As we look forward to a new year, now is the time to think about new ways to create a more robust and routine flow of donations from more donors. There is no doubt that healthcare philanthropy is continuing to evolve. As this change occurs, we need to examine and shift away from existing practices and behaviors that focus only on targeting the wealthy for donations. It’s key to look beyond wealth to find new donors willing and able to give in lower amounts based on the appeal for community health improvements

Most hospitals in the U.S. are required to report improvements of care outcomes as part of their non-profit tax status, as reported in the Community Health Needs Assessment. Therefore, improvements in community health and care outcomes should be a primary driver for most hospital foundations and should be communicated to donors as such.      

Below are some ideas to get donors activated as part of this mission:

  1. Gain commitment from the top. It is important to have commitment from the top of your organization to stay the course with your outreach and keep this momentum going beyond a month or a quarter. This is not a stop and start process and should be ongoing. Your leadership should understand that this a long-term process so set objectives and a roadmap that are at least nine months out and commit to following through this entire period. Reinforce that this is a critical investment in your mission.
  2. Focus on community impact in addition to grateful patient. I think everybody in healthcare understands the impact of a fundraising program based on gratitude for service. This can be a great primary driver for patients and an effective way to conduct outreach. It’s interesting that our annual patient surveys over the last two years revealed that those surveyed were not familiar with their local hospital foundation or know of the work they do. This may be indicative of the historical emphasis on wealth-based prospecting. I suggest including more prospects in your outreach that show an inclination to give and a connection to your community. In doing this, you will build a stronger awareness for your organization while expanding the understanding and impact of the work of your foundation.
  3. Re-examine your data to find more donors, manage expenses and create efficiencies. As you plan outreach to your patient census, the obvious alarms are the volume and cost to conduct outreach. Make sure to consider the following when analyzing your volume.
    • Use analytic tools to help define those that will engage and act. Engagement is based on the ability to reach a prospect, level of interest and value of the outreach. Good analytics should help you reduce your prospect world to those who are contactable, that will engage, and what type of message and outreach method that will interest and is the most appropriate for the prospect. Analytics can help you manage your time and resources against prospecting while improving your closing ratio and expense.
    • Use selection criteria to segment audiences and limit the number of outpatient visits that will be eligible for outreach. These filters might be tied to days from discharge, financial status of the account, number of visits and line of service. You may find other types of filters based on information from the hospital’s host system.
    • Consider a pre-listing or pre-screening concept that will help you prioritize who gets research time and is worth pursuing. This approach also allows you to segment audiences upfront prior to a CRM load.
  4. Consider a multi-channel marketing approach. Historically, I believe most foundations have focused on using direct mail once or twice a year to solicit donations. Direct mail has proven to be effective in driving direct response. However, a multi-channel or integrated marketing approach will help your organization reach more potential donors. Studies have proven that consumers react differently to media exposure (print versus digital). This is especially true with generational differences. A healthy mix of both will help you broaden your donor base.
    • In addition, think about deploying rules that will drive multiple touches to any one patient within a monthly or quarterly cadence. Marketing studies prove that frequency builds response in gaining someone’s attention and getting them to act.

As cited above, our last two annual patient surveys revealed that those respondents were unfamiliar with their local hospital foundation. Hospital foundations need to educate patients and the community more about their mission and impact. Reaching more people beyond the wealthy and enabling more patients to participate in your organization’s work will help build a stronger and more sustainable fundraising program for the future.   

Start the process and stick with it. In the end you’ll see the long-term results and make more dough for your organization!