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Systemization and Regionalization of Health Care Philanthropy

AHP Staff
Published:  09/13/2018

Systemization_regionalizationAdapted from a 2018 webinar presented by Accordant Philanthropy President Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP

In today’s constantly changing health care landscape, many organizations are coming together. With two-thirds of health care facilities in the United States now part of a health care system, many systems see a unique opportunity to elevate the performance of health care philanthropy by leveraging the advantages of size, scope, talent, infrastructure, capabilities, knowledge, processes, buying power and more.

Regionalization and systemization of health care fund development activities can provide significant advantages; however, this is also a road riddled with potholes, wrong turns and dead ends. Navigating systemization is a huge undertaking, but by organizing and asking the right questions at the start, you can find your individual path to success.

The first thing to figure out is why you are pursuing systemization in the first place. The reason can’t just be that it’s a trend. What are your desired outcomes and how will they advance your organization? The next thing you need to decide is the scope of your integration ambition. How many business units are you looking to consolidate? Rather than starting right away with regionalization, it might be better to start with a system overlay. But through all of these high-level decisions, it’s important to remember that your ultimate true north is placing emphasis on value-based partnerships with donors. Don’t forget why you’re pursuing systemization or regionalization in the first place.

The Essential 8 Elements

As you plan out your path to systemization, it can be helpful to identify these essential eight elements:

  1. Existing integration of systems: Which systems are already poised to work with each other?
  2. Use of regionalization/systemization in other areas: How can you tie other areas together?
  3. Legal and governance structure of existing philanthropy organizations: Do the entities you are trying to consolidate have similar legal structures?
  4. Organizational intent: What will this new organizational structure look like?
  5. Organizational culture: How is philanthropy perceived in your organization? What is your organization’s legacy?
  6. Geographic dispersion of entities involved: How long would it take to drive from one site to the other? Are you in one regional area? Would collaboration need to rely only on technological communication?
  7. Resolve and commitment of executive and philanthropy leadership: Are you and your CEO/leadership team all on the same page?
  8. Existing leadership expertise and experience in philanthropy: Who are your key players? Who can help push this agenda forward?

Once you’ve ironed out your essential eight elements, it’s time to shift focus to the principles of great strategy. Coming up with a great strategy is about optimizing value rather than creating complexity. Be wary of too many forms and too many hoops to jump through. Focus on streamlining your strategy and make sure it is agile and efficient. Also consider how your strategy fits within the context of your organization’s culture. Ask yourself why you are pursuing systemization, what is going to change, how that change will be measured and what the budget and timelines are. Make sure you clarify how and where the work will be done. Who needs to be involved and how will you collaborate?

Common Challenges to Systemization and Regionalization

Even with a rock-solid strategy and plan, you will certainly face challenges along the way. How you anticipate and address these challenges can make a big difference in your systemization experience. Some of the most common challenges are:

  • Making plans for the future can be difficult: The health care industry is continuously changing, so it’s important to be agile and adjust your plans as you go. Try to plan for the next two years and not much further beyond that.
  • Failing to make adequate financial investments to support various integration efforts: Extra costs are bound to arise, so make sure these are budgeted for in advance.
  • Getting out of step with the health care organization: It’s important for the foundation to work with the health care organization. Don’t alienate them and don’t leave them out of important milestones. Bring them along with you on the journey.

Most importantly, don’t lose sight of your overall mission: personalization and authenticity in relationships with donors and volunteers.

Learn more about systemization and regionalization in health care philanthropy by watching the webinar or downloading the ebook written by Betsy Chapin Taylor and Fred Najjar. 
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