Operative, Easthampton Savings Bank and Florence Savings Bank each pledged $400,000 toward the campaign, also in each case a record-setting high.
“The size of the donation was huge,” said John F. Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Savings Bank. “We’ve been around for 134 years and this was the largest contribution in our history by far. The largest prior to this was $100,000, also to Cooley Dickinson.
“Look, this is all about three local banks that are part of the Cooley Dickinson community realizing that in order to have a successful community hospital here, we had to step up to the plate,” added Heaps. “It’s not like Boston, where there are a lot of hospitals to choose from. This is our community hospital; all of our employees use it, all of our customers use it.”
A ‘Bit of a Gamble’
Nevertheless, it was with some misgivings that Stapleton and Cooley Dickinson fundraisers introduced his proposed formula. “Frankly, it was a little bit of a gamble to ask them to think about contributing so much. In every case this is much more than the banks have ever given any single entity,” said Stapleton.
William S. Hogan, president and CEO of Easthampton Savings Bank, when asked if he was taken aback by the request, answered forthrightly, “yes.”
He added, “In the last capital campaign the hospital ran we were one of the largest donors at $100,000, so Bill Stapleton really raised the bar and forced us to take a hard look at this. After several conversations with my board,” said Hogan, “and looking at the project and how the community at large would benefit from it, we embraced the formula concept and pledged $400,000 to be paid over four years at $100,000 per year.”
Other banks with branch offices in Northampton have also contributed to the hospital drive. They include PeoplesBank, $60,000; Bank of Western Massachusetts, $20,000; and Bank of America, $40,000. In addition, Southbridge Savings Bank, located in Worcester County, donated $5,000.
“The banks have been the pace setters, the leaders in this effort,” said Diane Dukette, Cooley Dickinson vice president of development. “This is the largest community-based campaign ever undertaken in Hampshire County and there’s no way we would have been as successful as we’ve been to date without the bold generosity of the banks and their great dedication to the community we both serve.”
Echoing Hogan’s comment on the heightened commitment of banks to community health care, Stapleton said, “In the past few years, western Massachusetts banks have raised the bar for contributions to community-based hospitals,” attributing much of the trend to bank decision-makers, primarily trustees.
“Members of our boards recognize ... the importance of locally available health care and state-of-the-art hospital facilities,” he added.
The experience of other area hospitals reinforces this view. For example, last April, Greenfield Savings Bank helped launch Franklin Medical Center’s Second Century fund-raising campaign with a pledge of $500,000. In June, Country Bank for Savings presented a check for $750,000 to Wing Memorial Hospital’s building expansion project.
Noting that the Institute for Health Care Improvement recently cited Cooley Dickinson Hospital as a model community hospital and mentor for other local medical facilities, Dukette said, “Roughly 90 percent of the care in the U.S. is provided by community hospitals. Somebody has to be the best. Cooley Dickinson isn’t there yet, but that’s where we want to be. And we’re excited that our community banks are eager to see that we reach that goal.”