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Increase your ability to raise money by creating an internal culture of philanthropy

Published:  10/23/2015

How integrated is your foundation into the rest of your health care organization? Do the doctors, nurses and other staff understand what you do? Heather Procaccino found out the hard way that her colleagues did not see the connection.

Every time a patient enters your health care organization, it creates an opportunity for your colleagues to increase the success of your development efforts. Is your health care staff prepared for these encounters? Do they understand their role in what you do? Have you laid the ground work by engaging, educating and communicating the impact of philanthropy?

When Heather tried to meet with a donor who also was a patient, nurses and doctors eyed her with suspicion—even though she identified herself. Below, she discusses how she overcame this issue and helped to build a relationship between the foundation and the medical center that benefits everyone.

Starting from scratch

Realizing the doctors and nurses on staff were either not aware of the foundation or viewed it with distrust, her first goal was to dispel their misperceptions about fundraising and philanthropy. It was important for front line staff to understand that philanthropy is ultimately about the patients. In the end, funds raised for the health care organization are used to improve lives.

It’s just as important to build good relationships with health care executives. Heather found that the leadership at her medical center also needed to be better educated about the foundation. For example, the foundation was not present at executive meetings, so the vice president of the foundation worked to get a seat at the table.

Communicating value and demonstrating success

Heather suggests using money, metrics and meaning to demonstrate and communicate your value to the health care organization.

It’s critical to let your senior team know how much money you raise and the impact it has on the bottom line. Explain the metrics you use to define success. A good metric to use is return on investment (ROI) says Heather, since it relates to the financial statements of the hospital.

Another important method used to communicate value is meaning. It’s important to connect the dots between funds raised and where the money is going, so staff can see how philanthropy impacts the bottom line and how it helps patients and the institution.

If you have a particularly outstanding success story—such as how a donation has helped update medical equipment with leading edge technology that provides better care to patients—be sure to share it.

In addition, if your organization has existing programs that recognize the work of colleagues and staff, take advantage of them. Show health care staff that you appreciate the work they do to support your philanthropy efforts.

Identifying, understanding and cultivating internal audiences

A major step in creating a culture of philanthropy is identifying your internal audiences and making an effort to understand them. One of the approaches Heather uses is "rounding" with department leaders to find out what is going on in their areas. She then shares a story of a donor-funded piece of equipment they use; next she connects it to grateful patients. She takes these "rounding" opportunities to engage colleagues in the philanthropic process.

Heather explains that although the foundation has a staff of eight, it has a team of 3,000— every person in the medical center has the power to affect how much money is raised because the process starts with the care patients receive from nurses and doctors.

Keeping the foundation involved

It is important that foundations maintain an ongoing presence in their health care organization. Having a seat at the strategy table is a critical first step in creating a culture of philanthropy between the foundation and the C-suite. Attending departmental staff meetings, having a foundation staff member on a hospital committee and inviting a physician to be on the board of your foundation are other ideas to help integrate your work into the culture of your organization.

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