Check out our ultimate guide to healthcare fundraising.

DonorSearch can help you identify top prospects for your healthcare fundraising campaigns.

Healthcare fundraising is what helps keep hardworking hospital and medical center operations up and running — and let’s face it: what’s more vital than maintaining our healthcare facilities?

Healthcare fundraising enables these institutions to pay their business costs, and more importantly, develop their facilities to better serve the needs of patients.

Some core needs for healthcare organization fundraising may include employee costs, facility renovations, upgraded equipment, and improved patient care services. At DonorSearch, we are dedicated to helping healthcare facilities find the best donor prospects to raise money that will cover these essential needs. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about healthcare philanthropy, including:

Ultimately, a generous donation to a healthcare facility can go a long way in bettering the lives of both patients and medical professionals, so it’s important to understand the ins and outs of the process. Let’s get started.

Understanding Healthcare Fundraising

Healthcare fundraising is how medical facilities raise money to cover projects, programs, and initiatives.

What is Healthcare Fundraising?

Healthcare fundraising, also known as healthcare philanthropy, describes the process that medical facilities implement to garner financial support from donors to support their medical programs, initiatives, and innovations.

There are several main types of healthcare fundraising.

Types of Fundraising for Hospitals

Annual campaigns help medical facilities with general healthcare fundraising.
Capital campaigns help medical facilities raise money for a specific healthcare fundraising project over a long period of time.

1. Annual Campaigns

Receiving donations for a healthcare institution’s annual fund can be difficult because, oftentimes, there isn’t a specific, tangible cause for donors to support. These campaigns often support overhead expenses and miscellaneous needs that medical institutions encounter over time.

That’s why hospitals will run annual campaigns by:

  • Creating an online donation form and marketing it in donation-related materials.
  • Introducing payroll deductions for employees.
  • Segmenting prospect data and sending targeted communications to acquire new donors.

These fundraising strategies help healthcare facilities raise general funds that are then dispersed to individual areas in need.

2. Capital Campaigns

On the other hand, capital campaigns are often used by healthcare facilities to raise large sums of money for specific programs, pieces of equipment, or facility renovations. These campaigns are often large-scale and usually span multiple years to raise all of the funds.

Capital campaigns rely on several factors for success like:

  • A compelling case for support.
  • A strong and coherent development strategy.
  • Demonstrated support from volunteers, staff, and board members.

Hospitals will perform research and solicit donations from high-profile prospects during the “quiet” phase of a capital campaign before moving forward with the “public” phase of the initiative.

Grateful Patient programs are one type of healthcare fundraising.

3. Grateful Patient Programs

Grateful patient programs are fundraising initiatives orchestrated by medical facilities to find major donor prospects among the facility’s past and current patients.

In order to execute a successful grateful patient program, you’ll need:

    • Dedicated staff
    • Recruitment strategies
    • Screening processes

Soon after a patient is discharged, the wheels of the grateful patient program should begin to turn, offering engagement opportunities to the patient and developing a relationship with them. This should be done quickly, as patients are more likely to donate closer to their time of discharge.

Best Practices for Healthcare Philanthropy

In every healthcare fundraising campaign, it will benefit your facility to adhere to certain best practices to ensure your campaign’s success. Here are ten tried-and-true best practices to follow to make sure your campaign gets the support you need to improve your medical institution.

1. Develop a strong case for support.

In order to develop a strong case for support, you need to have a clear “why” for the fundraising campaign, project, or initiative. Having a clear goal for the campaign will help your team understand how to communicate your case to the masses.

In the case for support in healthcare fundraising campaigns, there is, in general, a broad picture and a more narrow picture. Broadly, the vision for every healthcare fundraising campaign is likely saving, transforming, and healing more lives. The essential aspect of a healthcare fundraising case for support is tying the immediate need for funds to this broader picture.

Your immediate need might be a new building on your hospital’s campus. It’s up to you and your team to explain how the new building is tied to the broader picture of saving lives. Doing so will unite your campaign’s message and drive your audience to contribute.


