Crisler Boone is the new executive director of the Baptist Health Foundation, responsible for helping raise money that makes any healthcare at Baptist more affordable and more comfortable. Boone was born and raised in Jackson and graduated from Jackson Prep and Millsaps. She and her two sons were born at Baptist as well. Sun Staff Writer Megan Phillips spoke with Boone about the foundation and its role in working with Baptist Hospital.
How did you come into the role of executive director for Baptist Health Foundations?
“I have a lot of history with fund-raising and nonprofit, and I feel very strongly about making a difference in the community. My daddy always told me, ‘If you’re going to take from a place, you need to give back to it,’ so I felt very strongly about that. I did a short, almost three-year stint in banking and this opportunity became available. Somebody sent me a text and said, ‘Are you aware?’ and I said, ‘I’m intrigued,’ and a couple of weeks later we had sealed the deal. I’m very excited to be here.”
How do you like your new position?
“For me, coming back here to do this was like going home to what I love to do. Because, in my opinion, it’s the business of doing good. Somebody has to do it. From the business side, you got to keep the lights on, you got to keep the equipment coming, but it’s the business of doing good, and it’s the business of changing lives. I love this kind of thing, and I’m very committed to this hospital. Even if it’s a terminal disease, if we can put somebody in a place of comfort, give them what they want for the rest of their care, if we can work with them to treat them so they can go to a baseball game, or go on a family trip, or just be comfortable with their family, then we have given a gift, and we’ve gotten a bigger gift I think.”
Can you tell me about the history of the foundation?
“The foundation has been around for a long time. Now, it is more crucial than ever that there be support for the foundation and the hospital with healthcare changing so much and reimbursements changing. It’s a simple number issue. The reimbursement structure has gone down so that the hospital receives less money from managed care, Medicaid, things like that, and expenses continue to rise. So, basically, the difference is what the foundation helps to support. You’ve got to keep the lights on and the staff paid, people being able to get food and good healthcare. So, it makes it a challenge sometimes to get expensive pieces of equipment, so that’s where the foundation comes in.”
What exactly does the foundation do?
“We are committed to supporting different areas of the hospital that need different things. In fact, we just agreed to fund a piece of equipment in the cardiovascular unit that is a standard of care for stroke and sudden heart attack patients. It’s a cooling agent. Just things that have an effect on the community, not just the hospital, but the whole community.”
How does the foundation decide what to fund?
“We work very closely with the hospital in regard to what we have available in funds and what the hospital sees as a priority. The foundation is made up of lots of different funds. So, there are funds that are specifically geared to cardiovascular, there are funds that are specifically geared to nurse education — Focus on the Future is one that’s specifically geared to nurse education. Some people will give specifically to a fund. Of course, ideally, people give to the foundation and say to us and the hospital, ‘We trust you to put this in a place of most need, biggest priority.’ However, people that have had experiences in certain areas, illnesses… tend to sometimes want to give to that specific area. If you (do that), then 100 percent of that gift goes to that fund. But, again, I would emphasize that the place of biggest need is really where we like to put it.”
What’s the foundation’s annual budget?
“I think we supply about $1.5 million in additional capital funding for the hospital each year. We have a board of directors that works with us. So, we work with the hospital, the different line of directors, Bobby Ware (CEO), and then that comes to our board of directors. We look at those priorities that the hospital has given to us, the funding that we have available, and we match those things together.”
What are some of the foundation’s, or hospital’s, biggest areas of need?
We’ve done some pretty significant things in respiratory care and lab opportunities. Of course, the cancer center is one of our biggest places of need. We have a wonderful serenity garden that we take care of on an ongoing basis. It’s a place where cancer patients and their families can go, get out of a clinical environment, get out of a hospital environment. We have hospital employees that go sit out there and pray and are quiet. NICU beds —we provide NICU beds. I was just having a conversation with a labor delivery person about a bili bed, which is what you use if you have a Jaundice child. So, we’re buying more bili beds, because these early babies need to go into the bili beds. Those are a couple of places where (we’ve helped significantly), and I think those are places our community identifies with — the cancer center and NICU. There’s a lot involved in healthcare and learning about healthcare.”
