Eight Strategies for Stronger Fundraising at Hospitals

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , December 14, 2009

4. Educate your team. Your finance team may need a better understanding of what the fundraising team does for the hospital. Have the philanthropy team explain the multitude of reasons people give to hospitals and the value their efforts bring to the bottom line. By ensuring your team has a clear understanding of the value of the donor-hospital relationship, they will be better able to support philanthropy.

5. Give at the office. If you want to show your team to value your philanthropic efforts, make a personal donation. Whether it's via a check or through event attendance, the more efforts you make to support philanthropy at your hospital, the more likely your team will follow suit.

6. Keep the team intact. In this economy, cost reductions are important and that means sometimes CFOs need to reduce staff. This is not the department to target first. Rather than cut personnel, first look for other ways to reduce their costs, such as reducing events.

"You have to keep the fundraising office as strong as you can and not lose seasoned people," advises McGinly. "You don't want to rebuild that infrastructure when the [economic] shift comes around."

McGinly continues that if you have a capital campaign that is currently being delayed and you cut your fundraising department to the core, "you are going to have some real rebuilding problems and that will impact the community as things start to turn around." Philanthropic relationship-building is no easy task and donors are more inclined to give to people and facilities that they have developed a relationship.

"There's always money for projects that are worth doing, you just have to make a case to the donors as to why the community will be better off when it's completed. But to do that you need to have the right people ask them for the donation, just as you need to have the right project for them to support," says Donovan.

7. Stretch the idea of donation projects. Certainly calls, letters, and events go a long way toward keeping you in contact with donors, but there are less conventional fundraising efforts that facilities can turn to, as well. For instance, Sharp offers potential donors a deferred gifts program called the Life Estate Gift Annuity. The program allows some people to donate their homes to the health system and live in them for the rest of their lives. Sharp takes ownership of the home when the donor dies and sells the property.

The majority of candidates are over 70 years old and either own their home or are close to it, and Sharp pays the donors an annuity based on the value of the house.

8. Say "Thank You." Now more than ever those two words mean a lot. For nearly seven years, Sharp's philanthropic team has focused on gathering larger numbers of smaller donors. The effort proved fruitful when the economy dipped. Littlejohn explains that all former patients are potential donors, and many make donations to express their thanks to the hospital. But the gratitude shouldn't stop with your donors. Personal "thank you" calls or notes from the CFO or CEO of a facility go a long way toward helping to build a strong relationship with your donor community. "Call them up and say 'Thank you.' Let them know their donations are touching lives," says Donovan. "Give them examples of positive ways their gifts will be used."

It's the season of giving, but if you haven't given your philanthropic division a once over in quite a while, your facility may be truly missing out on a great opportunity to not only live up to their mission, but also to bring in some greatly needed funds for your future capital projects.

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Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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