During a recent donor strategy meeting, a development professional recommended to the dean of a school of medicine that the dean invite a potential donor to join the school’s board. The dean was quick to reply, “I think this guy is too bright to be impressed with our fake ‘board.’”

The development professional quickly rejoined, “But that’s how you get them involved.”

One might counter, “No, that’s how you used to get them involved.”

Some donors and potential donors want to join the board and participate in other involvement activities. Some want to join because it is good for their résumés. Some enjoy the social interaction. Some find value in contributing ideas and being involved in discussions.

However, some donors are looking for a different engagement experience—one that is focused on making an impact in specific areas they care deeply about. This type of engagement is both highly gratifying for the donor and highly effective for the healthcare organization.

For example, in our story above, the dean might have also added, “He doesn’t have time to sit on a board…any kind of board. He’s involved in board meetings at his various companies. He doesn’t need board membership on his résumé. Instead, he’s looking for philanthropy that is meaningful to him, not to attend yet another board meeting. Engagement with him needs to focus on putting him together with the department heads and administrators who will put his philanthropic contribution to work.”

Additionally, the growth of social networking, social media, social marketing, changing generations, and all the other rapid evolutions happening in society mean that engagement activities that were considered valuable in the past will need to be rethought and significantly changed and updated to apply to new philanthropists and the new world of philanthropy.


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