2. Choose the right fundraising team.

For any given healthcare fundraising campaign, you’ll need support from the following groups, staff members, and officials:

Development Committee

Your development committee will ultimately champion your healthcare fundraising initiatives.

Led by your hospital’s executive or development director, this team is responsible for developing a case for support for capital and annual campaigns and putting them into action.

They also take the lead in soliciting gifts from grateful patients, doctors and nurses, healthcare employees, and corporate sponsors for fundraising events.

If you want any level of success, it is critical that you hire the right team to accomplish your fundraising goals. Those you hire should understand your hospital’s culture, know the ins and outs of medical philanthropy, and have a strong, diverse fundraising background.

Major and Planned Giving Officers

While a development committee focuses on fundraising campaigns and events, your major and planned giving officers devote their efforts to collecting the largest donations for your hospital.

Some of their top priorities include: 

  • Conducting prospect research and organizing your donor management system.
  • Cultivating and maintaining donor relationships with key supporters.
  • Promoting healthcare fundraising opportunities in conversation with prospects.

Your major and planned giving officers need to have superior fundraising and management skills in order to properly execute their duties. They need to be able to build and develop key relationships with major donors while meeting department goals and coordinating with the development committee.

Hospital Administration

While hospital admins aren’t directly involved in fundraising, they’re essential for developing grateful patient programs and similar fundraising initiatives.

You’ll need their support to collaborate on building grateful patient programs and fundraising development. Their priorities should align with your facility’s fundraising priorities.

In order to have grateful patients, you need patients who are grateful for their whole hospital experience, from the minute they come through your doors. To ensure that happens, your hospital administration will be pivotal in setting the right tone for all staff members.

Doctors and Nurses

As natural ambassadors of your healthcare facility, doctors and nurses can help grow your fundraising efforts while having one-on-one time with patients.

While doctors and nurses should not actively solicit donations (and many would be uncomfortable doing so). Instead, it’s their obligation to point a grateful patient in the right direction when asked about ways to give back. 

When considering the big picture, doctors and nurses are those with whom your patients interact the most. While hiring top-tier doctors and nurses is crucial for a myriad of reasons, grateful patient programs certainly prosper in hospitals where patients bond with staff.

3. Host healthcare fundraising events.

A fundraising event is a great way to generate public awareness for your healthcare fundraising cause as well as directly interact with prospects, donors, and volunteers.

From community picnics and concerts to museum galas and charity auctions, the possibilities are endless for your healthcare fundraising event. Follow these tips at your next one:

Following these fundraising event best practices will ensure your event does all it can to gather donations and new donors for your healthcare institution.


4. Sell healthcare merchandise.

Selling merchandise goes hand-in-hand with organizing a killer healthcare fundraising event. Use this opportunity to promote your healthcare institution’s mission, brand, and online presence as well as a corporate sponsor’s brand.

Unlike social media or emails, merchandise provides your supporters with a tangible reminder of their involvement with your healthcare fundraiser, which can do wonders for encouraging donations and philanthropic aid.

Get ideas for healthcare fundraising merchandise with Boston Children’s Hospitals’ gift shop products, including plush animals, branded clothing, indoor games, and more.


5. Capitalize on corporate philanthropy.

Capitalize on corporate philanthropy to spark more publicity and maximize donations and support for your healthcare fundraising cause.

Partner with businesses that offer matching gift programs to double sizable funds for your healthcare fundraiser quickly and easily.

You can also seek out challenge grants from foundations or corporations to diversify your fundraising strategies and rally your fundraising team together to secure rewarding funds.


6. Send regular fundraising updates.

Sending regular updates to your supporters is crucial for keeping your loyal donors and top prospects in the loop with your healthcare fundraising initiatives.

These updates should be featured in your donor stewardship program to strengthen existing donor relationships while cultivating new ones. Fundraising updates can include a variety of developments, including campaign and program progress.

Your hospital or medical center can accomplish this through both online and offline tactics, like social media, e-newsletters or e-blasts, print flyers and brochures, and personalized direct mail for  donors.


