The capital campaign to fund Martha's Vineyard's new hospital has ended with more than $46 million raised in cash and in pledges over the next five years.
Confirming the successful conclusion of the fund-raising effort this week, capital committee cochairman Warren Spector said $22 million of the funds was in cash, and $6.9 million had been contributed by Island residents.
"We're in very good shape so when we begin construction in summer we will have very little need for even a construction loan over the life of the project. We may have a little bit in 2008, perhaps when we're finishing up the job, but in general we'll have very little borrowing," Mr. Spector said. He added:
"We will not have any long term debt on the building. It is completely paid for by donations. The total is $46.5 million, and that is with some reserves and conservative accounting.
"So in fact we have somewhat more. Anyone who gave us a pledge for more than five years, we discounted it back to five years, so everything is viewed in the same terms.
"It's a five-year campaign, so if somebody said they would give $50,000 for 20 years, we couldn't count that as a pledge."
More than 1,700 donors have contributed to the campaign, more than 800 of them Island residents - defined by the committee as those who are registered to vote on the Vineyard, rather than seasonal residents.
"The number of donors and the amount of the donations was staggering. It really shows the commitment of the local community to this project and the importance of it. It's very reassuring for the long-term health of the institution," Mr. Spector said.
The money was all raised in a little over two years.
Mr. Spector said the campaign began after he spoke to hospital leaders in the summer of 2004 about the possibility of getting involved in fundraising.
"During the winter of 2004-2005, I talked to friends of mine about the importance of the project and formed a group of founding donors," he said.
The campaign kicked off formally on July 4, 2005, with an announcement that $20 million had been committed.
"The initial burst of $20 million came mostly from a handful of people," Mr. Spector said, adding: "That was the quiet phase of getting the initial lead donors."
The next 18 months was spent fund-raising, and by the end of 2006 most of the work was done, he said."There was a large team of people. Frank Biondi was the cochairman. He brought in a lot of people. Edward Miller was the head of the Islander campaign and a committee of people who did a lot of great work," Mr. Spector said.
He recounted his favorite fund-raising experience, which occurred over a game of golf with a friend on the Island. After they teed off on one hole, Mr. Spector told him for the first time of his involvement in the capital campaign.
"And as we went from the tee shot to hit our second shot, I mentioned it, told him I'd like to come see him to talk about it - figuring I wouldn't discuss it with him on the golf course - and before we hit our second shot, he had agreed to give $250,000.
"A year later I called him up and said, ‘Would you like to play golf?' and he said, ‘Not if we we're going to talk about the hospital.'
"I told him I really just wanted to play. I hope that once this article appears, people will know they don't have to worry anymore."
It was not all so easy, of course; the effort involved endless phone calls and face-to-face presentations about the project over two summers, all over the Island.
But Mr. Spector said in the end it was not too difficult to convince people to part with their money once the vital need for the new hospital building had been explained. And it grew easier as the campaign progressed.
Initially, he said, a lot of potential donors, recalling the financial woes of the hospital in the mid-1990s, expressed concerns about its ongoing financial position.
"But once you got people over those issues, once you could establish in people's minds the need - which wasn't that difficult once you explained the condition of the building - and they got comfortable with the leadership of the hospital itself, they became very approachable and generous."
Mr. Spector also said that while donors were overwhelmingly positive about the news this winter of the affiliation agreement between the Vineyard hospital and the giant Partners Health Care and Massachusetts General Hospital, that deal was not a major factor in the success of the capital campaign. Most of the money had already been pledged before the deal was finalized.
The real turning point was more than a year earlier.
"Once people realized this project was really going to happen, which I guess was the July Fourth weekend of 2005, when we announced we'd raised the first $20 million - then you had a certain amount of momentum created," he said.
All the necessary money was promised by the start of this year, he said, and the last few months have been devoted mostly to formally documenting pledges.
"We have $22 million in cash, so we are actually far along the way in actually getting the money in," he said, adding:
"We're very happy we have got such a large amount from the Island community. Nobody's come close to raising $6.9 million from Islanders before."
The reason people gave so freely, Mr. Spector said, was the same reason he became involved, which is that "while there are many good [charitable] projects on the Island, this was the clearest need."
"This was the only capital campaign I've ever worked on," he said "My maiden voyage. And I felt very good doing it because it was vitally important to the community and it was a clear easily understood objective, that I could comfortably go to everyone and say this is in all of our interests."
Mr. Spector now plans to take a self-described sabbatical from fundraising.
"I have no short-term plans to do any more, but I suspect it's going to reappear in my life one way or another," he said.
Meanwhile, the hospital building project has received conditional approval from the Martha's Vineyard Commission, and while all necessary permits are not yet in hand, plans are under way to break ground this summer. The project is expected to take two years to complete. No interruption in service at the hospital is planned.
"We're still hopeful to have things completed on deadline for the summer of 2009," said hospital board vice chairman Tim Sweet.
Hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh called the completion of the capital campaign a crucial milestone.
"We are just ecstatic and thrilled with the generosity of the community - it's been a long couple of years to get here," he said, adding: "It's still amazing there are so many caring people. It shows how the community feels about their hospital. It's quite a feat."
Mr. Walsh said the MVC has signed off on landscaping and stormwater management plans and still must approve the facade of the building, which has been changed in response to suggestions for improvement. Approval is still needed from the Oak Bluffs planning board, and he said the hospital is working with the state Department of Public Health on a number of facility issues.
"All the agencies on the Island are concerned with the outside; public health is concerned with the inside of the building," he said.
Groundbreaking is tentatively set for July; Columbia Construction of Redding, a contracting company that specializes in hospital construction, has been hired to do the building.
He also reported that the hospital went on line this week with its connection to the Oak Bluffs sewage treatment plant - and following a two-week test period, plans call for shutting down the hospital's aging and outmoded package treatment plant.
"That is the hidden project that is really going to have a big impact," Mr. Walsh said.