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Grateful Patient Engagement Amid and Beyond Covid-19

Jenny Love
Published:  05/04/2020

woman in mask

Two months into the thick of the Covid-19 crisis, the resounding theme among philanthropy professionals is moving forward: figuring out how to do our day-to-day work successfully in this new environment, and capitalizing on the new opportunities that have presented themselves. 

Erin Stitzel, a principal healthcare philanthropy consultant at Accordant, has spent significant time determining how to adapt our grateful patient strategy in light of Covid-19. Here are some of her recommendations.

Update Your Case for Support

If you don’t already have a case for support, now is the time to create one. Mailing to former patients, engaging your rock-star physicians, or even assigning gift officers only get you so far unless your efforts are focused on specific funding priorities aligned with your organization's vision. 

“You would never launch a capital campaign without a case for support,” Erin says. “You should never execute a grateful patient's strategy without one either.”

Build your case by identifying needs that existed before the crisis and are still relevant, and new needs that have emerged during it. Invite your clinician partners to be part of the project selection process to generate buy-in. 

Look at the ways your community and donors have stepped up in the last two months. Whether they’ve been funding housing for your caregivers to go to between their shifts, telehealth products connect patients and families, PPE, gift cards, or childcare, this is your opportunity to show exactly the impact you can have when you identify specific funding priorities that support your organization's vision.

If you already have a case for support, take the time to ensure that it is still relevant given what has happened in the past two months. Many of our organization's financial situations have changed. Existing projects on the horizon may be put on hold or may not be happening at all. If your organization is realigning its priorities, be sure to update your case for support to reflect them. 

Engage Clinician Partners

Some parts of the country have been hit harder with Covid-19 than others. If your organization has prepped for a coronavirus surge that thankfully hasn't happened, you may have a unique opportunity now to get physicians’ ears, while they have free time before elective procedures begin to ramp up again. 

How should you capitalize on physicians’ availability and interest? First and foremost, connect with them. 

“Send them a text or an e-mail. Call them on the phone. Show your support. See how they're doing,” Erin said. “Share the incredible response the community has shown your organization through your fundraising efforts for Covid-19, and then schedule a strategy meeting.”

In your strategy meetings with physicians, first ask about their funding priorities. Don't assume that everyone wants to talk about Covid-19. The needs that existed prior to the coronavirus still exist today. You should also use some of the time to discuss past or current grateful patients, especially those you may not have been able to reach before. 

Focus on Gratitude 

In today's uncertain economic climate, physicians may be skeptical about continuing to fundraise. Reassure them that their job is to spot gratitude, not to consider what kind of gift the patient might be able to make. Gratitude is a powerful driver; a recent Accordant study found that one third of people are motivated to make a charitable gift because of it. When you focus on gratitude first, what matters is the story the patient can tell to help inspire him or herself and others and promote future giving. 

When your concept centers on gratitude, you can focus on all constituents: patients, family members, community partners, donors, and family members. And don’t forget about your clinicians.

“We need to focus not just on our patients’ gratitude, but also our caregivers' gratitude and how it makes them feel. We need to be celebrating that as well,” Erin said.

When you're doing a gratitude wall to showcase stories of gratitude from the community, give nurses and frontline staff the opportunity to express their own gratitude as well, and then share those stories back with the community and your donors. Gratitude is a virtuous cycle, which breeds more gratitude, healing, and potential future gifts.

Connect with the Grateful Non-Patient

There's been a shift in people's gratitude toward healthcare, and a new constituent is emerging: the grateful non-patient. These people may never have never been treated in your organization, but they are grateful for the care you are providing to the broader community during this time of crisis. And this isn't likely to stop anytime soon. 

When community members reach out, instead of sending them your usual canned email or thank-you letter, Erin recommends thanking them personally on the phone. Help non-patients feel like an insiders by sharing stories from the frontline, stories of gratitude, and the incredible response from the community. In addition to phone calls, email blasts and social media are great tools to reach your community at large.

Should You Change Strategy for Covid-19 Patients?

Covid-19 has created a new paradigm in healthcare, and you may be wondering whether you should approach grateful Covid-19 patients differently than you would normally engage former patients.

In short, it's best to stay the course. Give patients who are in your hospital with Covid-19 the opportunity to say thank you, just as you would for any other patient.

View the full webinar “Grateful Engagement in the Midst of and Beyond Covid-19” and dozens of other webinars on demand in the AHP webinar archive.

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Meet The Author

Jenny Love
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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