12 Tips to Improve Hospital Fundraising Efforts

William C. McGinly, president and CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, provides 12 tips for hospital fundraising efforts, based on AHP surveys and other input.

1. Larger institutions are more successful. Larger institutions with higher clinical care revenues have been better able to sustain efficient and effective fundraising in the recession. "In a big institution, there is more diversity in the number and variety of fundraising efforts," Mr. McGinly says.

2. It costs more to raise money in hard times. Since people have less money to give during a recession, it costs more to raise the same amount of money. In other words, more fundraising staff are needed to raise the same amount of donated funds.  

3. Don't lay off fundraising staff. Mr. McGinly reports 11-25 percent of hospitals have cut fundraising staff, but he says a recession is the worst time to lay off staff because more are needed to raise the same amount. Also, laying off staff means throwing away personal relationships with donors that have been painstakingly built over the years. "You have an investment in the relationship they built," he says.

4. You need 7-10 people in direct fundraising.
A direct staff of four and indirect staff of two is the most common staffing mix that healthcare institutions report to AHP. The optimum level of direct fundraising staff seems to be from 7-10, but when direct staffing levels reach 11 or more, net returns begin to level off due to the increased compensation expenses of larger staff sizes.

5. Focus on major gifts and planned giving. Hospitals have shifted focus to major gifts because they cost less to raise than lots of smaller gifts. AHP surveys confirm that fundraising programs focusing on major gifts and planned giving commitments are the most successful.

6. Look to individuals, not corporations. Mr. McGinly says 84-86 percent of all gifts come from individuals, not corporations or foundations. However, corporate and foundation support is greater in children's hospitals, research hospitals and academic institutions.

7. Follow up after a capital campaign. A capital campaign, focusing on a specific goal, is the most effective kind of fundraising, but institutions should keep the momentum going after it is over. "Keep reaching out to donors and follow up with a new campaign," Mr. McGinly says. "If you walk way from it, you've lost a tremendous opportunity."

8. Community events have the highest ROI. The highest median returns on investment come from volunteer-hosted events, such as fundraising sales and community‐based runs, walks and biking.

9. Big events have hidden benefits. Big events, such as galas, dinners, and fashion shows, take up a lot of staff labor and other unaccounted costs, which can easily exceed the donations realized. But such events have long-term benefits, such as a higher community profile for the hospital and bringing in more permanent donors.

10. Invite physicians to events.
Physicians may not want to donate money because their reimbursements have been declining, in many cases, and they may already be giving free care. However, many physicians feel a great deal of loyalty to the institution and can significantly enhance fundraising just by attending an event.

11. Reach out to people who gave more than requested.
These are people who have $750 when the campaign asked for $500. "These are very special people and you should stay in contact with them," Mr. McGinly says.

12. Ask for planned gifts. Donors can bequeath real estate, stocks or cash for the institution after their death, but they can get a tax advantage from it while they are still living. During the recession, some philanthropists have been pledging donations that will begin in a year or two, after their businesses are on a better financial footing.

Find out more about the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

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