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Intermountain Health’s $600M pediatric campaign hasn’t ended with opening of new hospital


The health system has opened a new children’s hospital in Utah. Katy Welkie of Intermountain talks about the fundraising effort, and lessons from the campaign.

Katy Welkie says she became a little emotional when she walked into the new Intermountain Health children’s hospital.

Welkie, CEO of Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and vice president of Intermountain Children’s Health, had seen the building under construction. But she says she was moved when she walked into the finished product on the morning of the ribbon cutting, about a week before the hospital opened in February.

“It was very, very emotional,” Welkie tells Chief Healthcare Executive®.

“I actually got teary,” she says. “This has been a long, long time coming. And then I went inside and started running into all of the caregivers who've worked so hard.”

Then, Welkie says she experienced a sense of gratitude for everyone who played a role in building the hospital.

“It’s thousands. I mean, literally thousands of people had a hand in creating something, and we'll be able to always know that,” she says. “So it was very emotional and tearful at first, and then just this incredible sense of gratitude.”

Intermountain opened the second campus of its Primary Children’s Hospital, the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Campus, last month. The campus includes the new, five-story hospital, along with outpatient facilities, behavioral health services and a medical office building.

Welkie calls the new hospital “a pinnacle in one's career, when you can do something that is going to really touch the lives of so many.”

The new children’s hospital represents a high point in the Primary Promise fundraising campaign to improve pediatric care at Intermountain Health, which operates 33 hospitals and nearly 400 clinics in seven western states. Welkie says Intermountain hopes to raise more than $600 million.

As Welkie says, “We're not quite there yet.” (See part of our conversation with Katy Welkie. The story continues below.)

‘You need to do more’

The fundraising campaign began several years ago, and ran into a hurdle with the COVID-19 pandemic, Welkie says.

But the long-running campaign also gave donors time to think about making a legacy gift.

“That was a really exciting part, to see the individuals that didn't just give, but they brought their whole family into making the decision about whether they were going to give, and then made them part of the entire gift process, which is not what I expected,” Welkie says. “But it was one of the real highlights.”

Welkie points to the $50 million donation from Gail Miller, a prominent Utah businesswoman, as a “transformational” moment in the campaign. The gift was announced in 2020.

“We've never received anything at that level at Intermountain at all. And so that was sort of the highlight of … this is going to work,” Welkie says.

Intermountain initially set a target of raising $500 million, but has revised the goal to more than $600 million, after community members implored the system to tackle some big challenges.

“When we started going out to the community, we were told pretty loud and clear, that's not enough,” Welkie says of the initial goal.

Intermountain began focusing on expanding access, including providing more behavioral health services as more pediatric patients are needing treatment. Donors told Intermountain that behavioral health needed to be a priority.

“We got that very clear message, you need to do more,” Welkie says.

Intermountain’s new children’s hospital includes inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services. The system’s campaign also included revamping the behavioral health campus called Wasatch Canyons.

Lessons from the campaign

Welkie points to a number of factors in the success of the Primary Promise campaign.

She points to the engagement of patient advocates as “absolutely critical.”

“There is nothing more powerful for a donor, or for the community, than to hear from somebody who experienced the hospital, and their family, and having them be part of that journey,” Welkie says.

Welkie also pointed to the importance of early donors helping to “build that strong philanthropy cabinet” to help guide the campaign, and connect with others.

Looking back, Welkie says one area the system could have done better is involving the marketing and communications teams earlier to “really fill out the entire picture” of the campaign.

“We started with a high vision,” Welkie says. “But there were some detailed pieces that we didn't really have. And a lot of that came as we got further and further and further into the work in the campaign.”

“If I were able to do it over again, I would try and force some of that detailed work a little bit earlier, just to tell the story a little clearer, to set the vision a little bit better,” she says.

Still, Welkie points to one clear takeaway from the campaign’s success. She says the entire Intermountain organization focused on the pediatric fundraising effort.

“I think taking a whole organization and focusing them on a particular effort makes a big difference,” Welkie says. “So it wasn't just the children's hospital and children's health focused on this.”

Colleagues across Intermountain were raising questions about what is needed to build a healthier nation.

“I think that made a difference,” she adds.” “I think that will be a big blueprint, thinking about, how do you really galvanize the entire system around an initiative?”

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