5 Key Elements to Launching a Grateful Patient Program
We’ve seen the data—charitable giving continues to grow, topping $400 billion for the first time ever in 2017, but the number of households that give is on the decline. The increase in the number of nonprofits vying for donor dollars makes competition fierce. And the sheer level of noise a donor faces every day means that it’s essential to take every opportunity, across every channel and interaction, to build connections with your donors and prospects.
And there’s nothing quite like the connection a patient makes with a doctor or health care team that they entrusted with their care. That experience creates a unique interaction unlike any marketing channel can generate. It’s incredibly personal (hello people-based marketing), and its reach extends far beyond the click of an email or the opening of a direct mail appeal. When done correctly, this interaction can be leveraged by a Grateful Patient Program to foster a strong philanthropic relationship.
Patient giving has long been a standard fundraising practice for most health care organizations. But it can be complicated with evolving HIPAA regulations and shifting fundraising strategies. Most health care systems and hospitals understand the opportunity that lies within a Grateful Patient Program, but many just don’t know where to begin.
Grateful Patient Programs can be a complex system of government regulations, internal alignment and human relationships; but with a clearly defined plan in place, it’s possible to launch a successful patient fundraising program. Here are five fundamental steps you can take to get started.
- Foster a strong relationship with the compliance office. Organizations often leverage a compliance team or officer to ensure adherence to HIPAA regulations. These regulations are in place to ensure patient privacy, protect both the patient and staff and standardize what information can be shared. Your Grateful Patient Program will run much more smoothly if you fully understand the role of your compliance officer and how it affects Grateful Patient Program elements before you develop them. And if there’s no compliance team to support your efforts, educate yourself before launching any element of the program. It’ll save you time and money down the line.
- Ensure staff alignment and support. Grateful Patient Programs require a strong culture of philanthropy across the organization. That means developing a shared understanding and common vision among leadership, physicians, staff and volunteers about the importance of giving. Everyone who engages directly or indirectly with patients should have a role in reinforcing the case for giving and understand how philanthropy leads to better patient care and outcomes. It starts at the top and requires each stakeholder to take an active role.
- Optimize the patient experience. Patient experiences start before they enter the door of the hospital with things such as ease of scheduling and available hours of operation. Some organizations offer concierge-level services, such as valet parking and upgraded rooms. Others provide patient navigators to ease the stress of navigating campuses that are sprawling or intimidating. A good patient experience removes as much stress as possible so that the primary focus is on what matters—providing and receiving top-notch care to ensure the best outcome possible.
- Build confidence in your patient data. Few things can ruin a relationship with a prospect faster than bad data. And because Grateful Patient fundraising actions take place relatively quickly (the biggest window of opportunity to convert a patient to a donor occurs within 60-90 days after discharge), you’ll want to know that the data you’re receiving is up to date and accurate. In addition, make sure that there are clear data definitions. For example, how do you define discharge across different areas of treatment? And how do you treat and message patients that visited for a screening or follow-up appointment differently than those who were admitted for more serious medical matters? Knowing the answers to these questions will impact the actions taken later in the moves management process that guides the patient through the progression prospect to a loyal donor.
- Implement well-defined development strategies. Now that you have created a positive patient experience, identified your prospects and reinforced a culture of philanthropy across all interactions, what next? Wealth scoring is an efficient way to determine if a prospect has major gift potential or if they’re more suited for cultivation through a direct response program. Be sure to draw clear definitions around how this will be determined, how departments and development officers engage with each other and with donors and how success will be measured. Reporting back to leadership on your fundraising successes will help to build ongoing support for your program and reinforce the power of the culture of philanthropy across the organization.
Patients are an important segment of your development program, and their value often extends beyond their charitable giving. They can be an advocate for your mission, promoting your brand through word of mouth and social channels. Be sure to take that into account when considering the impact a successful Grateful Patient Program could have to your organization.
And one last point—after all this work to convert patients to donors, don’t forget to retain them. While they may have a closer affinity than most, they still need encouragement and stewardship to continue the philanthropic relationship you’ve worked so hard to establish.