How do you raise $550 million? Furthermore how do you raise money like that in an economic climate that has made corporations re-evaluate their grants and sponsorships and made even the wealthiest individuals take more time and consideration before bringing out their checkbooks and signing?

Central New Jersey will see not one but two new hospitals in the coming year, each with an eye-popping price tag. Capital Health’s new hospital off I-95 in Hopewell, priced at $550 million, is HUD-backed — the largest single transaction in the Federal Housing Administration’s 75-year history — and is scheduled to open later this year. Its construction is supported by the largest fundraising campaign in Capital Health’s history, the $25 million Campaign for Capital Health, which began in 2007 and ends this year. Part of the funds raised will also support the Capital Health Regional Medical Center, formerly known as the Helene Fuld Medical Center, in Trenton, including charity care services.

The University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, which will replace the current hospital in the heart of Princeton’s downtown, is scheduled to open its doors in spring, 2012, and has a $447 million price tag. Response to Princeton HealthCare System Foundation’s original $115 million Design for Healing Campaign, which is slated to end in March, 2013, has been so overwhelming, PHCS has just announced it will seek an additional $35 million for ambitious new items including a hybrid OR (which offers advanced technologies and equipment not found in typical ORs and thus require more room), advanced geriatric care, and expanded capacity for pediatric care.

Fundraising is an art. It requires an extraordinary ability to lead others with a larger vision that includes a mindset of doing good for others and leaving a legacy. When millions of dollars are required, however, exactly how do you ask someone for such large figures? Is there a script to follow, a ritual to be played out? Does it get easier with each “ask”? Asking someone for a gift, especially one that could run six or seven figures, involves a complex dance — a choreography of tact, timing, and a process that is similar to a courtship.

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