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.

How to Engage Hospital Staff in Philanthropy, Beyond Physicians

Samantha Hunter
Published:  09/13/2021

An empty hospital lobby with chairs and a deskPhoto by Fran Jacquier on Unsplash 

There’s a lot of focus on how to engage physicians in philanthropy efforts, and for good reason. Physician engagement can be a powerful tool to advance grateful patient giving. They develop a close relationship with their patients and understand their experience with the hospital in a way that others can’t. 

Engaging with physicians is a key focus area for the development office, but be careful to not leave out the rest of the hospital staff in the process. You should think about how to engage employees at every stage of the philanthropy process. This lets them not only learn first-hand what philanthropy does but also gives them ways to get involved without necessarily having to make a gift. 

Case Study: Establishing an Annual Fund-supported Grant Program

In an effort to raise awareness about the philanthropy program, the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center decided to focus on building new partnerships with staff beyond physicians. Their goal was to learn about patient needs from a new perspective and wanted to engage with hospital staff in a different way than asking for donations. 

Allison Season, executive director of annual giving, explained, “we didn't really have great stories to tell about how we were using the annual funds. Funds were going to important initiatives, but the storytelling piece just wasn't there. And we thought we need a new way to identify projects and programs that we support through this annual fund.”

To do this, the philanthropy team created an annual-fund supported grant program that was open to employees at all levels. Through an employee newsletter, they asked employees to come forward with a program or project proposal that was tied to the organization’s strategic objectives and also had measurable outcomes. They also had to include how they would tie any outcomes to the philanthropy funds. This helped introduce employees to the work the philanthropy team was doing, in a new way. 

The creation of the grant program followed these four steps:

  1. Developed an application process
  2. Developed a committee to review the applications
  3. Launched and advertised the grant opportunity to hospital staff
  4. Created stories from the accepted grants and tied them to philanthropic efforts

Step two was crucial for making sure that the grant proposals represented a diverse set of ideas. The development team wanted to have diverse representation from across the medical center and the community on the committee.

“One of the purposes of this review committee was not just an opportunity to engage the staff in making decisions, we also needed to make sure, that projects being presented were actually going to be able to implementable,” said Kevin McAteer, chief development officer. 

To support this, they made sure to include people that worked in hospital operations as well as nurses and physicians for a clinical perspective. The team wanted to make sure the grants were feasible and wouldn’t cause disruption to the day-to-day work that happened at the hospital. 

The benefit of engaging with staff that might not be involved with philanthropy initiatives normally, is that it brings new ideas into the mix. Bringing new people to the table, that work in different roles in the hospital means that they will bring a fresh perspective to the development team for new project ideas. 

For example, the Patient and Family Experience team came forward with an idea to help patients and families that spend a long amount of time in the hospital. The team requested grant funding for items to make patient’s stays more comfortable, like phone chargers so they could contact loved ones, tablets, DVD players, and new clothing. 

Through the grant application, the development team learned that often a patient’s discharge is delayed because they don’t have the appropriate clothing to go home. By engaging with hospital staff that might not typically be involved in philanthropy conversations, it provided an opportunity for the development team to expand and develop programs that mean a lot to patients and families long-term. 

NEWS  /03/13/19
A "give, get or get off" policy for your board may not be the most effective strategy. Here's why.
NEWS  /05/03/23
Learn actionable tips to engaging healthcare providers in grateful patient philanthropy efforts.
NEWS  /12/02/20
Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation's annual awards offer a unique, personal experience for local donors.

Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

Share This

facebook-icon twitter-icon linkedin-icon