What are some of the foundation’s programs?
“We have the Fund for the Girls that does breast cancer. The money goes directly to fund mammograms for women who would not be able to have one… In September, we do Cyclists Curing Cancer. That goes to the cancer center. We had Hearts and Clubs Golf Tournament, and that benefits cardiovascular services. We do have an employee-giving program called Carry the Mission. That’s really interesting in that it originated many, many years ago when different organizations wanted to come into the hospital to solicit our employees. So, our employees said, ‘We would rather control where this money goes.’ A little more than 1,000 employees give to Carry the Mission every year. We get anywhere from probably $200,000 to $250,000 from those employees, and 40 percent of that goes to our employee benevolence fund, which helps employees in need… Forty percent goes back into the community, and then 20 percent comes to the foundation itself. There is an employee committee that makes decisions about where that money goes, and it needs to fit some criteria which are weighted in different ways: is it local, does it involve healthcare, and is it a Christian ministry, because we are a Christian hospital.”
How much of the $1.5 million comes from sources such as fund-raising, private donations and the like?
“We have several programs and events. Some of those benefit a specific area… Again, it’s our preference that people give with us to decide where it needs to go. That $1.5 million capital is not what we raise every year. A lot of that comes from investments in funds. We don’t deplete every year. We make sure that we can continue to reinvest and plan to do it every year. That ($1.5 million) is a combination of event fund-raising and individual fund-raising, private foundations, private donations.”
How has the organization improved since its beginnings?
“I think we are much more deliberate and intentional in our approach to the distribution of funds. We have a very, very good board of regents. I am very fortunate to have such an invested group of men and women that are very discerning when they look at the needs of the hospital and what we have to give and what people will give to. It has to be something somebody will give to. I think in the last several years, (the board of regents), has really become a focus, and we’ve added some board members, and I have had several conversations with board members. I’m trying to speak to them individually and speak to hospital administration individually and just learn the lay of the land. To a person, our board members are committed to this foundation and to this hospital and continue to make a difference in Jackson.”
How many board members does the foundation have?
“We have 19. I think in my perspective, the more people you have that are committed, the bigger reach you have to communicate your mission and to communicate the importance (of that mission). In many situations, there is an impression that there is not a need for the funds — you go to the hospital, and you’re presented with a hospital bill when you get out. Then somebody says, ‘We have need,’ and the immediate response is, ‘Well, wait a minute, you just presented me with a hospital bill.’ But what you’re not seeing is the actual cost of what the services are. We, as the consumer or the patient, get a bill, and it looks huge to us. But the costs that are incurred are much bigger than what the consumer actually pays. Then, when you look at the reimbursements and the expenses, there’s that gap of, ‘Who covers that?’ That’s where the foundation really comes in to purchase these pieces of equipment.”
What are the hospital’s responsibilities?
“The hospital does a lot with its operating budget. They keep the hospital open, but we really do things in tandem. We plan, look at our capital budget, what we have to spend, what are our greatest needs, and again, we’re going to fund the thing that has the most priority. I think that, again, the more people you have that are committed to the mission that can tell somebody else and explain, ‘It’s about education and communication.’
If somebody doesn’t understand or wants to come and see, if I have a bad day, I walk across the street to the hospital. Then you realize, ‘I’m not having such a bad day, after all.’ So, we want to provide the things that we can to make people more comfortable, to make them better, to give the doctors the pieces of equipment and the research that they need to have in order to make wise decisions in healthcare.”
Can people volunteer for the foundation at all?
“Well, yes, they can volunteer for the hospital. The hospital has a volunteer coordinator and a volunteer program. But, yes, you can. We have women that volunteer for fund for the girls either through events, things that we do. We have people all the time who want to make us their chosen charity. So, people can do that. We have the golf tournament, we have the bike ride. So, yes, if somebody wants to volunteer with the foundation, absolutely, they can call us, and we’ll put them to work.”
What number should they call?