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CEO Corner: Developing Relationships

Alice Ayres
Published:  09/13/2018

In the August 16 issue of AHP Connect I wrote about the exciting opportunities associated with community health care and philanthropy that are happening throughout the AHP membership. This issue, my focus is on relationships – those with your C-suite, boards and clinicians. What I have heard from you across the past five months is that these relationships are critical and often plagued by misunderstandings, misaligned expectations and language barriers. 

Misunderstanding the Grateful Patient Model

For a grateful patient program to be successful, a culture of identifying, enabling and celebrating gratitude must be nourished in our institutions. As we know, enabling an expression of gratitude in any form – a gift of time, a donation of money or active advocacy for the work being done – aids in the healing process for patients and their families and creates a feeling of happiness for both the recipient and the giver. Our front-line teams are often unaware of this and feel uncomfortable even accepting the grateful words of the people they have helped. Working with that team by sharing the science behind gratitude, training them to identify grateful patients and then clearly defining how they can help those patients express their gratitude makes all the difference in engaging the teams.

Setting Expectations with Boards

While at the AHP Madison Institute this summer, there were several sessions devoted to developing great relationships with foundation boards. They all emphasized the critical importance of setting expectations up front with new board members, even suggesting that there be a job description shared with prospective board members. If the expectation is that the board members will contribute to the foundation, let them know you want them to and that you expect the foundation to be among their top three charitable giving organizations. If you are looking for help in identifying and cultivating donors, explain to the board members what their role will be in that process. Several Madison instructors also talked about the need for an annual performance review.

Learning to Speak the Same Language as C-Suite Partners

AHP partnered with Advancement Resources on a report called Healthcare Philanthropy Leadership Essentials, which identified ways to strengthen our communication with our C-suite partners. The report points to the opportunity to treat them the way we treat donors – get to know their needs and their goals and learn to overcome language barriers that get in the way of relationship building.

Nowhere is this language barrier more evident than in our work with CFOs. We talk in production dollars, while CFOs talk in accounting figures. The people I have spoken with about this say we should talk with CFOs to understand their needs and their concerns. We should explain the language barrier issue and agree to use all these metrics across interactions with the board, the C-suite and others – we are underway with a revision to the AHP Standards Manual that will help in this process. Finally, we should focus on ROI rather than Cost to Raise a Dollar. Some have even had conversations on ROI in which they ask, “If I gave you $4 for every $1 you give me, when would you stop doing that?”

I’m always looking for stories and best practices around building relationships with all of these key constituents. Please send yours along to me at alice@ahp.org or give me a call at 703-538-3140 to share them.

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Meet The Author

Alice Ayres

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