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Grateful Patient Fundraising: 5 Best Practices for Success

Learn how Graham-Pelton can help you with grateful patient fundraising.

Grateful patient fundraising programs are an essential component of a robust development strategy for healthcare institutions. These programs give patients a philanthropic outlet to express their gratitude to the healthcare providers that made a difference in their lives or the lives of their loved ones. However, navigating the world of donations and solicitations with the added complexity of preserving patient privacy can be challenging.

To help you establish or grow your grateful patient fundraising program, we’ve created this guide containing the essential elements and best practices you need for success. In the guide, we’ll cover:

  1. What is Grateful Patient Fundraising?
  2. How to Start a Grateful Patient Program
  3. 5 Grateful Patient Best Practices for Moving Beyond Gratitude

With the right team and tools, your grateful patient program can be a valuable part of the patient experience at your healthcare institution. This guide will give you the resources you need to make this impact with your program. Let’s get started.


Learn more about grateful patient fundraising.

What is Grateful Patient Fundraising?

Grateful patient fundraising programs create opportunities for healthcare institutions, usually hospitals, to engage their patients in philanthropy. The goal is to identify donors and fundraising prospects that had a positive experience with your hospital that also have the inclination and capacity to give.

At their core, grateful patient fundraising programs are designed to foster a culture of philanthropy and raise money to support the hospital’s many services.

Why do hospitals need grateful patient fundraising programs?

Grateful patient fundraising programs raise valuable capital for physician research, for investing in technology and equipment, and for facility improvements while also giving patients and their families the opportunity to give back and support the hospital that has helped them or their loved ones. Many patients also use grateful patient programs to honor the individual staff members and departments that played meaningful roles in their care.

Beyond increasing funds for the hospital, grateful patient programs are also an opportunity to form cross-departmental partnerships and collaborate. Working cross-functionally in this way and building internal capabilities is not only recommended but can make a vast difference in the success of your program. In order to give patients the best experience not only in their care but in their grateful patient experience, different departments should be working together for the greater success of the program. Use this opportunity to both build up your team and increase your funds.

What makes a grateful patient program successful?

On the surface, a grateful patient program’s goal is to bring in donations. However, that is not the only factor that should be considered when evaluating a grateful patient program’s success, especially if you are just getting started. Your program should also aim to build a genuinely loyal base of dedicated advocates and donors.

Developing strong and authentic relationships with grateful patients helps boost the authority of your program and gives you a great marketing tool — enthusiastic advocates who are more than happy to speak well of your program and your hospital. These genuine relationships are a crucial part of creating a successful grateful patient program.

In this way, grateful patient programs serve to support the mission of your healthcare institution. When patients feel supported beyond the scope of their physical care, it can lead to better patient outcomes, in addition to affirming their belief in your mission. Ensuring that this is the standard for all patients will go a long way in giving current and future prospective donors assurance that your healthcare institution is more than deserving of their donations.

Here are some of the other factors to consider when evaluating your program’s success:

  • ROI. Bringing in a large amount of money is great, but only if it’s more than what was spent on stewarding and soliciting donors. Make sure your return is more than your investment.
  • Average gift size. Your average gift size likely won’t be significant at first. However, year-over-year, monitor your average gift size to see if your gift officers are successful in increasing gift amounts over time.
  • How long it takes to convert a prospect to a donor. While there are many factors that go into converting a donor, in general, you want to see this timeframe go down or stay in a range that creates a positive ROI.
  • Response rates to different grateful patient communications. Measuring this will not only give you a sense of your overall communication success but will also help you identify which methods work best and are a more effective use of your time.
  • Response quality to different grateful patient stewardship techniques. Tracking this can help you determine which stewardship techniques move donors forward in the donation process the fastest.
  • The number of new prospects identified versus new donors acquired. This will give you an idea of what percentage of prospects you are successfully converting to donors. If you gather more qualitative information alongside this number, you can also begin determining common characteristics among prospects who do or do not convert to donors.
  • The number of patient visits to the hospital versus total money donated. Tracking this metric will help you understand if there is a correlation between long-time patients or patients with many touchpoints and higher donations.

