So often in traditional philanthropy we have scratched around in the community looking for the usual suspects—Mrs. Worthpoint who supports the museum, Mr. Brass who gives to the symphony, the Learneds who named the university library—and we have overlooked the people who walk through our doors. We’ve tried to find ways to build relationships with patients when they already have relationships with our clinicians.
When we engage in referral-based philanthropy, we get a natural head start. Working with someone who knows our potential donor, we have a connection, even a warm introduction, and we don’t have to start from scratch or make a cold call. When the healthcare professional makes a philanthropic referral, we have permission, indeed, invitation to connect with a patient or family member. Patient privacy is no longer a concern when the patient has expressed a desire to connect with someone about giving.
Referral-based philanthropy gives everyone associated with the institution an opportunity to engage, making philanthropy part of every role in the organization. It takes philanthropy outside the development office or foundation and into the culture of the organization. In addition to engaging healthcare providers, referral-based philanthropy expands the traditional roles of authority and grant making of volunteer board members to include roles of ambassador and connector, providing them another avenue to champion the institution they have volunteered to serve.
Referral-based philanthropy is all about bringing people together. It’s the ultimate engagement that improves everyone’s experience. Patient, family member, clinician, administrator, volunteer board member—everyone can have a better experience through referral-based philanthropy because we’re talking to them, listening, hearing what they believe is important, allowing them to take action. Patients and family members have the opportunity to engage in the manner they choose to effect change as part of the team. The spotlight shifts from the “hero” frontline fundraiser to a team of people working together.
Referral-based philanthropy is not asking for money. Inviting clinicians to the table where they can make introductions and connections fulfills an essential part of healing with a human touch. Clinicians are trained to accept gratitude from their patients and, in the process, learn to see the whole patient. Patients and family members are heard.
Referral-based philanthropy gets us out from behind a desk, a screen, a letter, a billboard, a phone, a marketing tool and gets us face-to-face with the people we need to listen to and understand—clinicians and potential donors. We gain immediate feedback about a person’s interest level and with whom we should focus our work. Referral-based philanthropy can change a one-and-done fundraising event to a strategic cultivation event.
Referral-based philanthropy heightens the focus of the development professional’s work on major gifts and building a robust pipeline. Referral-based philanthropy establishes a point of attraction that will help solve donor attrition—in other words, when a person refers and connects another person, that relationship or engagement is stronger and will help to steward and retain the donor.
Philanthropy is all about engagement. Instituting a referral-based system of philanthropy at your organization allows for a wider range of engagement, both in the number of people involved and in the depth of their involvement. Mrs. Worthpoint, Mr. Brass, and the Learned family will always be important in advancing your organization’s mission. However, working to engage individuals who have expressed an interest in being part of your organization’s mission will ultimately strengthen your institution.
Elevate fundraising at your institution. Attend a public offering of the Dynamics of Clinician Engagement to learn more about working with clinicians, or explore how forming a strategic partnership with Advancement Resources can strengthen the culture of philanthropy at your institution.