3 Steps To A Successful Grateful Patient Program

How do you effectively communicate the need for funding in a way that motivates donors to contribute?

One of the most natural methods, and the one that often yields the best return, involves tapping into patients who have received services from your hospital and are pleased with the care. These grateful patients visited your institution, developed important relationships with your faculty (physicians, nurses and other key staff), and gained some type of positive result from the experience. As a result, grateful patients are your best ambassadors in the community and are highly likely to contribute because they understand the value and impact contributions make.

It makes sense that you would develop a program to reach these potential donors. There are three components of a successful grateful patient program: wealth screening, staff involvement, and follow up.

1. Wealth Screening 

Wealth screening is nearly ubiquitous in all facets of fundraising now and that is no different in healthcare. Hospitals conduct daily screenings to capture timely patient encounters. Similarly, hospitals should be dedicating resources to gathering wealth screening data on their patients.

Before you start, make sure your staff understands the minimum amount of information it needs to successfully screen patients and that everyone involved is aware of the laws pertaining to patient privacy. AHP’s Fundraising Under HIPAA is a helpful resource to understand the regulations surrounding grateful patient program fundraising activities.

Once you have identified prospective donors, be intentional about cultivating those relationships while they are still receiving care from the hospital. Don’t wait until they are discharged to build rapport. This requires time and dedication from the staff involved.

2. Staff Involvement 

The most successful grateful patient programs ask nurses, doctors and hospital administration to dedicate time and energy to providing an excellent experience and developing substantial relationships with patients. Over time, these grateful patient programs have reported significant shifts in screening of patients as physicians become more comfortable operating as volunteers for the development team. Thanks to physician referrals, many hospitals are finding higher caliber prospects.

Following the identification process, participating clinicians are involved in appropriate cultivation, providing regular updates on the relationship with their referrals and publicly recognizing when gifts are closed.

3. Follow Up 

Key to the development of any good grateful patient program is appropriate follow up. Most programs still rely on mailing campaigns to a large degree for follow-up with grateful patient prospects. This has been a proven method for donor acquisition and filling the pipeline, but there is a subtle difference observed at top performing organizations.

Thanks to modifications of HIPAA regulations, high-performing institutions segment mailings by service lines and by specific physicians. When newly acquired donors enter through this acquisition strategy, the best prospects are assigned to a major gift officer’s portfolio and are folded into the Moves Management™ process.

The Future of Grateful Patient Programs 

What if your time with the patient is limited to outpatient treatment? It is difficult to establish a relationship with someone receiving outpatient care. This is, however, a largely untapped potential donor base. On average, there are at least six outpatients for every single inpatient in terms of annual volume. Organizations should be designing strategies to better engage the outpatient population in grateful patient programs. Some hospitals are deploying tactics like wealth screening future outpatient appointments or placing pre-appointment calls to initiate early exposure to concierge programs designed to aid major gift prospects and donors.

As behaviors shift concerning healthcare and the movement towards prevention over treatment gains traction, identifying and engaging patients in the outpatient setting is more and more critical in the establishment of successful comprehensive grateful patient programs.

With the ever-changing dynamics surrounding the delivery of modern healthcare in America, the increase in mergers and acquisitions of smaller regional hospital into much larger systems and the demand for prevention over treatment, development offices must evolve as well.

Per Giving USA, the overwhelming majority of major gifts come from individuals and families. Development officers needs to make sure your hospital has a seat at that table through more thoughtful and purposeful engagement of your most valuable customers.

If you are still depending on a few physicians, local foundations, fundraising events and vendors for the bulk of your annual fundraising goal, I encourage you to look closely at your strategy and to either enhance or perhaps begin a meaningful grateful patient program to move your organization to the next level.