By Joel Hall
Thinking of giving a charitable donation to the county's only full-service community hospital? Southern Regional Medical Center (SRMC) now has an "app" for that.
This month, Southern Regional is officially rolling out its Mobile Giving and Communication program, a new initiative that allows people to make charitable donations to the hospital, instantly, by using their cell phones.
Those using the Apple iPhone can now download a "Southern Regional Medical Center Foundation" application, which allows the user to quickly make a $5 donation to the hospital. The same can be accomplished using any text-messaging phone, by texting the letters "SRMCF" to the phone number "90999."
Andrea Mendez, development coordinator of the hospital's fund-raising arm, the SRMC Foundation, said the hospital has been using the software since June. She said hospital officials looked into the idea, following the donations that poured into Haitian relief efforts via cell phone, in the wake of that country's January earthquake.
"It's very new technology," Mendez said. She said that mobile forms of giving became so popular during the Haitian crisis, that SRMC Foundation Director Cynthia Jenkins thought the hospital should look into using it.
"While it is a means to accept donations, it is also a big communication tool," said Mendez. "Once they [potential donors] get onto our list, we can text them information about what's going on at the hospital."
Jenkins said that the Mobile Giving and Communication program is part of a larger campaign to raise $1.5 million, to purchase a high-definition MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for the hospital. She said the machine will greatly improve the hospital's ability to detect, and treat, breast cancer.
"Right now, we can only provide breast cancer support to a certain extent, then we have to ship them [patients] out," Jenkins said. "With the new MRI, we will not have to do that. We will be able to provide everything here.
"Philanthropy has to stay as current as technology," she continued. "We have to make it convenient to give, especially with your younger generation. We're staying ahead of the game by doing this."
According to Jenkins, the hospital is looking for a "high-profile ambassador" to be the face of its new fund-raising campaign. "We need a cheerleader," she said. "There are a lot of famous people, and I'm sure a lot of them are looking for a cause."
Mendez said that as a community hospital, Southern Regional provides hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of uncompensated medical care every year. She said small, $5 donations through the Mobile Giving and Communication program can help sustain the hospital, while building its fan base.
"Because we give away so much uncompensated care ... there are a lot of things that we constantly need to upgrade, and this can go a long way toward that," Mendez said. "Small donations add up quickly to provide things like defibrillators for our emergency room, or pumps for our neonatal care unit. Throwing out a wide net for smaller donors also sends a message to our bigger donors.
"If they know the community we serve is behind us, they are much more likely to support us," she said.
For more information, visit www.southernregional.org/about-us/foundation.