Adapted from a recent installment of the AHP Webinar Series by Gail Rudolph and Ben Golding
“Cover your pockets, the foundation person is coming!”
You’ve probably heard some variation of that comment multiple times while walking through the halls of your hospital. Professionals outside of the development office usually do not have a clear understanding of how fundraising works in their facility, why it matters and why they should be involved.
Gail Rudolph, President, Sequoia Hospital Foundation and Ben Golding, Chief Operating Officer, Advancement Resources recently discussed how to build positive, collaborative relationships with medical professionals and addressed how to overcome the obstacles to those relationships.
Medical professionals are wary of becoming involved in philanthropy, worried that they will be expected to ask their patients for money. Development professionals know how important it is to protect the sanctity of physician-patient relationships and allow them to focus on care. It’s communicating that understanding to physicians and clinicians that can be difficult.
Rudolph suggests starting your conversation with, “I believe it’s unethical to start a conversation about money at the bedside.”
Then they might really start to listen.
Gift officers should explain that the process involves a professional referral, similar to any other professional referral to a colleague in the hospital. Rudolph reassures physicians by saying, “You wouldn’t want me starting an IV or doing heart surgery. I will be the one asking for the gift.” Your priority is establishing yourself as a colleague.
Clearly explain to the physician what his or her role will be, while also being able to articulate what exactly will happen to patient on your end. Clinicians and physicians need to trust in the process, not just the person.
Rudolph and Golding outline physicians’ roles in development as:
- Creating an environment where gratitude is appreciated and can thrive
- Listening for and encouraging expressions of meaningful experiences beyond medical outcomes
- Making referrals to development professionals
- Expressing appreciation to people who invest in the organization’s work
Where should you start with a physician engagement initiative?
Begin slowly and with a good balance: only engage the number of physicians that you are able to maintain an ongoing relationship with. Target your outreach to those who value participation and are willing to provide referrals. Golding and Rudolph have found that anywhere from 10-20 physicians can work with a major gift officer in a successful, ongoing relationship.