AHP Connect Articles

AHP Connect delivers updates on industry news and research, educational and professional opportunities, best practices and other articles related to health care philanthropy.

Choosing the Best Channels for Annual Giving

Published:  06/10/2016
gift box


The following article is based on the webinar "A Multi-Channel Approach to Annual Giving," presented by Jessica Harrington, president of the Harrington Agency, and Michael J. Burton, associate vice president of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Office of Institutional Advancement.

The current array of digital outlets presents both opportunities and challenges for healthcare philanthropy. Jessica Harrington and Michael Burton offer a data-driven approach to selecting the most appropriate channels of communication to enhance annual giving.


A New Approach

Harrington and Burton suggest modifying the standard giving pyramid and capping it with an inverted engagement pyramid to form an hourglass. The upper portion depicts the progression from initial awareness (e.g., of a hospital’s mission) through more involved stages of understanding and commitment.

Where the pyramids converge, the fully-engaged individual becomes a donor (the point of “conversion”) and is ready to embark through the levels of giving from “renewal” through planned giving. Along the way “ambassadors” (donors who have become champions of the cause) help to spread the word and encourage others to join in.

Judicious use of new channels of communication can greatly advance this process and help potential donors connect with your institution. However, annual giving programs need adequate capacity to take advantage of these channels and achieve the best return on investment. Facebook, for example, may be a great way to increase awareness of your institution’s mission, but not for getting donations.


How to Choose: The Definitive "Channel Checklist"

Selecting the right channels for the right audiences for the right purposes can be a daunting task. Harrington and Burton recommend the following 13-item “Channel Checklist” to help decide whether taking on a particular digital outlet is worthwhile.

Essential criteria include: clearly defining goals, as well as metrics for deciding if the goals have been met; accurately identifying audiences and message content; confirming affordability in terms of staff, budget and technological capacity; and ensuring institutional buy in.

  1. What is your goal for this channel? Leads? New donors? Revenue? Retention?
  2. What is your secondary goal for this channel?
  3. What are your metrics for determining success or failure?
  4. What audience are you reaching with this channel?
  5. Does this audience fit within your institution’s overall strategic outreach plan?
  6. Do you have content uniquely suited for this channel?
  7. Do you have a process in place for launching this channel?
  8. Do you have the proper technology for using this channel?
  9. Do you have the appropriate methods for capturing new leads/donors/gifts and sourcing them into your database of record?
  10. Do you have the staff to manage this channel?
  11. Do you have the budget to deploy this channel past one year?
  12. Are you willing to abandon the channel if you don’t see success? How?
  13. Is your foundation willing to adopt this channel into all its other activities?

If you can't check off at least six items on the list, Michael and Jessica advise against entering the channel. With six to eight positive responses, they suggest to “begin exploring and be cautious.” They encourage a launch only when you can check nine or more items off the list.


7 Rules for Success

Finally, they say a successful multi-channel annual giving program needs to adhere to seven rules.

  1. Scrub your database: Update the file quarterly to eliminate duplicates, bad addresses, changes of address, etc.
  2. Optimize your forms: Take out unnecessary fields such as asking for age, how you heard about us, etc. They depress response rates. However, always add a “gift string” where you suggest an amount to donate.
  3. Ensure that digital forms are mobile optimized: Your forms should be just as useful and useable on a mobile device as on a computer.
  4. Drive online donors directly from search to your donation page: Don’t force a potential donor to hunt through a website.
  5. Focus on email deliverability: An email may be “delivered,” but go into junk mail instead of the recipient’s inbox.
  6. Write with emotion: Appeal to your donors’ hearts. Emotion leads to action.
  7. Write your appeals about a single person: This is more effective than writing about our institution or a collective group.

By adopting Jessica and Michael's multi-channel approach to annual giving, you can deepen connections and drive impactful giving in your institution.



NEWS  /02/11/20
In the first of a 3-part series, we examine how the INTEGRIS foundation used ethos to guide their efforts.
NEWS  /12/02/20
Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation's annual awards offer a unique, personal experience for local donors.
NEWS  /11/16/23
In the ever-evolving landscape of philanthropy, the traditional donor pyramid model has come under scrutiny in recent years. Do you think the donor pyramid is still a good fundraising tool??

Share This

facebook-icon twitter-icon linkedin-icon