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From Zero to $100 Million – Accelerating Campaign Success with Baptist Health: A Case Study

Through strategy implementation, development of an internal and external system-wide culture of philanthropy and utilization of Accordant’s Wave Campaign approach, Baptist Health, in partnership with Accordant, accomplished their audacious goal of $100 million in philanthropic dollars over a five-year period to coincide with their 100th anniversary.

About Baptist Health Foundation

  • 33 FTEs across system office and 9 market foundations

  • $29 million raised in FY23

  • System office founded in 2019

Philanthropy has been integral to Baptist Health since its inception almost 100 years ago, when Baptist congregations across Kentucky pledged their support—and their dollars—to founding a hospital in the state’s most populous city, Louisville, with a vision of future branches. That grassroots beginning has grown the state’s largest health system.

Baptist Health Foundation consists of a central office providing strategic and operational support to Baptist Health’s nine hospitals to ensure that fund development and impact are achieved locally. Together, the Foundation and system have a shared purpose of transforming health care through increased access, a commitment to continued innovation and a strong focus on providing the best patient experience.

In 2019, under the leadership of Roy Lowdenback, System Vice President of Philanthropy, Baptist Health Foundation moved away from transactional fundraising to relationship-based philanthropy, while building alignment between market foundations to create a collaborative model for shared ownership and accountability. Baptist Health Foundation set out to raise $100 million by their centennial year, 2024, and in doing so, set the stage for a unified culture of sustainable philanthropy.



  • 9 markets

  • 2,770 licensed beds

  • 400+ points of care in Kentucky & Indiana

  • 94K inpatients

  • 2.1M outpatients

Baptist Health is a full-spectrum health system dedicated to improving the health of communities across Kentucky and Indiana. The Baptist Health system consists of nine hospitals and more than 400 points of care, including outpatient facilities, physician practices and services, urgent care clinics, diagnostic and surgery centers, home care, fitness centers and occupational medicine and physical therapy clinics.

Baptist Health’s eight owned hospitals include more than 2,300 licensed beds across the state of Indiana. Baptist Health also operates the 410-bed Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville in Kentucky, in a joint venture with Deaconess Health System.

Baptist Health employs more than 23,000 people. Baptist Health’s employed provider network, Baptist Health Medical Group, has nearly 1,500 providers, including more than 750 physicians and more than 740 advanced practice clinicians. Baptist Health’s physician network also includes more than 2,000 independent physicians.


Accordant is a recognized leader in advancing health philanthropy and serves as faculty for the largest industry associations, including American Hospital Association, American College of Healthcare Executives and Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. Accordant’s team of consultants—averaging 27 years of direct, frontline leadership experience advancing philanthropy programs and leading campaigns at hospitals and health systems—wrote the leading book on philanthropy for health care executives and the first in-depth guide on philanthropy for health care trustees. Accordant’s work has also been featured in industry publications including Healthcare Executive, BoardRoom Press, Modern Healthcare, STAT, Chronicle of Philanthropy, FierceHealthFinance, Healthcare Philanthropy Journal, Chief Executive Officer, Becker’s Hospital Review and more.

Accordant focuses exclusively on health philanthropy, rather than serving multiple nonprofit sectors, to ensure health organizations have access to professionals who understand the complexities and nuances of an evolving health care industry. Accordant understands not only what systems and hospitals must do to address illness and injury in an acute-care environment, but also the new demands of health organizations to address mental health, equity, access, social drivers of health and more.


The Challenge

By the end of 2019, Baptist Health was at a pivotal point, being ushered forward by new system leadership with a vision for ambitious growth. In 2020, the system announced a $1 billion investment strategy in all hospital markets. This strategy would make health care more accessible across Kentucky and nearby states, allow the system to continue investing in innovative technologies and treatment and position Baptist Health to be a place where top providers would want to deliver care. Recognizing this significant financial undertaking, Baptist Health identified philanthropy as a key avenue for financial support. In communities so deeply invested in their local hospitals and skeptical of new system initiatives and leadership, philanthropy emerged as the pivotal force in transforming the next century of care.

Through this ambitious investment strategy, Baptist Health Foundation faced a multitude of challenges, including:

  • Cultivating a culture of philanthropy across the entire system

  • Aligning hospital markets and system leaders toward a unified vision

  • Raising positive community awareness and engagement

  • Creating a cohesive, aspirational Baptist Health identity resonating with internal stakeholders and the broader community

This case study examines how Baptist Health Foundation utilized a comprehensive campaign strategy and Accordant’s Wave Campaign™ approach to address these challenges as well as empower leaders, bolster programs and exceed traditional expectations, offering a scalable blueprint for transformative change through strategic alignment, leadership and community engagement.


