Digital Marketing & Fundraising, Donor Relations

Healthcare fundraising is essential to continue delivering a high level of care and resources to your patients and community members. With the right healthcare fundraising strategies on your side, you can serve your community even more effectively. However, it can often be challenging to figure out which strategies will help grow your efforts to the next level.

Fortunately, many donors see the value in giving to healthcare organizations like yours. According to BWF’s 2023 healthcare study, 78.2% of high-income donors consider healthcare to be a top priority when determining where to direct their charitable giving.

In this guide, we’ll cover seven holistic strategies to improve your healthcare fundraising approach and better connect with donors:

  1. Strengthen your internal analytics approach.
  2. Build prospective donor personas.
  3. Develop healthcare philanthropy predictive models.
  4. Build a powerful grateful patient program.
  5. Be aware of the challenges associated with healthcare fundraising.
  6. Foster community partnerships.
  7. Maintain healthcare fundraising transparency.

These tips are designed to revitalize your fundraising from the ground up, equipping you with the resources and strategies you need to fundraise more sustainably over time.

If you feel like you need greater support to implement these techniques more effectively, don’t hesitate to connect with a healthcare fundraising consultant. These experts can assess your unique needs and develop a plan that’s suited to your distinct donor base.

With that in mind, let’s dive in!

Ready to partner with a proven healthcare fundraising expert? Meet with BWF to discuss your goals.

1. Strengthen your internal systems and analytics.

Any effective fundraising campaign starts with a strong internal data and analytics database. Most organizations use a robust constituent relationship management system (CRM) to track donor data and leverage personalized audience insights.

That said, CRMs can be complicated and require training to master. To get on the right track quickly, consider reaching out to a fundraising CRM and data analytics consultant to help clean up your internal database and revitalize your analytics approach.

For example, the fundraising consultants at BWF worked with University Hospitals to help the organization develop an internal analytics program. BWF conducted the following tasks to provide a 360-degree assessment of the organization’s current analytics approach:

This image shows the components of a strategic analytics assessment for healthcare fundraising (outlined below).

  • Technology and resources audit
  • Current strategies audit
  • Stakeholder interviews

Ultimately, the BWF team created a plan to optimize the organization’s capabilities regarding analytics skills and resources, production, awareness, and utilization. BWF also helped each staff member understand their roles and responsibilities within the new program and set milestones to track progress.

Explore BWF’s data science and analytics services

2. Build prospective donor personas.

A donor persona, also known as a donor segment, is a fictionalized representation of a segment of your organization’s donor audience. Developing donor personas will allow you to create more personalized, targeted marketing messages that resonate with the motivations and needs of each unique group.

You can use AI tools, along with predictive analysis, to develop prospective donor personas. These solutions help identify shared characteristics within your donor base and automatically group donors based on what they have in common.

Also, you can leverage data such as SEC filings, real estate ownership, stock holdings, past philanthropic giving, political affiliations and donations, past interactions with your organization, and demographic information to identify the varying giving capacities and likelihood of each donor segment.

Create personas for different types of donors, such as:

This image shows donor personas for healthcare fundraising, explained further in the text below.

  • Grateful patient donors. A grateful patient program involves engaging former patients in donating to your healthcare organization. Potential grateful patient donors tend to be patients who have expressed a great amount of appreciation for their care and want to donate.
  • Major donors. Potential major donors usually exhibit several wealth markers, such as real estate holdings or large donations to similar philanthropic organizations. These donors may be former patients, business leaders, or other community members who have given to similar organizations in the past.
  • Planned or legacy donors. A planned or legacy donor is someone who contributes a large donation in the future, typically as a bequest. These donors are usually supporters who have shown longstanding support for your organization, a higher giving capacity, and the motivation to leave a lasting legacy through their donation.
  • Corporate sponsors. Corporate sponsors are individuals who own businesses in your area and are looking to partner with philanthropic organizations. Businesses benefit from these partnerships by improving their public image and accessing a new audience of potential customers.

Build out each persona with a unique name, demographic and employment information, relative giving capacity, history of involvement with your organization, and other information that will help you understand these segments on a deeper level.

3. Develop healthcare philanthropy predictive models.

Fundraising predictive models, also known as predictive analytics, are models that anticipate donors’ future behaviors. These models can help predict the outcomes of fundraising campaigns by analyzing behaviors like donor giving patterns and retention data.

