Businesses and individuals hit hardest by the economy's slide have shifted charitable giving patterns to longer-term pledges and gift commitments rather than ceasing to give altogether, according to a study by the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

The AHP benchmarking study revealed that the most effective fundraisers use a variety of well-rounded programs and activities to raise money, debunking the myth that big-ticket galas, golf tournaments and telethons are the only way to attract donors. The most successful philanthropic programs have a sustained emphasis on building relationships and cultivating major gift donors. Data were gathered from 58 foundations that support nonprofit hospitals across the United States and Canada, focusing on the 2008 fiscal year when the recession's full impact was hitting charities hard.

"The real message here for health care executives and boards is take care of your donors and support your fundraising staff, and mix fundraising activities to cope with the recession," says William C. McGinly, AHP's president and CEO.

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