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Get those donor dollars: Tips for soliciting philanthropic donor funds

We in healthcare know the power of philanthropic donations and the impact they have on the care we deliver every day. All over the country, we see hospitals and towers named for generous donors who understand the importance of exemplary care. Many times those families or foundations have personal ties to those organizations – loved ones who received life-saving treatment or who benefited from revolutionary clinical trials.

There are dollars out there that can help you fund your next project, and there are philanthropists who want to help you. Here are some tips for finding philanthropic donor funds for your project:

Oneview tips for donor funds

Have a great, patient-centric story.

It’s not a coincidence that pediatric hospitals secured 7 of the 25 largest gifts to healthcare organizations in 2018. Donors love to see the impact their dollars have for generations to come, and donating to children’s organizations is a great way for them to do that. The patient stories that emerge from children’s hospitals generate hope and give donors “feel-good” returns when they see photos of young patients in the halls of a building with their name on it. In fact, projects that draw big donations don’t even have to be clinical. St. Jude recently received $50 million for a family commons, designed to be a treatment-free floor. Donors love to see their money go toward improving patient, family and community experience.

Repeat success by showcasing benefit.

If philanthropic donors have already contributed to your hospital, they’re a great place to start for fresh funding. A simple presentation highlighting the ways a donor’s funds have already demonstrated value can show them they’ve made a sound investment and inspire them to do more. And as always, a picture is worth a thousand words. Photos of patients enjoying the donor’s impact are a great way to help donors realize the difference they’re making.

Think beyond the hospital doors.

Many donors spread the wealth throughout the community. Think about ways you can tie your project to a broader community benefit. Is your project related to population health? Will it create new jobs? Could it draw new people to the community? Demonstrating a broader reach will show donors just how far their dollars can go. It may even help to meet with leaders from arts organizations and community impact groups. Can you find ways to tie projects together? Community leaders and foundations may also have great tips to help you find the right donor. They’re very familiar with the community’s biggest givers, and can provide great advice for seeking funding. Furthermore, you might discover great new ways to bring the community to your patients. For example, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital displays the San Diego Zoo channel via bedside technology for its young patients, and University Hospitals is pursuing displaying plays from the local playhouse.

Find a way to display the donor’s name.

While it might sound simple, projects that allow for naming rights are great motivators for donors. Of course building names come to mind for multi-million dollar projects, but there are lots of other ways to showcase a donor’s name as part of your pitch. Tell donors where their name will be displayed. Maybe it’s on a plaque in a designated area. Maybe it’s displayed on a patient’s touchscreen or throughout hospital signage. Consider telling donors upfront that you’d like to display their name as gratitude for their donation, and ask them where they’d like to see it.

Show that it’s share-able.

Everyone loves a good photo op, and donors are no exception. Projects that are likely to be showcased on the local news or that have great visual elements can draw donor attention. Think of creative ways your project could be publicized, and share those ideas with the donors you talk to. Create a vision for them that showcases their generosity for a wide audience. 

Be specific about where the dollars go.

Help donors visualize the impact they’ll have. Give them a specific list of what various donation levels can accomplish. What will $5 million buy? What will $10,000 buy? If a small donation can buy 200 touchscreen tablets, provide that detail. Better yet, provide it alongside a photo of the tablets, and a list of ways the tablets will help patients.

With thoughtful preparation and planning, you can help donors visualize a great success story. How have you worked with philanthropic donors to realize your vision.


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