These success metrics can give you a comprehensive way to assess your improvements year-over-year. Like with any program, you should work to increase your impact each year, and in order to do that, you first need to identify where you currently stand. From there, you can set realistic and measurable goals.

Follow these steps to start your own grateful patient fundraising program.

How to Start a Grateful Patient Program

If you are just starting a grateful patient program, creating a detailed implementation strategy will help set your program up for success from day one. Following the steps outlined below will help give you the reliable start you need. However, if you still want to take it a step further to ensure you succeed, getting started with a program like Graham-Pelton’s Beyond Gratitude can provide even more assistance for getting your program off the ground.

  1. Engage your key clinical partners. Securing philanthropic gratitude requires the work of a whole team, including clinical partners such as physicians, faculty, and nurses. While it’s important to engage them in the process and give them active roles, clinicians and practitioners are not responsible for soliciting and securing donations – that is the job of the fundraiser.
  2. Identify the necessary staffing and budget resources. Before launching your program, you should be clear on who is involved, whether you need to hire major gift officers (and how many), and if there are any other resources or tools that will need to be accounted for in your budget.
  3. Ensure you have the necessary tools to manage data. To manage donor data in an organized and secure manner, invest in the necessary data management tools for your program.
  4. Research privacy laws and your institution’s own privacy regulations. When selecting software for data management and setting up your program’s workflows and systems, it’s essential to be up to date with patient privacy rules and regulations that will apply to you and your staff.
  5. Get the support of hospital leadership. Even if their involvement in your program’s day-to-day operations is minimal, you will need hospital leadership on board to ensure that your program runs smoothly and is accepted by the staff. Leadership support can help reduce the number of roadblocks and red tape you could face in the future.
  6. Implement a plan for rolling out the program. Once you have all of the key players on board, have identified your necessary investments, and created a preliminary budget, it’s time to plan how you will roll out your program. Create a detailed plan that identifies everyone’s roles and responsibilities and a timeline for the various stages of rolling out the program.
  7. Begin screening prospects. Now that you are up and running, it’s time to begin taking action by screening your first prospects. Make sure your gift officers have all the resources and information they need to begin their work.

If you have a long-standing grateful patient program at your healthcare institution, it’s worth taking the time to make sure that all of these steps were successfully completed during its initial implementation. You can overhaul or improve foundational gaps and weak points using these steps as a guide. Then, you can move on to improving your program by applying best practices.

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These five best practices will help you run a successful grateful patient fundraising program.

5 Grateful Patient Best Practices for Moving Beyond Gratitude

1. Provide robust training for hospital staff

Grateful patient programs can be complicated for multiple reasons. For one, the nature of patient relationships is sensitive. You are also collaborating with individuals, such as physicians, who are not trained in philanthropic work. This is why providing the necessary training to help hospital staff navigate patient relationships in this new context is crucial. While healthcare professionals are more versed in the sensitive nature of patient relationships, they are less likely to know how to encourage patients to become donors without risking those trusted relationships.

Creating a stronger relationship between physicians and fundraisers is the foundation of Graham-Pelton’s approach because it ultimately increases the success of your program. Our robust physician training and interim development staffing help the two departments establish a relationship based on trust and mutual success.

Graham-Pelton’s engagement profiles help you initially identify which of your hospital staff will be most instrumental in your grateful patient program. Then, you can begin the process of training them to participate by learning to listen for signals that indicate a patient’s inclination for philanthropy. Because this is such a crucial part of the process, Graham-Pelton coaches healthcare professionals to find their own style and voice when talking about philanthropy.

