This is the final post in a 4-part series on “Why the Healthcare Sector Has to Focus on Major Gifts Now!”

When we analyze healthcare sector donor files and see value attrition in the 60-85% range, one of the common contributing factors for this is that healthcare charities are just not caring for their donors well.

Which is ironic because if you are in a healthcare non-profit and you are reading this, you’re in the business of caring for patients and their families. In other words, you don’t do a good job taking your own medicine.

You are so good at carrying out your mission (because you are literally saving lives) that you forget about taking care of the donor. So, what does it mean to really take care of your donors? It means:
  1. You value every donor and see them as an important part of your mission — You have a healthy culture of philanthropy where donors are honored and part of your story and community which is helping you achieve your mission.
  2. You recognize that part of your goal is to ensure each donor is in the right program for their level of interest and giving capacity — This means you are creating a healthy pipeline that allows donors to give at their level of capacity and inspires them to deepen their commitment.
  3. You know your donor’s passions and interests and personalize communication to speak to those interests — This is where it all begins. If you know your donor’s passions and interests and why they have them as it relates to your organization’s mission, you will know how to cultivate, steward and care for your donor. Richard and I cannot emphasize this enough because this is everything for a front-line fundraiser. Without this knowledge, everything you would do from reporting back or sending touch points to presenting offers would be about the ORGANIZATION and not about the donor. The result of that is either donor gives the same amount every year, gives less year over year, or goes away altogether!Here are some ways you can do this in your organization, recognizing there are unique circumstances and present challenges for the healthcare sector:

    – Virtual chats with a program officer, doctor, or nurse to share what’s happening on the ground
    – Personal notes from patients
    – Presentation from an expert or community leader related to addressing root causes of health issues related to your organization’s mission

    Here’s a powerful story about how an MLO at American Cancer Society put this idea into action and was able to transform a donor relationship: “This particular donor gave $1K last year and then $5K in March, but we had no phone or email.  Prospect Research did not find his contact information at that time but did alert the MLO to this other philanthropic interest, which she noticed all had to do with housing. When selecting touch points to share, the MLO emphasized the Society’s residential care at Hope Lodge. The donor then gave $100K. After he gave, they did a “deeper dive” and found several possible email address and phone numbers. The MLO tried several and connected with the donor by email. This is a great example of how to be curious and use resources to learn more.”

  4. The donor feels known as more than just a supporter of your mission — Okay, so you know your donor’s interests and passions. And you know why they have them. And you know what they care about beyond your organization. All that information is extremely helpful, to help you create thoughtful, effective touch points so that a donor feels “known” by you.This means that in your communication plan, you share things like birthday cards, notes of congratulations when the donor’s business wins an award, or even share an article about a topic related to another non-profit the donor supports. Every person wants that feeling of being known by another. This is also effective when presenting an offer to a donor. If you can tie that offer to the personal experience of a donor, the donor is more open to hearing about it and wanting to participate in the solution.

    Here’s one story I loved from ACS that is a great example of this: “One MGO was applying for a Family Foundation grant. The family representative was willing to meet with her, and she learned he was very into cycling. As a thank you, she ordered a bicycle cut-out thank you card from Etsy. The donor was so pleased!”

  1. You have a plan — So, how do you make this happen? You create a plan. Now, perhaps you may think that sounds antiseptic compared to the emotional side of the work you do, but it’s the planning that allows you to be creative, create the emotion, understand your donors, and inspire them to help change the world. This is where many front-line fundraisers get tripped up. They love the relational side of fundraising, love making friends with donors, but they’re ineffective because they are not moving donors toward a deeper donor engagement and gift. And, when you evaluate the performance of their portfolio, it’s very uneven and we see higher value attrition than in portfolios who have a strategic plan for each individual donor that is attached to a revenue goal.

When you create a culture that honors your donors, brings them into the mission, and is designed so that the donor gets the level of relationship they want – it’s powerful. And then, as you prioritize understanding your donor’s passions and interests, knowing your donor, and having a plan so you can be purposeful in getting that information, your experience with donors will transform.

As this all comes together, what we’ve seen in healthcare sector portfolios is that donor value attrition goes down from 60-85% to 6-12%. We’ve heard that donors, giving significant gifts, are thanking the fundraisers because they’ve never been talked to before. Net revenue is increasing, which means more program support. This makes a huge difference. In fact, in just one year of partnering with the American Cancer Society, they were able to reduce value attrition so much they retained another $9MM in revenue that they would have lost had they not put in place the structure, planning, and management that is necessary for a successful major gift program.

This is possible for your healthcare organization. It will take your leadership and passion… and some of your own medicine to make it happen.



Other Blogs in the “Why the Healthcare Sector Has to Focus on Major Gifts Now!” Series:
  1. Healthcare Non-Profits Must Diversify Their Revenue Streams
  2. Moving Beyond an Events-Based Fundraising Model
  3. You’re Bleeding Donors and Dollars! 
  4. You Need to Take Your Own Medicine (this post)