Corporate Foundation Impact : A Conversation with Cardinal Health Foundation

When companies choose corporate foundations as their primary CSR outlet they can count on many benefits including, tighter control over funding, positive community standing, powerful partnerships, tax benefits, and strategic community impact.

This two-part interview series explores those benefits. In this installment, our guest expert Dianne Radigan, Vice President of Community Relations for Cardinal Health Foundation, shares how CHF positively impacts the health care community.


FrontStream (FS): In your experience is there a wrong or right time for a company to start a foundation?

Dianne: The question of whether or not to start a foundation depends on a company’s circumstances, source of revenue, and purpose of their philanthropy. The timing also depends on your capacity to manage a foundation and all the many guidelines that go along with it. A corporate foundation is a separate entity and has a lot of IRS rules and regulations so companies must have the wherewithal needed to commit to such an intensive initiative.

FS: How does a company know if establishing a foundation is the right CSR move for them, does company size matter?

Dianne: Corporate foundations give a company a different type of control over their philanthropy. The Cardinal Health Foundation funds our more strategic and long-term philanthropic initiatives. It allows us to focus strategically around health care and permits us to use our expertise to focus on long-term impact in the community. While a foundation is a great way to focus giving, it is an intensive undertaking and companies must be ready to commit to the work it takes to establish and maintain a foundation. Companies who feel they may not be quite ready to assume the responsibility of a foundation might start with a strategic company run CSR program or start off with a Donor Advised Fund. Starting with a Donor Advised Fund is a great way for companies to determine if they want to go a step further and set-up a foundation.

FS: What is the most essential first step for companies thinking about starting a corporate foundation?

Dianne: Again there are several things to consider before starting a foundation so there is no wrong or right way to start, it’s just what makes the most sense for your company. However, before you start you should consider things like your company’s circumstances, resources, capacity, what will be your source of revenue or long-term funding source, what work you want to do in the community, and what impact you hope to make.

FS: What is the best way to establish longevity and relevance for your foundation?

Dianne: We knew we wanted to create a signature program that would make a long-term impact so all Cardinal Health Foundation initiatives find the intersection between critical community needs and issues important to the world of healthcare. In 2008 the Foundation partnered with 8 Ohio children’s hospitals in an effort to address patient outcomes and reduce medical errors. We began by establishing leadership that would help oversee the project and conduct initial interviews to find out the needs in our community. Then we put together a document that outlined everything we discovered and plans for our program. We highlighted community issues, the current state of these issues, where we could make a difference, what our long term goals would be, which community leaders and company stakeholders would be involved, and what our next steps would be. We followed the same process in 2010 in partnership with The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, when we began GenerationRx, an initiative to increase awareness of prescription drug abuse and eventually end this epidemic. We vetted everything through our board and stakeholders so we had a solid plan in place to make the most impact. Having a focused and well researched plan in place helps ensure that your foundation goals are relevant to company goals and most of all community needs. Once that’s in place longevity will be there as well.

What is one of the biggest challenges your Foundation has faced?

Dianne: We find there are so many things we want to do in the community and we’d always like to do more. Sometimes we have to say no to things that aren’t a fit. It’s hard, but we’ve found that if we have a narrow scope and stick to addressing issues where we are credible and knowledgeable then we can make a bigger impact and measure the outcome.  Overtime we’ve found that staying focused and being strategic helps us a lot with building structure and purpose within the foundation. It allows us to stay true to our vision and purpose and that makes a larger impact on the community.

Any favorite success or impact stories about Cardinal Health Foundation you could share?

Dianne: An effort to address patient outcomes began in 2008 as the Foundation partnered with 8 Ohio children’s hospitals to reduce medical errors. In 8 years that work has steadily grown to over 100 hospitals across the US and Canada saving thousands of lives and millions of healthcare dollars from errors averted. Other work in this area in partnership with over 300 hospitals has produced a 15:1 return on the foundation’s investment by reducing hospital stays and re-admissions.

Also in 2010 the foundation, in partnership with The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, began GenerationRx, an initiative to increase awareness of prescription drug abuse and eventually end this epidemic.  This work has spread broadly with support from colleges of pharmacy and many pharmacists across the country.  It is making real a difference:  95% of participants in the Foundation’s program state that they will not share or take prescriptions that were not written for them.

We continually revisit our work and research in these programs to ascertain their effectiveness, modify strategies, and update them as needed so we can continue to make a difference in these important health related areas within the community.

Any final insight you can give into corporate foundations?

Dianne: Cardinal Health, as a company, always strives to be a good corporate citizen through business and philanthropy.  Our foundation is an extension of that and allows companies like Cardinal to engage as partners and make a sustainable difference in the health community.

FrontStream Holdings LLC is a registered ISO of Elavon, Inc. Georgia, Chase Paymentech Solutions, LLC, First National Bank of Omaha, Omaha, NE, BMO Harris Bank, N.A., Chicago, IL, Deutsche Bank, USA, New York, NY and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA.