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Beyond Gratitude: A New Approach to Grateful Patient Fundraising

Principal & President, Health

As the strain of healthcare economics continues to challenge our capabilities, philanthropy will play an ever-increasing role for many, if not all, health systems and related organizations. The impact a robust grateful patient and family engagement (GPF) program can make is well known and seen with ever-increasing importance.

There is a fundamental, philosophical aspect of GPF programs and engaging healthcare providers that needs to be explored. It is based on a deeper understanding of perspective and a willingness to accept that focusing on the word “gratitude”, as so many training offerings in this space do, create an unintentional disconnect. Simply said, a focus on gratitude, or what I call “traditional gratitude”, is not the correct approach in coaching and training healthcare providers in GPF programs.

The Problem with Traditional Gratitude

This where language and perspective come into play. It is true that patients and families who make philanthropic gifts (as well as those who volunteer time in some form) are expressing gratitude. Yet, this group is actually a small subset of the larger population of patients and families that are expressing traditional gratitude in the form of hugs, high fives, and words of thanks.

Healthcare providers are often trained to only listen for gratitude and refer prospects to the development office, when really all the patient wanted to do was say “thank you”. While these expressions of gratitude are wonderful and inspiring for providers to hear, they are not where development professionals should focus their energy. Too many of these referrals can smother the best of development teams and limit philanthropic results.

Equally problematic is that these referrals create misplaced expectations with the healthcare providers. They believe they have done what was asked and wonder why their referrals are not generating gifts. They may begin to make fewer referrals or stop participating entirely, all because they were not coached on how to properly identify that a patient or family is willing to give back.

To help overcome this challenge, to reduce the discomfort of your healthcare providers, and to bring clarity on what is really involved in GPF engagement, you will find success Beyond Gratitude.

Introducing Beyond Gratitude™

Beyond Gratitude, Graham-Pelton’s grateful patient and family methodology, is founded on this principle, which focuses efforts on trying to identify and engage with those people who are seeking to do something that is beyond traditional gratitude.

Beyond Gratitude has three domains: Analytical, Relational, and Operational. This topic, and its related challenges, are part of the Relational Domain, which focuses on engaging your healthcare providers, development professionals, and other key partners.

The Relational Domain

The Relational Domain provides context to the words and expressions used by patients and families to appropriately identify indicators of Beyond Gratitude. It clarifies what healthcare providers should listen for and who they should refer to the development office, greatly reducing their discomfort about participating in GPF programs.

As a result, the quantity of prospects sent to the development office decreases while the quality of those prospects increases. Both the healthcare provider and the development office gain confidence that the patient and/or family are genuinely interested in philanthropic opportunities.

The Relational Domain also strengthens the relationship between the healthcare provider and the patient and family. You are responding to those who are exhibiting “signs or symptoms” of Beyond Gratitude, which, through our ABC Framework, build a stronger bond from the patient and family perspective.

Our ABC Framework includes three components:

  1. Acknowledge you’ve heard something
  2. Be willing to make a connection
  3. Care comes first

Finally, this approach aligns with prospect research and data analytics best practices through the incorporation of predictive modeling to determine who are the best development prospects. Through Beyond Gratitude, you have filtered out those simply expressing traditional gratitude and identified the subset that is trying to do more, to go Beyond Gratitude. This makes them better prospects with a higher level of interest and motivation.

Wrapping Up

For programs that continue to use (traditional) gratitude as the focus of their healthcare provider engagement, consider how many people make philanthropic gifts compared to the number that express gratitude.

By shifting the focus from traditional gratitude to Beyond Gratitude, healthcare nonprofits can unlock the full potential of their GPF programs. This innovative approach not only brings clarity and reduces discomfort among healthcare providers, but also fosters stronger relationships with patients and families, ultimately leading to increased philanthropic support.