Hospital fundraising: Making the big leap

February 21, 2017

Around 20 years ago, universities found themselves in a difficult position with attracting new funding into education. Money from government was being consistently cut, but the costs and needs of educating ever more students, and providing world-leading research, was rocketing. Hospitals find themselves in a similar situation now – funding from the NHS is only going one way, and the question needs to be asked as to how world-leading treatments and patient care can be afforded in the future. Increased big gift fundraising by building transformational relationships is part of the answer.

Community fundraising has played a really important role for British hospitals, and has meant that everyone can get involved and do their bit. But to compete for serious gifts that drive change – research, new buildings, innovative programmes, world-leading care – hospitals need to change tactics. There are some examples to follow, and although the scale may differ for each hospital, the lessons are valuable.

One of the world’s most famous hospitals rose from humble beginnings in 1852 with ten beds as the Hospital for Sick Children. Before London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) became part of the NHS in 1948, GOSH was a voluntary hospital – they owed their existence to charity. As far back as the 1850s, it ran fundraising campaigns for new buildings.

Years of hard work and investment has made GOSH a standout brand. Such a thorough rebranding might be tough for many hospitals, but with determination and the right opportunities, the outcomes could be transformational.

In 1982, the British government relaxed restrictions on fundraising by individual hospitals. In response, GOSH launched the successful Wishing Well Appeal of 1985-1989 – a four-year campaign raising £54 million from the public and a further £30 million from the government to fund a new building.

In another twist that holds lessons for hospital trusts, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity became semi-detached from the hospital in 1982 when the Charity was established under the term Special. While the NHS continued to support the ongoing operation of the hospital, the charity was free to fund buildings, equipment, and research, as well as pump prime new programmes. There remained a close connection of course, but it meant the Charity was freed from NHS mandates and restrictions and has been able to ensure it is set up to optimise the best chance of success. This is a hot topic in the NHS at the moment, and may not suit everyone, but every hospital can do more to promote the individuality of its needs and priorities. It is about saying something distinctive and motivating to those who could support you.

Once dependent on community fundraising and one-off appeals, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity changed. Now, this hospital charity seeks to raise upwards of £85 million every year. Not everyone can reach those numbers, but we can nevertheless take important lessons from this success.

1. First, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity asks for gifts. As simple as that sounds, many hospitals have barely scratched the surface in organised philanthropy. At its base, this is about building great relationships that work for everyone, but in order to raise money, you have to be clear about your needs and ask.

2. Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity moved beyond bucket fundraising and fun runs. They still undertake community fundraising extremely effectively, and it will always be a vital part of the mix, but transformational giving has become a crucial part of the programme.

3. Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity seized the opportunity offered by investing in fundraising from major donors, trusts and foundations, corporate partnerships, and legacies. This fundamentally changed the magnitude of their philanthropic efforts.

4. Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity fundraises according to a carefully prepared plan, with a vision, appropriate leadership volunteers, and professional fundraising staff.

There is more, of course, and here at Graham-Pelton, we believe that hospitals can do much more. With guidance, hospitals all over the UK can do more than charity runs and community collections, and the hospitals that take a bold step now – the ones that get properly organised – will jump ahead.

If you would like to learn more about philanthropy for hospitals, please contact me.

– Shaun Horan, Managing Director

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