Medical Research Shows Path To Developing Fundraising Ambassadors

Medical Research Shows Path To Developing Fundraising AmbassadorsEveryone involved with a nonprofit needs to be a fundraising ambassador. Getting staff, board members, volunteers and other stakeholders to understand this role is a never-ending challenge.

This was apparent in a recent study showing a particular group of people who are wary of merely talking about philanthropic support of their institution. These people often save the lives of their clients. Those clients often want to express their appreciation and help the institution benefit others.

But more than half of this group isn’t comfortable talking with clients about supporting the institution—even if the clients stated they wanted to contribute.

What group is this?

Physicians.

The study, “Oncologists’ Experiences and Attitudes About Their Role in Philanthropy and Soliciting Donations From Grateful Patients,” was published in September issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Medical oncologists with 40 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive care centers were randomly sampled and surveyed. Key findings included:

  • Most (71 percent ) had been exposed to their institution’s fundraising/development staff;
  • 48 percent of those were taught how to identify patients who would be good donors;
  • 26 percent received information about ethical guidelines for soliciting donations from their patients;
  • 21 percent were taught how their institution ensures Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) compliance;
  • 32 percent of respondents had been asked to directly solicit a donation from their patients for their institution, of whom half declined to do so;
  • A substantial minority (37 percent) felt comfortable talking to their patients about donation (men more than women, 43 versus 26 percent);
  • 74 percent agreed it could interfere with the physician-patient relationship;
  • 52 percent believe conflict of interest exists.

Before pointing our collective fingers at doctors and telling them to get with the program, there are probably groups of people throughout all nonprofits who don’t believe it’s their responsibility to be a fundraising ambassador. However, doctors might represent a segment of nonprofit staff choosing to be disengaged from the institution’s greater quest—to serve more people with better programs for years to come. (There may be a correlation between levels of disengagement and the number of doctors sighting ethics or conflict-of-interest arguments as reasons for not participating.)

Defiant or Disenaged?

Can you blame doctors for being disengaged? A president of a large nonprofit hospital once shared the following observation concerning doctors and today’s healthcare environment: “Show me a 45-year-old white, male doctor and I will show you the most aggravated, frustrated man in America. Healthcare today is not what he signed up for when he entered medical school.”

Again, there is probably a segment of nonprofit employees—social workers, program directors, teachers and others—who will not embrace being a fundraising ambassador. But nonprofit staff members aren’t being asked to cultivate lists of prospective donors, write annual appeal letters or ask for financial donations. They’re simply being asked to be aware of any special moments during conversations with people when they could invite them to become more engaged with your organization. Donors are developed through engagement.

It would be a waste of time, money and other resources for every doctor to ask every patient to consider making a donation to the healthcare institution. But if a person is cancer-free for the first time in years and expresses their gratitude, the physician should be able to thank them and offer them a way to support the institution. The same principle applies for any stakeholder in your nonprofit.

Developing Fundraising Ambassadors

Formal training is needed for people to understand their role as fundraising ambassadors. Four areas should be emphasized:

  • People are not asking for money for themselves. Gifts are made to the institution, which exercises proper stewardship with donations of all sizes.
  • People want to help others. An individual might be highly engaged or appreciate the services your organization provides. While not personally benefitting from your organization, they might have a relationship with you based on second-hand information.
  • People want to help you. There’s an old saying about people jumping on bandwagons and jumping off sinking ships. People can gain a sense of fulfillment if asked to contribute to your continued success.
  • People need to be asked. Many people who are engaged with organizations and possess the ability to financially support institutions are often never asked to contribute. Simply steering people in the direction of the development office can assist with a solicitation.

Does your nonprofit organization need assistance with its fundraising strategy? Contact Joe Mueller at (636) 232-7730 or joe@muellercommunications-stl.com for a free 45-minute consultation by telephone, videoconference or in person in the St. Louis metropolitan region.

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