As healthcare institutions are increasingly looking to philanthropy to support their missions, it is natural to engage physicians, perhaps nurses and other clinicians, and even researchers in fundraising. Yet there is an opportunity that may be overlooked.
In a robust culture of philanthropy, everyone is an ambassador for the organization. Consider a valet driver, for example, whose consistent smile and warm greeting greatly impacted a patient’s experience at a hospital, leading to a philanthropic gift. Or a janitor who shared his enthusiasm for his institution at his gym, motivating a wealthy businessman to make a major contribution. Or an aide whose reassuring words as he wheeled a patient into the O.R. inspired a significant philanthropic investment.
Every individual has a unique role to play in supporting a culture of philanthropy.
This office associate at a medical center described her role by saying the following:
The front desk is one of the most important positions that any office has. It’s the first person that you see. And when you light up and smile at someone, they can feel that. First impression is everything. It’s representative of not just your department or yourself, but your organization as a whole.
Patients that we’ve treated over time have called back and made donations in my honor. I remember thinking, “Why would that happen?”
Honestly, when I wake up in the morning, I know that I have a higher purpose. When I open the doors into my center, it isn’t about me anymore. It’s about that patient and their very first experience or that mother who is afraid and wondering, “Can I trust my child to you?” These are the feelings that are very important. It’s looking past yourself and understanding that I’m a tool—I really am.
Support staff who take on this ambassadorial role not only inspire donors and potential donors, they themselves also become meaningfully involved in the mission of the organization.
Consider these three tips for establishing a deeper culture of philanthropy at your institution:
1. Ensure that everyone knows the vision.
What are you doing to communicate your organization’s inspiring vision to all team members? Empower everyone to become ambassadors of the vision.
2. Establish a culture of accepting and reciprocating gratitude.
When a patient or family member expresses gratitude, is it accepted and reciprocated, or is it dismissed? Ensure everyone recognizes expressions of gratitude and knows how to respond appropriately.
3. Build positive working relationships between the support staff and the development office.
Support team members are a great source of philanthropic referrals. How can the development team at your institution engage them, educate them, and build positive working relationships with them?
Philanthropy is a team effort. Everyone at the institution plays crucial roles. Does your organization make the most of every member on your team?