7. Create a donor recognition program.

If your healthcare fundraising entity doesn’t have a donor recognition program in place, consider implementing one to maximize the odds of retaining existing donors and stewarding them up the giving pyramid.

An effective donor recognition program involves multiple communication channels and varies depending on the level of gift.

In every program, however, make sure that:

  • Online donations are met with an immediate email confirmation and thank-you message.
  • A prompt letter—via email or direct mail—thanking the donor and detailing the impact of their gift.
  • For larger donors, increase the level of personalization with a phone call or handwritten note.
  • Consider providing perks for higher donation tiers, like exclusive events or public recognition on a donor recognition wall or plaque.

Donor recognition is an essential piece of the donor retention puzzle, so don’t neglect this aspect of donor stewardship in your healthcare fundraising campaigns.


8. Understand legal considerations.

Fundraising in the healthcare space, especially when many of your prospects are former patients, requires you to understand and factor in the relevant privacy laws. This means you’ll have to take some additional steps to ensure privacy compliance at your organization.

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a legal measure that protects a patient’s medical records and healthcare information against fraud and abuse. In the context of healthcare fundraising, HIPAA prevents hospitals from accessing certain protected information about former patients without their consent.

While there are several pieces of protected health information (PHI) that are legally accessible for healthcare fundraising without a patient’s permission, HIPAA does protect the following information:

  • Diagnosis
  • Nature of service
  • Medical treatment

So while you may be able to access a list of patients to inform your fundraising campaign, you wouldn’t be allowed access to diagnostic and treatment information to, for example, target a campaign toward pancreatic cancer survivors.

How Can You Ensure HIPAA Compliance?

Due to the standard doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, it’s imperative that your medical institution receive written consent on certain patient details to be promoted in a fundraising campaign.

To protect your patients’ privacy through HIPAA, maintain clear communication between your fundraising team and legal team, as well as fundraiser familiarity with HIPAA guidelines. You should also establish safeguards/internal controls in your hospital’s database to prevent protected information from being accessed freely by the fundraising department. That way, you’ll be less likely to risk infringing on your patients’ rights.

Don’t forget to factor in the possibility of a patient opting out of an agreement with your healthcare organization for lending their PHI for your fundraising purposes.

9. Measure fundraising performance.

To accurately assess the progress of your fundraising campaign, you need to pay attention to key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs will help you determine which strategies are effective and which leave room for improvement. Some common metrics to track are:

  • Fundraising return on investment (ROI). This metric analyzes the cost of fundraising campaigns vs. the revenue brought in, generating a number that tells you your campaign’s return on investment. A high ROI is preferable.
  • Gifts secured. Gifts secured is a measure of the total number of donations given to a certain campaign or project. Gifts secured is also often tracked on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
  • Donor retention rate. This KPI reports how many of your donors return to give again year after year. A low retention rate could signal the need to improve donor recognition and stewardship efforts.
  • Matching gift rate. Matching gift rate shows your organization how efficiently you are taking advantage of corporate philanthropy programs that will match donors’ gifts to your institution. A low matching gift rate might mean it’s time for a matching gift drive to promote these opportunities.

The right fundraising software can automatically calculate KPIs for your campaigns, so your team can spend more time building relationships with donors and less time crunching the numbers.


10. Conduct prospect research.

To maximize results from your outreach and fundraising efforts, a vital step is conducting prospect research. Prospect research is the process of collecting and organizing information about donors’ financial situations and past philanthropic involvement to gauge how likely a given donor is to make a sizable donation to your campaign.

Prospect research is the best way to predict donors’ future behavior, which can guide your fundraising and outreach efforts in the right direction. Instead of manually conducting this research, which can be incredibly time-intensive, consider using a tool like DonorSearch to automate the process and generate the most useful prospect analytics.

Cultivating Prospects for Hospital Fundraising

Healthcare Fundraising and Prospect Research

Prospect research is instrumental to your organization’s healthcare fundraising because it allows you to efficiently target ideal donors with personalized giving strategies. This results in more successful fundraising efforts because you empower your nonprofit with accurate, actionable information to inform your fundraising asks.

