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?