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Successful Employee Campaigns

James Dale, vice president of development, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Foundation and Thom Sloan, CFRE, FACHE, director of philanthropy, Scott & White Healthcare Foundation, associate faculty, University of Phoenix
Published:  02/14/2013

Originally published in the February 14, 2013 AHP Connect

The following article is based on the webinar, “Successful employee campaigns take hard work, knowing your audience and building relationships,” presented May 16, 2012, by Aline F. Lasseter, CFRE, executive director and vice president of development, New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation, Wilmington, N.C.

Although contributions made by a hospital’s workers may not exceed three or four percent of total funds raised in any given year,1 the voluntary participation of non-physician employees in supporting their health care institution is important to the creation of a culture of philanthropy.2 Non-physician employees—including nurses—regularly constitute about one- fifth of all individual donors to hospitals in the U.S., and about four percent in Canada.3

How an employee campaign is organized and implemented can spell the difference between a frustrating effort that soon reaches a point of diminishing returns, and a well-targeted fundraising program that builds employee morale and significant participation levels.

Aline Lasseter, CFRE, executive director and vice president of development for New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation in Wilmington, N.C., and her development staff decided to take a hard look at their long-running employee campaign in 2009, on the heels of their first capital campaign. Whereas the successful capital campaign had far exceeded its goals, the 15- year-old employee campaign was struggling with low participation rates among the hospital’s 4,700 non-physician workers—including 1,400 nurses. It was unfocused, expensive and barely raising enough money to justify its existence. Some changes were in order.

Examination of the existing design identified a half-dozen challenges to overcome:

  • Hospital staff members were constantly asked to donate to external campaigns that solicited funds in the hospital. The money employees gave, even to health-related causes, rarely supported hospital programs.

  • Development staff ran the employee campaign with only nominal participation from hospital leadership. In addition, front-line employees had no sense of ownership.

  • Instead of highlighting how employees’ donated dollars would benefit the hospital, a

    NASCAR theme—North Carolina’s official state sport—was used to motivate giving.

    Campaign literature was elaborate and costly.

  • Setting up donations was difficult and inconvenient.

  • An expensive array of gifts for various giving levels was hard to administer, time-

    consuming and of questionable effectiveness.

  • Employees felt that modest donations were not appreciated, because recognition

    tended only to focus on larger gifts.

The development staff set about to design an entirely new approach to the employee campaign—one that would emphasize building strong relationships with hospital leadership, involve front-line workers, and clearly communicate the benefit of donations to the hospital and its employees.

The first steps

To gain control over external nonprofit groups’ access to the hospital as a solicitation venue, Lasseter instituted a firm, one-group-per-month policy. For example, a United Way drive would be held in November while the new internal employee campaign would take place in April.

At the same time, the development department took positive steps to increase employee involvement. They recruited an active chair and a committee of enthusiastic front-line workers to carry the campaign message to each of the hospital’s branches and divisions.

Identifying appropriate staff among layers of hospital departments was not easy, but Lasseter reports it was largely a one-time task that paid off with strong relationships for subsequent campaigns. Through one-on-one messaging, committee members were encouraged to explain the importance of giving even modest donations. This approach has proven to be highly effective. Participation rates soared from less than one in 20 hospital workers to more than one in four, and donations advanced four-fold.

Clear communication

The NASCAR theme was replaced by the tag line “Support/Sustain/Share”—to emphasize how employees’ gifts impact patients, other employees and the quality of care. Donors may give to a specific hospital division, toward the purchase of equipment selected as a campaign goal, or to an Employee Benevolent Fund that provides grants or loans to workers in need. Online giving has been streamlined for one-time gifts, payroll deductions or earnings contributed from paid days off.

A short video about campaign goals was produced to show at meetings for employees and hospital executives. Campaign literature was toned down—swapped for a single reminder postcard mailed to all employees, table tents and easy-to-use pledge cards. Expensive gifts were replaced with simple tokens, such as a rubber bracelet or colorful plastic pen.

Finally, a concerted effort is made to say thank you—including year-long messaging in employee newsletters and websites that shows the positive results accomplished with donations.

“Most importantly, we’ve been able to connect with our employees on a more personal basis,” says Lasseter. “[Development office staff] have developed relationships with our departments and the heads of our departments in ways we never thought possible.”

Editor's note: If you would like to learn more, a recording of this and many other AHP webinars are available for purchase from our archived webinar sessions. Also take a look at our lineup of upcoming AHP webinars.
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1AHP Performance Benchmarking Service Report, FY2009 and FY2010.
2Taylor, Betsy Chapin, Healthcare Philanthropy, Health Administration Press, Chicago, 2012, pp. 104-106.
3AHP Report on Giving, USA and Canada, FY2009, FY2010 and FY2011.

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Meet The Author

James Dale, vice president of development, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Foundation and Thom Sloan, CFRE, FACHE, director of philanthropy, Scott & White Healthcare Foundation, associate faculty, University of Phoenix

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