In healthcare, dynamic predictive analysis is essential since the target audience is growing and changing so much more rapidly than it would for other types of organizations, such as higher education institutions. Demographic shifts, research breakthroughs, new disease threats, and environmentally related health issues all have the potential to bring more attention to your organization and therefore, greater fundraising support.

The most popular healthcare predictive models tend to be the same as all other philanthropic sectors, including models for:

  • Major giving
  • Planned giving
  • Principal giving
  • Annual giving data such as acquisition, renewal, upgrade, and channel preferences

The healthcare sector also involves unique models, such as those for grateful patient acquisition, and areas of support such as research, capital, and endowed chairs.

The BWF team has fostered several successful partnerships with healthcare organizations to help optimize their data analytics and predictive modeling. For example, our partnership with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital yielded a set of custom-engineered models based on the organization’s unique audience. The organization was even able to successfully re-engage a lapsed donor thanks to the accuracy of the scoring process.

BWF has also been a strategic partner for Massachusetts General Hospital since 2010. This longstanding collaboration has allowed the hospital to leverage expert data analytics at a much lower cost than bringing on a new full-time staff member.

4. Build a powerful grateful patient program.

After receiving stellar care from your healthcare organization, some patients may feel compelled to give back to your organization in return. A grateful patient program is a fundraising program for healthcare facilities to build relationships with patients whose lives have been positively impacted by healthcare services.

Use these tips to build a strong grateful patient program:

This image shows the steps of building a grateful patient program to support healthcare fundraising (explained in the bulleted list below).

  • Identify potential grateful patient participants using prospect research. Use your donor personas to identify potential grateful patient donors within your CRM. Search for audience members with a history of positive interactions with your organization and a greater giving capacity.
  • Build trust between fundraisers and physicians. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals play an essential role in creating positive patient experiences. Fostering trust and mutual goals between fundraisers and healthcare professionals can make it easier to identify potential grateful patient donors. Build this trust by giving doctors insight into how the grateful patient identification process works and how the development team is committed to keeping patient information secure every step of the way.
  • Get to know prospective donors’ giving motivations. Understand which aspects of your organization appeal to prospective donors the most. Do they have a particularly strong relationship with one of your physicians? Did they spend a lot of time in your children’s wing as a teen? Offer giving opportunities that resonate with their passions and interests.
  • Create a personalized stewardship strategy for each prospect. Reach out using their preferred communication channels. Come up with a suggested giving amount that is commensurate with the prospect’s giving capacity and their relationship with your organization.

By creating a positive giving experience for patient donors, you can inspire them to become ambassadors for your organization and share their connection to your cause with their family and friends. They may also inspire other patients to give, helping your organization foster a reliable revenue stream that’s fully supporter-powered.

5. Be aware of the challenges associated with healthcare fundraising.

While giving to healthcare organizations is often a top priority for donors, that doesn’t mean the sector doesn’t face fundraising challenges. In fact, giving to healthcare organizations declined last year when adjusted for inflation.

Common challenges for healthcare fundraising include:

This image shows common challenges associated with healthcare fundraising.

Misconceptions about the nature of your organization’s services

Fostering trust with community members is essential for successful healthcare fundraising, but it can be challenging if your organization offers specialized or unique services.

For example, academic medical centers often face misconceptions about their missions. People often consider these centers training grounds for inexperienced practitioners or fear that going to an academic institution for treatment will be much more expensive than their community hospital.

To debunk myths and rumors, fundraising professionals at AMCs need clear messaging and cohesive communication tactics. For example, these organizations should focus on highlighting the benefits they offer, such as innovative treatments and better patient outcomes in many instances. Show your target audience that your organization puts patients and the community first in every situation.

Data privacy regulations

There are plenty of regulations that safeguard protected patient information, such as HIPAA and HITECH. Healthcare fundraisers must find ways to promote their missions and share patient stories without violating patient privacy or other relevant regulations.

Ethical concerns regarding facilitated access

Facilitated access involves providing greater support and streamlined healthcare access to a donor (or their family member or other associate).

Healthcare organizations receive many requests like this, so it can be helpful to establish a program to help sort and respond to these inquiries. At the same time, these requests can generate ethical concerns from other community members about donors receiving a higher level of care.