2. Make use of your gift officers

As you begin to identify prospective donors and start your outreach, prioritize effectively leveraging your gift officers. If you’ve hired new gift officers, it’s a waste of your investment to not entrust them with prospects. Give them the autonomy to identify where to focus your efforts and how you can improve your strategy. Also, empower them to take the lead on cultivating potential donors. They have the expertise to work more effectively with donors than members of your staff who have never engaged in this type of work before.

Gift officers can help you identify:

  • Which prospects have a large capacity to give but are not inclined to give.
  • If donors have been incorrectly approached for donations before.
  • Patients who have not yet been convinced to support your cause.
  • Prospects not previously identified or approached.

Giving them the autonomy to do the work they were hired for will allow you to capitalize on their wealth of knowledge and make a bigger impact on your grateful patient program.

3. Create a strong solicitation plan

With the help of your gift officers, you’ll have a list of prospects to begin forming stronger relationships with and soliciting donations from. However, before you take on the actual task of soliciting donations, it’s crucial that you have a well-developed plan that accounts for the sensitive nature of patient relationships.

A few essential things to consider when creating your solicitation plan include:

  • Timing. Because many of your donors are undergoing, have undergone, or had close family and friends undergo surgery or treatment, your team needs to be selective about when they engage with prospects. The last thing you want is for your team to come off as pushy or insensitive.
  • Previous donations. You should have a plan in place for how to approach donors who have already contributed to your hospital. The solicitation process for an existing donor will look different than your process for building a relationship with a new donor because new donors will require more up-front explanation and guidance as to the purpose of your program.
  • Past solicitations. If your team has already reached out to a prospective donor before, you should be aware of who engaged them, when, and how. If they did not respond well to a previous solicitation, it’s worth taking the time to examine what factors were not well received and could be improved upon.

Having clear guidelines for how and when your team engages prospective donors will help you avoid confusion and repeat solicitations while also developing and maintaining healthier relationships with donors.

4. Keep data secure and organized

There are many rules and regulations when it comes to patient data, and the absolute last thing you want to do is violate a patient’s privacy. Using HIPAA-compliant software and inviting your compliance officer to weigh in early in the process is crucial.

Here are some aspects of Graham-Pelton’s Beyond Gratitude program that make it a superior partner for managing grateful patient data:

  • Beyond Gratitude is designed to evaluate an institution’s cultural acceptance and readiness for a grateful patient fundraising program.
  • Graham-Pelton conducts a complimentary Diagnostic Review that assesses existing executive-level support and identifies how data is currently used to support program efforts. It considers the interests and needs throughout the institution, including HIPAA compliance, information services/systems, legal, and development offices.
  • The Diagnostic Review is critical to determining a path forward that gives key stakeholders confidence that patient privacy and data integrity will be maintained while advancing development objectives.

Data security and HIPAA compliance simply cannot be overlooked. Without proper security and procedures, you risk the integrity of your entire hospital. Partnering with an experienced consultant can make this part of your program much more manageable.

5. Track your grateful patient program’s progress

If you are just starting out with grateful patient fundraising, resist the urge to track everything. Start with the list we outlined above and identify 3-5 key performance indicators that will help you measure early success. You can build on these metrics each year.

Actively track your program’s progress so that you can address problem spots early on and make continual improvements. Not only will your team benefit from your proactive problem-solving efforts, but your donors will appreciate getting to participate in a program that is well organized and focuses on giving them a way to express philanthropic gratitude.

Additionally, having clear records of donor contributions and the impact they’ve made allows you to communicate potential impact to new prospects. This can be a powerful tool when soliciting donations.

These are the five best practices for grateful patient fundraising.

Wrapping Up

Grateful patient fundraising programs can be great assets for healthcare institutions, but they come with certain challenges. Having a partner in creating a highly effective program can make all the difference. Explore Graham-Pelton’s other resources and reach out when you’re ready to start your Beyond Gratitude journey.

Graham-Pelton can help with your grateful patient fundraising program.

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