“All I do is special events. I honestly don’t know how to build a full fundraising program.”
This is the voice of many healthcare development staff members who have never ventured past event fundraising. Many organizations are also realizing that it is time to expand into a true fundraising program. Taking that first step to build a simple, manageable program that will return needed philanthropy is huge, but doesn’t have to be difficult. And your CEO will love you for it!
There are many ways to start or build a robust philanthropy program. Make strides in your start-up with just one development staff member, one data assistant, and one great volunteer. Start simple and grow from there. Get your governing board, foundation board and administration into alignment with a broad-based philanthropy program that could take the institution toward its full potential. Exciting, right?
Here are seven tips to start the simple, initial phase:
Start with special appeals.
To get started, don’t think about a multimillion-dollar capital campaign at the top of a giving pyramid. Think about special appeals efforts that target fewer donors in shorter periods of time.
Define the reason, goal, and target audience.
Your administration or most respected physician or nurse has likely mentioned a project, also called cases for support, they would love to initiate. Start small! For example, let’s say your hospital wishes to begin a telemedicine program and you want the community to make a $100,000 contribution to support it. Once you have a cause, define your target audience and reasons they may contribute.
Cast a small net—pick 20 potential donors.
If this is your first attempt at a true fundraising program, make a list of 20 people, companies, and foundations in your community who care the most about your hospital and the identified cases for support. Cast a small net, knowing that the gift sizes are not equal, but they are appropriate to the cause and the donor’s capacity. See how far those 20 donors will take you towards your goal.
Find a buddy affiliated with the project who has the influence and affluence to help make the project a success.
Once you have a list of the 20 most interested and financially capable prospects, ask someone you trust – a board member, administrative leader, or physician – who knows these prospects well enough to help you determine the largest gift each donor may consider. Start with the few who are capable of making the largest gifts, then proceed with those who will make large gifts, to those who will give less. These prospects should ideally get you to your goal.
Practice telling your story.
Before scheduling your meetings, you need to know your story. You have a case for support that defines your project, and now you and your buddy in this appeal will want to know all there is to know about the project. Go on-site. Meet with the staff members who know the most about it. Role-play telling other board members the story until it comes off effortlessly. Then tell your story to your identified audience.
Start the campaign with initial donations.
Starting with your own gift is important. Nothing sets the standard like a personal commitment. Ask your CEO and board chair to make their gifts along with you. Your buddy will need to make a gift, too, resulting in progress towards your goal even before the campaign kickoff. After initial gifts are made, ask your buddy to make appointments ONLY with those he or she knows well. Always go along to these meetings.When ready for the ask, simply say, “Would you consider a gift in the range of (determined amount) over two years?” At this point, stop talking. Don’t fill the silence; let them respond and take it from there.
Continuously thank donors.
Have a thank you plan in place before you kick off your program. Determine several ways you will thank each donor over the next year. At least two of these ways should be highly personal, such as handwritten notes and calls from staff and board members. Schedule lunches and update donors about the impact of their gifts and the progress you are making toward your goal. Keep them engaged and they may well be a recurring donor.