Top prospect research tools for healthcare include:

By uncovering healthcare prospects’ philanthropic and giving histories, your medical institution can craft tailored solicitation strategies, encourage recurring gifts, and establish lifelong bonds with major donors. The information pulled from these resources should be saved and organized within a CRM, making it easily available for future reference and accessible for regular updates.


Key Prospects for Hospital Fundraising

  • Physicians often give life insurance donations or large endowments to departmental medical causes. (Think: Cardiologists donating to a coronary heart disease program.)
  • Hospital employees are more likely to contribute time, publicity, or donations to support fundraising events as well as invest in hospital merchandise.
  • Grateful patients should only be solicited after they’re released from the hospital, usually with a direct mail appeal or contact from staff (if the patient expressed an interest in giving).
  • Corporations are more likely to sponsor a fundraising event for publicity or supply challenge grants for capital campaigns than make a major donation.
  • Healthcare foundations are likely to give if a hospital’s programs align with their priorities and goals. (Think: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society providing funds to support blood cancer research.)
  • Communities may give in memoriam of a patient or in honor of a patient’s recovery. They may aid your hospital in running a fundraising event or launch their own.
  • Families of patients are also likely to give to your hospital as a display of gratitude for your work. Families might even crowd-source a large donation to give in the patient’s name.
  • Grant-making organizations are strong prospects, especially if they often give to hospitals and medical institutions. Make sure any grant proposal you write is well-researched.
  • Business professionals are likely candidates for giving because they tend to have the financial means to give in large quantities. Additionally, many professionals work for companies that will match their donations.

When you’re seeking out candidates for giving to your next healthcare fundraising campaign, the above categories are good places to start. Once you’ve identified the groups likely to donate, you’ll want to conduct prospect research to determine individuals’ likelihood to give to your campaign.

Ways to Implement Prospect Research

Daily Patient Screenings

Daily patient screenings analyze current and discharged patients as healthcare fundraising prospects.

Daily patient screenings allow hospitals to analyze giving data and monitor notable patients as prospective donors.

Because patients are typically in and out of healthcare facilities, daily screenings allow your hospital to better keep track of current and discharged prospects.

In return, patients appreciate the extra care and attention from your healthcare facility and become more receptive to giving relationships and opportunities.  

Prospect Screening Services

Prospect research consultants and screening companies can offer you services for finding healthcare fundraising prospects.

Prospect screening services are perfect for healthcare facilities just starting out with prospect research or looking to manage prospects more efficiently.

These professional tools and services are designed to help you grow valuable donor relationships and filter through donor data.

Prospect research consultants and screening companies offer services like wealth and bulk screening to help you analyze prospect giving potentials.

In-house Research Team

An in-house prospect research team can handle all of your healthcare fundraising prospect research needs.

In-house prospect research refers to a group of prospect researchers performing screenings on your healthcare facility’s behalf.

These professionals are usually enlisted by mid-to-large organizations to manage massive pools of prospect/donor data and free up other staff members’ time.

An in-house prospect research team will have similar expertise as an outside prospect researcher, but with the added personal tie to your institution’s mission and fundraising goals.  


Leveraging Machine Learning for Hospital Fundraising

Machine learning (ML) is a type of artificial intelligence used in some nonprofit software programs that can produce advanced data analytics and self-correcting, predictive models. The “learning” aspect merely indicates that models continuously update themselves to become more and more useful and accurate over time. A machine-learning backed model as compared to a regular donor prospecting tool can produce 4-5x as many accurate prospects in a much smaller time frame.

Because major donations are essential in healthcare fundraising, the proper tools to discover the most likely donors can help you secure more major gifts and fund your life-saving projects.

Wrapping Up

Healthcare fundraising is directly connected to saving lives, making the stakes for meeting your fundraising goals high. Whether your institution is launching a capital campaign to fund a new building or combing through your patients to find prospects with tools from DonorSearch, we hope you’ll take something from our guide to healthcare fundraising and apply it to your medical facility’s fundraising efforts. For more guidance on fundraising for your organization, check out these additional resources:

Donorsearch can uncover top prospects for your healthcare fundraising campaigns.