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Successfully Engage Physicians in Grateful Patient Fundraising

Samantha Hunter
Published:  05/26/2021

Doctor holding stethoscope
Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

Grateful patient fundraising has evolved over the past decade, and like other fundraising efforts, it has begun to take a more digital approach. It’s more common to see analytics and artificial intelligence utilized which is a welcomed step forward. 

But particularly when it comes to grateful patients and families, the best prospective donors are still often identified by the direct caregivers. Because of this, it’s important for development professionals to know how to coach physicians and healthcare professionals to identify and engage with potential grateful patients. 

It's up to fundraisers to make the healthcare professionals, and in particular, physicians a partner in the process. To do this, it's important to understand the hesitation that healthcare providers feel when it comes to identifying and recruiting donors, and then provide them with ways to engage on the topic comfortably.

Start with understanding the roadblocks

It’s up to the development team to understand and reduce the discomfort that healthcare professionals feel when trying to identify and engage with potential grateful patients or families. The most common reasons physicians and caregivers are hesitant to get involved are:

- They don’t want to ask for money
- They don’t feel confident in identifying good prospects
- They don’t know how to start the conversation

Below are some insights into how to address each of these concerns, and in-turn, create partners in the fundraising process. 

Define what their role is, and what it isn’t

As I’m sure you know, making the financial ask isn't part of the role that physicians play. This is the number one reason healthcare professionals avoid getting involved in grateful patient fundraising efforts. That’s why it’s important to outline upfront, what their role is and what it isn’t. 

Their role is identifying potential donors and connecting them to the development or fundraising team. Most of the time when a physician hears upfront that they are not expected to ask for any donations, it relieves the tension and hesitancy immediately.

Listen for more than thank you  

Another common roadblock is that it can be hard identifying who would be a good prospect and who wouldn’t, which is a fair point. It can be hard to tell the difference between a patient or family showing gratitude and them showing philanthropic gratitude. 

Just because someone shows gratitude, doesn’t mean they are necessarily a prospective donor. It’s the additional language on top of “thank you” that signals when someone wants to do more. It’s up to the development team to tell providers what to listen for. 

Here are a few examples that aren't as straightforward as a direct inquiry:

- “I wish there was more I could do than just say thank you.”
- “Is there some way I can show you how much this means to us?”
- “How can we thank you and everyone here for all you did?”
- “Is there a way I can support the treatment provided here?”
- “What ways can I/we fight this disease?”
- “What can we do to help?”

Keep it conversational 

So let’s say a patient or family member indicates they are interested in making a donation or want to do more, a major hurdle can be how to appropriately navigate the conversation. If you aren’t prepared, chances are it will show. It’s important for direct caregivers to know, this isn’t the time to make a specific ask on behalf of the hospital. Instead it’s the time to make a referral. 

As part of the coaching process, the fundraising or development team should help guide the conversation. This doesn’t mean they need a script. Most of the time a script will only trip people up and make it more challenging to discuss. Instead an outline is probably more helpful. 

Here are a few talking points that can help guide the conversation:

- Acknowledge the grateful patients initial question or statement
- Offer to connect the prospective donor with a development colleague or team member
- Reassure the patient or family member that the focus remains on their care/situation 

A final, but important reminder for physicians is that giving back for many patients is part of the healing. Though it might feel uncomfortable, many people want to support the organization that helped them or their family member in their time of need. For more ways to address grateful patient giving for direct caregivers, check out this free webinar

NEWS  /09/19/19
In collaboration with the major gifts team, Philanthropy Champions can redefine how grateful patients give and enrich donors' connections to the foundations they support. 
NEWS  /07/31/20
Machine learning is upending the way philanthropy professionals find grateful patients—for the better.
NEWS  /10/07/20
MedStar Health's philanthropy program excels by educating everyone from physicians to staff on the power of gratitude.

Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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