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AHP Connect Member Profile - Arthur J. Ochoa, JD

Arthur J. Ochoa, JD
Published:  12/21/2017

Senior Vice President of Community Relations and Development, and Chief Development Officer
Los Angeles, Ca
AHP member since 2005

What’s your favorite part of your job?

No two days are the same. There’s an extreme amount of variety. I have the opportunity to connect with different parts of our organization, to address the most pressing issues we face as an academic institution, and to work with some extraordinary people.

What’s a recent success at Cedars-Sinai that you’re most proud of?

We’re in the process of concluding a $600 million campaign that we expect to be on time and at or over goal, and that comes on the heels of another campaign. In the aggregate, those two campaigns will have raised over a billion dollars over the last thirteen years—and most of that is sticking with us as long-term funding.

What has been driving those campaigns?

Our academic mission and the need to provide long-term support.

As an academic hospital, does Cedars-Sinai approach communicating your mission differently than a community hospital or a system?

Well, we’re growing as an academic system. We think of ourselves, from a messaging standpoint, the same way other academic systems do. In addition to our flagship academic facility, within our system is a community hospital, outpatient medical practices, and we’re continuing to grow.

On the one hand, we talk about the totality of what we’re able to provide and the academics that are necessary to do that. But some of the elements [of our messaging] are very similar to how any hospital or health system, large or small positions itself. We are telling stories and trying to create longitudinal and emotional connections to our institution with prospective donors, and I think that’s no different at a meta-level from what anyone else is trying to do.

At the 2017 AHP Annual International Conference, you mentioned a certain type of fundraising event: a smaller dinner at which there is no ticket price, but a donation is expected. Would you walk us through the process of setting up that type of event?

In order for this to work, you’ve got to know your audience and be working with a close-in group of volunteers who are committed to a particular project.

What we’ve done is focused on an overall goal, using the idea that we were having a celebration [for a gift] that was going to be at a great house with great entertainment—the kind of crowd that people might want to be with—in an intimate setting. It adds that sense of urgency to get gifts closed for a project.

That’s where we work hand-in-glove with volunteers to develop strategies and solicit these gifts. It works extremely well, but again, you can’t use it across the board, as annual strategy, or to support a big program with ongoing needs—you need to support a discreet project with it.

Can you share an example of a goal that fits these types of events?

We used it in connection with creating a $5 million endowment goal for our department of neurosurgery. We told people we were going to be celebrating this gift, and the lead donor was involved in solicitations. We ended up with a huge number of gifts that helped us get over the $6 million mark, and we ultimately had 140 people help celebrate that achievement at a really nice event.

You have also stated, “Increasingly, donors don’t think about their gifts in terms of annual gifts and extraordinary gifts. They think about their commitment to the institution. They get annoyed if we come to them with more than one ‘ask’ in a period of time.”

Could you expand on why donors may find a comprehensive ask more valuable?

We talk about creating a consumer-centric experience in health care, and we should think about creating a donor-centric experience as well.

Donors aren’t wired by default to think about our problems in the context of our organizational budgets, or to think about extraordinary gifts and annual gifts. They’re wired to think about an institution, how much affinity they have for it and what they can do to support it. They’re thinking about a basket of total dollars.

When we have conversations with them, and we ask [for multiple gifts], it risks feeling ungrateful, risks creating confusion, and it could jeopardize the larger gift. I’m increasingly in conversation with donors who are not only thinking that way, they’re complaining that other institutions just don’t get it. [They say], “I just got solicited for a multimillion gift, and then the CEO called and asked me where my $5000 was.” That has the obvious risk of seeming ungrateful.

I don’t think the organization means any disrespect. They’re thinking about their budget. But it’s not the donor’s job to help us with our budget.

Your organization has participated in AHP’s Report on Giving survey. How has your participation in the data collection process helped your organization?

Creating an organization that can quickly produce the data that [AHP requests in the annual Report on Giving survey] is consistent with good management and good planning. Any organization that says, “It’s a pain in the neck to complete that survey,” I would say to them, “Don’t think about it in the sole context of responding to an AHP survey. Think about it as data you should have at your fingertips anyway. You need to understand these data points.” I have to say, it has ended up informing our decisions on budgeting and other issues.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone new to health care philanthropy?

The first is to understand the business of health care. It’s complicated, but in order to be successful, you need to understand the business.

And the second thing—and this is true in any development role, but it always surprises me the number of people who don’t exhibit this skill set—is to learn how to listen strategically. People don’t do that.

How would you define “strategic listening”?

Strategic listening involves understanding what the prospective donor is passionate about in general, figuring out what drives the donor in the arena of health care, and then figuring out how to overlay that with your organizational needs and match the donor’s needs with your strategic priorities.

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Meet The Author

Arthur J. Ochoa, JD
Senior Vice President of Community Relations and Development, and Chief Development Officer

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