It is the morning of Wednesday, March 27, 2013 and my soon-to-be 40-year-old brother is on his way to the hospital for hip replacement surgery. He is the youngest hip replacement patient that his doctor has ever seen. With all of this going on, my mind still wanders back to non-profit organizations and how they treat their donors at times like these.
It should be no surprise to any fundraising professional that non-profit hospitals are very good at resource development. In 2011, non-profit hospitals and healthcare systems improved their fundraising efforts by 8.2 percent over the previous year’s efforts, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. That’s right. We’re talking about 2010 and 2011 when unemployment, the economy, and the housing sector were softer than they are today.
In a nutshell, I believe people are at their most vulnerable when they walk through the doors of a hospital. They are scared and their support networks (e.g. friends, family, neighbors, etc) stand by their side.
Here is the point . . . good non-profit organizations constantly message to their donors things like:
- “You’re part of our non-profit family.”
- “We care very much about you, and we appreciate how much you care about our mission and clients.”
- “You’re a valued friend.“
If all of this is true, then shouldn’t you be by their side during their time of greatest need? And if you aren’t there, then aren’t you undercutting all of the stewardship messaging you’ve invested in throughout the years?
Non-profit hospitals have it easy in this one regard because donors (and prospective donors) are on their home turf. Of course, they still need to do a ton of hard work (e.g. quality care, bedside manner, compassion, service, etc).
My brother’s surgery this morning reminds me of a life lesson that I learned more than a decade ago when a board member, who was struggling with kidney disease, was admitted to the hospital. Not only did I not send a card/balloons/flowers, but I had left a number of emails and voicemail messages pushing him about an upcoming committee meeting.
Needless to say, the post-hospital phone call was more than a little uncomfortable for me. It was a lesson that I learned and carry with me to this very day.
Last week, I started working pledge cards for one of my favorite charities. One of the first donors I called to set-up an appointment informed me that she was being admitted for surgery in a few days. She didn’t want to schedule a solicitation meeting and asked that I call back after her surgery.
So, what did I do?
- I wished her well. I asked her when I should circle back around to check-in and set-up a meeting.
- I calendarized the date she told me to call her.
- I offered assistance. I told her that I’m happy to help in whatever way she thinks is appropriate. I can pick-up prescriptions, run to the store, or drive her to a doctor appointment.
- I called the agency to report this news, and they immediately mailed a “get well soon” card to the donor.
Did I do this because I am working the angles to secure a contribution in the long-term?
I did these things because it is what friends do for each other. It also happens to be what donor-centered fundraising professionals do.
Do you have any stories about donors, hospitalization, and stewardship activities? If so, please take a minute out of your busy day to share that story or what you consider a best practice in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC