Strategies for Cultivating Grateful Patient Gifts

Strategies for Cultivating Grateful Patient Gifts

February 2nd, 2012

 by Andy Canada


In September of 2011, the University of Chicago School of medicine received a $42 million dollar gift from Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum, which was one of the largest gifts to a hospital made last year. The reason they gave: they were so appreciative of the care they received from their doctor that they wanted to help train other doctors to be more like him! 

While the Bucksbaum gift is extraordinary, they are far from unique in their desire to give back to the people and organization that took good care of them.  According to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, current and former patients contributed nearly a quarter (23.8 percent) of all donations to healthcare institutions in 2010. 

A new study published this month in the journal Academic Medicine, suggests that development staff can make more connections with potential grateful patients (and generate more gifts) by providing one-on-one coaching to physicians about their role in the fundraising process.

The study, conducted by Steven Rum and Dr. Scott Wright at Johns Hopkins University found that physicians given one-on-one coaching by professional fundraisers produced significantly more leads and more gifts than those who received either emailed education materials or small group instruction from other physicians.

The development “coaches” educated physicians about the importance of philanthropy to the institution, walked them through how to recognize cues that patients might be interested in giving back, and discussed the steps to take once a prospect was identified.

The 19 physicians who were coached individually generated approximately two referrals of prospects each during the term of the study, which led to over $200,000 in realized gifts.

The 18 physicians in the small group lecture cohort generated a total of 3 referrals during the term of the study, and those trained through email alone provided no referrals.  Neither of these groups generated any actual gifts during the term of the study.

This study is a bittersweet reminder that while patients are a wonderful source of support for healthcare institutions, the people they are most intimately connected to are often uncomfortable with or unaware of the role they can play in facilitating the gifting relationship. 

What are you doing to assure your frontline staff understand the impact they have on fundraising?

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