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Going Beyond "Raising More Money"

Liza Turcotte
Published:  07/21/2021

It seems everyone—whether you’re building on a really productive period in your organization’s history or you’re grateful a slow 2020 is in the rearview mirror—is thinking about how to get and stay ahead of the only thing that’s certain. 

Something is going to change.

There are lots of ways to think about how to position your organization well, of course, but let’s first focus on these three:

  • Showing the value of philanthropy
  • Effectively using your data
  • The role of major and principal giving

Showing the Value of Philanthropy

A consistent commitment to building an internal audience for philanthropy always seems to pay off, especially when navigating the dynamic environments so characteristic of healthcare.

I often hear from executive leadership in healthcare organizations that good answers to their questions about philanthropy are often too difficult to come by, which erodes their confidence in philanthropy. (Breaking Barriers: How to Foster Collaboration Between Philanthropy and Healthcare Executives does a great job talking about this in detail and outlining what matters to members of the leadership team.) 

Basically, there are two big questions you need to effectively answer to convey the power and potential of what you do every day…

The first question is, "Why would we prioritize fundraising?"

There are a lot of reasons philanthropy should be a priority, and revenue is at the top of the list.

Very simply, impacting the bottom line by earning and borrowing revenue is expensive compared to working with donors. And this really matters right now because earned revenue and margins for healthcare systems were decimated last year.

Comparing the net revenue from services to fundraising net revenue is a powerful way to think strategically, and with a data-driven perspective, about the potential of investing in fundraising. Learn more about this in Healthcare Philanthropy: A Substantial Contribution to the System Bottom Line Beyond Earned Revenue.

The second question is, "What can we expect from you in the future?" 

In my experience—both from my own fundraising career and from my time with clients—this question about expectations is the harder of the two, and I wonder if it’s difficult because the starting place isn’t always obvious. 

First, it’s hard to commit to much if you don’t know what success—or the expectations of leadership— look like, so I encourage philanthropy leaders to answer this question themselves—and to ask lots of other people for feedback about it—early and often. What would success look like at this organization?  Here’s why…

When I ask clients this question, the first thing I hear is, “Success is raising more money!” And we can agree on that. Rubber meets the road in fundraising offices with revenue.

But this question of success can be nuanced. 

Success will mean something different to various members of the executive team, which could offer a different perspective than your clinical team, which could differ from your donors and staff—and on and on.  

It’s equally important to remember that these groups might define success differently at different times. An almost limitless number of things—campaigns, M&A activity, changes in leadership (and pandemics, apparently)—could influence what you consider goals and achievement.

My point is, when you ask this question early and often of yourself and others, you work toward sophisticated answers. And, more importantly for hospital leadership, you work toward delivering a solid revenue number they can count on.

Effectively Using Your Data

There’s a lot to how and why development teams find success, and “raising more money” doesn’t convey the complexity and skill needed to do it well.

The good news is that your development team likely has an incredible amount of data at its fingertips, ready to be used for strategic decision-making and revenue projection.

For example…

Questions to consider

The insights in these examples rely on information you keep and monitor on your own, without the need for outside analytics. But healthcare organizations—like all nonprofits—are embracing things like wealth screenings and custom modeling to focus their efforts, make the most of every opportunity to work with donors and prospects, help staff focus time and talent confidently, and gain an impartial view about the organization’s current potential. 

So, the news gets even better with analytics in your “toolbox” because they can help you understand more advanced questions like:

  • Does our resource allocation and strategic plan match what analytics tell us about our potential?
  • How much money are we not cultivating, soliciting, or stewarding?
  • If we made additional investments, where might they make the biggest impact?
  • Can we decrease investments in some activities to increase them in others?

Beyond that, we tend to think about the cost to take a specific action or shift strategies—but there’s often less consideration of the longer-term impact of decisions NOT to mature priorities, which can be just as valid. The combination of third-party insights, your internal data, and good development work can create balance in this process too.

The Role of Major and Principal Giving

And speaking of complexity and skill, it’s hard to strive for achievement if donors and prospects aren’t aligned with what you’re hoping to accomplish, so navigating the question of “best prospects” is important for all the reasons the question of success is important.  “Best prospect” means different things to different people at different times.

And with major and principal giving in particular, identifying and balancing important characteristics that point to quality prospects is often what it’s all about, right? Affinity or affiliations, capacity indicators, relationships to stakeholders, interest in similar missions, past giving history to your organization—all of these attributes balanced well and aligned with what you’re striving to accomplish point toward great prospects for new or increased giving.

Importantly, all this isn’t just consensus building stuff. 

Rather, this type of good communication can form a foundation on which to talk more meaningfully, work more collaboratively, and make decisions with increased confidence—and to do those things alongside the important team of internal advocates you work so hard to build. And data can help you understand how you’re making progress, talk about the impact donors are making, and speak to what philanthropy needs to have an even bigger effect.

It all comes down to committing to the right relationships, asking questions that lead somewhere, listening well, and taking action that makes things better. 

The final piece of good news?

It’s everything fundraisers do so well!

Curious to take a deep dive into major and principal giving? Join us for a webinar as Einstein Healthcare network joins Liza to discuss their approach. 

About the Author: Liza Turcotte specializes in analytics and healthcare philanthropy as a Senior Principal member of the Solutions Engineering team at Blackbaud. Liza is one of the company’s most popular presenters and a sought after thought leader for healthcare organizations. Her hands-on fundraising experience coupled with senior roles within Blackbaud’s Target Analytics team provides the unique perspective that customers value when she shares insight to enhance their development efforts with data-driven strategies.

Liza’s hands-on fundraising work includes time at Roper St. Francis Foundation, One80 Place, and the USS Yorktown Foundation. Since joining Blackbaud, she has worked alongside hundreds of leading fundraising organizations, both as a consultant and manager. A ten-time BBCON presenter and author of several ebooks, whitepapers, and blog posts for Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions and Target Analytics, Liza has also authored thought leadership featured by organizations like the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy and the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement.

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Liza Turcotte
Senior Principal Solutions Engineer

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