It’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of a facilitated access program for your organization. Assess how such a program could fit into your organization’s culture and values. If you do decide to continue offering or start a facilitated access program, anticipate potential reactions from community members and determine how you’ll respond to them.

It's essential to keep up with healthcare fundraising trends. Download our 2023 healthcare survey results.

6. Foster community partnerships.

Strategic community partnerships set your organization up for success through collaboration and stronger local ties. These partnerships can lead to greater visibility for your mission and reliable fundraising streams.

Build partnerships with community members and organizations such as:

This image shows three types of effective partnerships for healthcare fundraising — educational institutions, corporate sponsors, and local nonprofits and foundations.

  • Corporate sponsors. Strong partnerships with local businesses offer financial support and access to a new audience of their customers and employees who may become donors and volunteers. Many businesses also offer matching gift programs that your organization may qualify for. In these programs, companies match donations that their employees make to philanthropic organizations. It can also be beneficial to form relationships specifically with healthcare suppliers—these businesses may offer in-kind donations to support your mission.
  • Local nonprofits and foundations. Ties between nonprofits and healthcare organizations can be very strong, especially since many nonprofits have a health focus. Team up with relevant nonprofits in your local area to cohost events, such as fundraising runs or walks. This can help bring greater awareness to your mission and ways to support your organization.
  • Educational institutions. Partnering with research facilities or universities can help facilitate joint research and bring increased funding to your programs.

Your efforts to engage with other local organizations will help increase trust among community members and take your fundraising efforts to new heights.

7. Maintain healthcare fundraising transparency.

Stakeholders, such as donors, grant funders, foundations, and community organizations, need to know how your organization uses donations to promote your mission. They need to know that they can trust your organization to handle their funds wisely and that you direct the majority of your funding to programs that directly benefit your mission.

A clear transparency approach gives credibility to your fundraising efforts and develops trust with community members.

Maintain a high level of accountability to stakeholders by taking the following steps:

Publish an annual report on your website

An annual report recaps your fundraising efforts, demonstrates the good work you’ve been doing with the community’s support, and provides a clear look at your financial situation. Your annual report should provide an at-a-glance view of your major projects throughout the year. It’s also an opportunity to thank your donors, volunteers, and other supporters and let them know that you couldn’t have grown your programs without their help.

The best annual reports provide clear numbers related to the progress an organization has made throughout the year. For example, check out this annual report from HCA Healthcare:

This screenshot shows important healthcare fundraising metrics within the HCA Healthcare 2022 annual report.

The report clearly shows significant metrics such as how many patient encounters the organization facilitated and how much student loan assistance the organization was able to provide.

Be clear about how you’re using funds

Take every opportunity you can to show supporters how you use donations. For example, you might include a footer graphic on your website that demonstrates how you allocate funds, as the Doctors Without Borders site does:

This screenshot shows a fixed footer on the Doctors Without Borders website that shows how the organization allocates funds.

You could also create a blog post to recap a recent fundraising event and describe how you used donations to help fund the remodel of your hospital waiting room. When you promote transparency across digital platforms like your website, email, and social media, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience and further enhance your credibility.

Share your successes and challenges

Overemphasizing your organization’s successes without addressing your challenges can appear insincere. Stakeholders will appreciate your efforts to be honest about any obstacles you’re facing, especially when you provide a detailed plan for how you plan to mitigate or address these roadblocks.

For example, you might address challenges you’ve faced in your attempts to diversify your fundraising sources and how you’re planning to engage in a wider range of revenue opportunities to stabilize your funding.

Looking for an experienced healthcare fundraising partner? The BWF team has served the healthcare industry for over 40 years. Let’s discuss your goals.

In conclusion

Healthcare fundraising is constantly evolving as your patient and supporter bases shift over time. These tips will help put you in the right position to remain flexible and adapt to new opportunities as they arise.

Keep in mind that the BWF team is ready to step in to help support your fundraising efforts at any level. We work with a wide variety of healthcare organizations, including health systems, research facilities, children’s hospitals, and health-focused NGOs. Whether you need to revamp your internal systems and analytics, improve your approach to predictive modeling, or keep up with the latest healthcare fundraising trends, our team can provide the expertise you need to grow your fundraising results.

Looking for more healthcare fundraising tips? Review these additional resources:

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Meet with the BWF team to discuss your healthcare fundraising goals.