Campaign Strategy Overview

In partnership with Accordant, Baptist Health launched a $100 million philanthropy campaign in 2019. The successful execution of the campaign relied on four key steps focusing on the following elements. By aligning these key elements within Baptist Health’s philanthropy campaign, the Foundation was able to achieve the system’s ambitious goals and make a lasting impact on the health of the communities they serve.

  • Infrastructure: Infrastructure plays a crucial role in laying the foundation for the campaign’s success. This includes establishing robust systems and processes to manage donations, track progress towards goals and ensure transparency in financial transactions. A well-formed infrastructure enables efficient coordination of resources and maximizes the impact of philanthropic efforts.

  • Campaign Team: The campaign team—dedicated professionals with expertise in fund development, marketing and communications, finance and operations and more—play a pivotal role in driving the campaign forward. Their strategic planning, execution and coordination are essential in mobilizing support, engaging donors and achieving campaign objectives. Volunteers also play a vital role in extending the campaign’s reach and impact.

  • Case and Communications: Effective communication through the campaign’s case for support is essential in engaging donors and garnering philanthropic support. Clear and compelling messaging that articulates the impact of donations on advancing health care services at Baptist Health is key to inspiring generosity and fostering a sense of community involvement. Moreover, targeted communications tailored to different constituent groups help build relationships, foster trust and nurture long-term donor engagement.

  • Constituent Strategies: The campaign’s success hinges on the implementation of diverse constituent strategies that cater to the unique needs and preferences of various stakeholders. By understanding the motivations and interests of donors, volunteers, grateful patients and community members, the campaign can tailor its approach to effectively engage and mobilize support.

Campaign Results

Baptist Health’s campaign journey from inception to fruition is vividly captured in the following chart, illustrating the remarkable progress achieved and marking a phase of unprecedented growth for both the health system and Baptist Health Foundation. The expansion of the health system through mergers and community investments necessitated a parallel advancement in the Foundation’s community outreach and the development of a philanthropic arm. Embracing the principles of transformative philanthropy, the Foundation applied Accordant’s Wave Campaign™ approach to all campaign endeavors.

Navigating this transformative journey required a deliberate and phased strategy. Recognizing that attempting everything simultaneously was impractical, the Foundation prioritized alignment and planned timelines accordingly. The Wave Campaign™ approach was not solely initiative-based; rather, the Foundation commenced efforts with the resources at hand, gradually rolling out initiatives market by market. Through comprehensive campaign planning studies and strategic alignment exercises, the Foundation gained clarity on priorities and identified the optimal sequence for engaging different markets. As each market came on board, the Foundation was fortified, and a unified platform that facilitated system-wide philanthropy initiatives evolved.

This strategic process was characterized by a cyclical pattern of engagement, support and collaboration across various stakeholders. From C-Suite executives to frontline clinicians, each group played a crucial role in advancing the campaign’s goals. The Foundation’s central office served as the backbone, providing essential support services, and fostering cohesion among diverse teams. As successes accumulated, trust and confidence in the collective vision grew, reinforcing the Foundation for sustained progress and impact.


Key Success Factors

Together, these key success factors—education, alignment, safety zones, and an umbrella approach—form the backbone of a successful $100 million philanthropy campaign. They ensure the campaign is well-planned, well-executed and inclusive, leading to a significant impact on the health system’s footprint.

  • Education is paramount. Assembling a team with diverse backgrounds and experiences necessitates the establishment of key metrics and a common language for understanding. Education supports the adoption of best practices in philanthropy. This process begins with an assessment of needs and status, followed by the development and execution of an education plan. This plan includes determining shared metrics and holding individuals accountable for those metrics. Education ensures that everyone involved has the knowledge and tools they need to contribute effectively to the campaign.

  • Alignment is critical because activities cannot commence until the C-Suite is available and engaged. It’s often easy to miss the window of alignment, making it essential to synchronize efforts from the outset. Ensuring leadership is on board and aligned with the campaign’s goals and strategies is key to mobilizing resources and driving the campaign forward.

  • Safety Zones emphasize the importance of creating environments where activities happen with people, not to them, fostering a safe and joyous opportunity for everyone to engage. This approach ensures all participants feel valued and secure, encouraging open communication and collaboration.

  • An Umbrella Approach encompasses the entire organization, providing a solid hub, such as a central office, for each spoke—representing different departments or aspects of the campaign—to support and help ensure the umbrella’s success. Just as a broken spoke can render an umbrella useless, every component of the campaign must be robust and functional to ensure overall success.

Read more about this campaign with a special focus on clinician engagement:

Accordant Case Study_Zero to 100 Million with Baptist Health
Download PDF • 887KB

About the Authors:

Heather Wiley Starankovic, CFRE, CAP, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant, with a dedication to supporting staff members and creating programs that keep talented and dedicated servant leaders within the field. She can be reached at or through LinkedIn.

Roy Lowdenback, MA, CFRE, is System Vice President of Philanthropy at Baptist Health KY & IN.


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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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