From our work with hundreds of healthcare organizations across North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia, we’ve discovered six key factors that predict success in philanthropy. This post—part of our six-part series—explores the second factor: A strategic events focus.
If you google “puppy fashion show hospital benefit” the results may make you smile and perhaps ask, “Do hospitals still do fundraising events like this?!” Over the last decade, as healthcare philanthropy has evolved from being “nice to have” to becoming “need to have,” fundraising events have declined from first place in revenue sources. In some cases, they have been eliminated entirely.
One of six determining factors among institutions finding success in healthcare philanthropy is a limited, strategic events focus. Those organizations that are still at the starting point in healthcare philanthropy find that a significant portion of fundraising revenue comes from events—the gala, the golf tournament, and yes, in some places, the puppy fashion show. The event is a grand affair, with the main focus being décor, dining, dancing, and the doctor. There may be a story shared, live or in video, adding to the total costs of these events, which oftentimes amount to more than 50% of funds raised. Some events barely break even when factoring in the overhead of the entire philanthropy team being mustered into duty for the big show.
As their culture of philanthropy matures, organizations often significantly reduce their total number of fundraising events. In many organizations, the most costly events have been eliminated entirely. Some healthcare philanthropy teams have advanced to hosting the gala, for example, on an every-other-year cycle. As teams move toward implementation of best practices, those that focus on major gifts utilize the event to leverage major gift cultivation strategy, identifying current and potential donors who will be attending the event, introducing them to administrative and clinical leaders at the event, and making a personal connection to secure a follow-up visit after the event.
Among those organizations that have achieved greatest success with their events, we see a distinction between a fundraising event and a strategic donor-engagement opportunity. First, staff time is limited. The events do not consume much of the resources of the philanthropy team. Rather, applying the successful model many of our children’s hospital partners have employed for decades, fundraising events are run by volunteers. Those events that remain with the philanthropy team are strategically focused on cultivation and education opportunities targeted at connecting donors with the good work being done in healthcare, providing a passion match that fulfills the donors’ desire to make an impact.
We recognize how much words matter, so we’re careful not to say, “Events are bad” or “Get rid of events.” In fact, events can be outstanding opportunities to connect people with your organization’s work and display the impact of philanthropy in healthcare. Planning and implementing an events strategy that is aligned with your donor-centric major gift focus will advance your philanthropy team toward more successful achievement of annual goals and shift the culture of philanthropy for your organization.
Interested in learning more about how you can design and implement a strategic events strategy? Our strategic partnership team provides support that is customized and tailored to your organization’s needs.
Need help with planning a strategy for a specific event? Our creative team excels at assisting organizations in planning donor-centric events that drive meaningful philanthropy. Our strategic partners can assist you in customizing an overall plan for your organization that leverages the power of events.