Development professionals in a medical setting know that positive medical outcomes are not the only motivator to philanthropy. Understanding donor motivation can help clinicians provide patients and family members the opportunity to share their story and become engaged in ways meaningful to them.

We spoke with one such donor regarding his experience with a medical institution. Before his wife passed away, they decided to support her physician and his research philanthropically. This donor’s testimony is useful in identifying 4 concepts in donor motivation that are essential for healthcare providers to understand. Do the clinicians you work with recognize these truths?

1. An everyday routine for a clinician can be a life-changing experience for a patient.

I have to give all the credit to the doctor—he took my wife under his wing. Throughout our time, he became quite a close friend. And probably the only hematologist in the history of the world that’s actually made house visits to support my wife. Because of the care we received, it was very important for us to support his work.

Action Step #1: Help clinicians see beyond what seems routine.

2. Clinicians should be willing to engage with the patient and communicate the vision in an inspiring way that’s understandable.

He has a very good ability to take very complex subjects and turn them into language that ordinary people would understand—describing what’s going on, what the impact is, and things of that nature. We got to talking about his work and he outlined what it would take to establish a program that would institutionalize the support for both clinical support and research.

Action Step #2: Practice with clinicians to share the vision for philanthropy.

3. Clinicians can provide opportunities for engagement—there is a human need to be engaged with respected people doing important work.

I think the most important thing I have learned through my experience is that it’s very important not to just write checks. Rather, it’s important to become involved with the institution and to get a sense of what they’re doing and what their values and mission are. For example, I’m a businessman. I know about starting organizations, funding, business plans, risk management principles, and how to proceed. So I can be a part of the process.

Action Step #3: Encourage clinicians to keep donors involved.

4. Clinicians should provide meaningful Return on Philanthropic Investment (ROPI).

We have an accountability meeting twice a year where we ask questions such as: How have we accomplished the goals that we’ve set? What’s the staffing plan? How are we doing that?

It’s rewarding to be able to see the institutionalized support, doctors, and researchers who are in place focusing on this. My wife and I made a very generous gift, but that’s only going to last for a certain number of years—there has to be an ongoing support plan. So the Foundation has helped us achieve sustainable funding for this program.

The work has already led to fairly groundbreaking technologies to treat this disease. We’re making progress that unless the program had been established, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

Action Step #4: Coach clinicians to take part in providing meaningful ROPI.

Patients and their families may choose to give for a variety of reasons. Helping clinicians understand these concepts not only helps build stronger philanthropic support for your organization, but can also provide a rewarding outcome for the patient experience.


Contact us to learn more about training your team in these and other essential concepts.