Building a Culture of Healthcare Philanthropy with Patients at the Center

August 2, 2017 Page Bullington

This blog post originally appeared in npENGAGE.

We all know that patients are at the heart of everything healthcare organizations do. If you’ve ever been in a hospital setting and seen an off-duty nurse waiting to hear the outcome of a patient in surgery or watched the love demonstrated by Hospice staff during a patient’s last days, then you know the actual experience of giving care is one that is centered on compassion and a true desire to provide healing and comfort where possible.

The current uncertainty of healthcare has shifted much of the talk away from patients and caregivers to policy and process. Both are important but lacking when it comes to how most people feel about their own care experiences. That is why the patient experience is so crucial to today’s modern healthcare organizations and their supporting foundations. The ability to translate a patient’s or their loved ones’ desire to give back into a meaningful philanthropic expression can be transformative to the healing journey for so many people. Grateful patient fundraising can often make up 20% of a supporting philanthropic organization’s revenue. In an environment where operating margins are often much thinner than is ideal, this revenue stream becomes mission-critical to the overall system. It is often the additional funding that allows for the difference between what billable care can provide through margin and the other elements that only philanthropy can supply, such as healing gardens and funding for the latest technology.

Patients’ connections aren’t so much with the institution as they are with the amazing people who provide quality care—from nurses and doctors to patient liaisons and foundation staff.  In order to maximize charitable giving from patients, it is crucial that all individuals know and value a culture of philanthropy. I’ve spoken with many former patients of a variety of different institutions, and the biggest disappointment I hear is when a patient wanted to give back and no one knew how to act on that desire. If this occurs, both the patient and the organization suffer. It is not an easy process to change culture, but it must happen for healthcare philanthropy to succeed .

Three easy ways to encourage a culture of healthcare philanthropy:

  • Attend clinical staff meetings to let people know what the mission of the Foundation is and how it benefits the institution
  • Listen when clinicians talk about the nuances of the service line they are a part of. Each care experience is different and clinicians are one of the best resources for getting philanthropic messaging right
  • Promote those employees that engage in philanthropy. Celebrate their commitment to the Foundation and how it benefits the overall health system.

Now, more than ever, our healthcare organizations need the support of the very population they serve in order to provide care over and above what billing and reimbursements allow. Focusing on this interwoven connection is the best way to ensure that your institution does not miss out on the full expression of a key patient connection. Not all patients will give, and not all can give with high capacity, but when a patient does seek to make a commitment it is important the institution is prepared to receive. The reward extends far beyond the monetary and can enhance not only the current patient experience but the experience of the entire healthcare community.


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