How Community Hospitals are Responding to COVID-19

Posted June 12, 2020

A couple months ago, we launched Coffee Talk, a virtual conversation series where we gather small groups of close friends of the firm to share advice, tell stories, and ask questions about responding to the pandemic.

Recently, we sat down with a number of heads of fundraising at community hospitals to hear how they are adapting their fundraising strategies during these unprecedented times. We share their advice below…

It is a fine balance between needing COVID relief – and donors wanting to offer this support – and thinking about the role philanthropy will play in managing the massive operating hits that our hospitals are currently taking.

Fundraisers shared that on any given day they might be accepting PPE and/or COVID relief donations while fielding a conversation with a major donor about the enormous financial setback their hospital is facing with all elective procedures and care shut down. “It feels a bit like a dance,” according to one. “And frankly, we had already been stepping carefully around what is perceived as a high cost of healthcare and growing budget.” Their advice: This is the reality. Make your COVID relief fund true and authentic, and don’t be afraid to share that there is going to be a considerable gap for the hospital—and likely some structural shifts to manage it—when COVID is behind us. You will need those donors and it will be to your advantage that they are fully educated about what is happening. They will be that much more ready when you need them.

Projecting fundraising goals when all historical bets are off.

Our participants all reported that they are struggling with the question of fundraising projections for the next fiscal year. Most have many new donors who have risen to support their community in a health crisis, and most have had to forego some of the plans they set for this year and next. So, what to do? One participant recommended zero-basing every prospect and project one-by-one. Do the same for every aspect of your plan. If you find yourself looking at prospect names and unable to project, be in touch with them to see how they are doing and make a more informed assumption. If you’ve been projecting single numbers, consider a range—a target and a ceiling—and educate your boss and theirs about the conditions that would need to be in place to hit the ceiling. 

New donors are a silver lining in an otherwise bleak landscape.

While there will be many competing priorities in the coming year while we all regain equilibrium, moving retention of new donors to the top of the list could be a real silver lining. Screen them carefully, stay in touch and let them know the impact of their gift, large or small. And commit staff resources in the next fiscal year to see what you can do with this gift. 

One of our participants is taking the time to look at real estate value and patient experience of all new donors as an “easy” way of qualifying them. The total number is overwhelming, and this helps determine how each new donor should be engaged and considered in the future. They sent tailored communication to a subset of new donors and have already heard from several. And by virtue of this exercise, they have a built-in plan.

Another cautioned not to overlook people who donated PPE, food, etc. While not monetary, the urge to “help” in a tangible way can be telling. Put them in your screening roster too.

All of us here at Development Guild recognize the critical role our friends and clients are playing in supporting the most vulnerable among us during this crisis. As we face these uncertain times together, it is our top priority to support you. Visit our COVID-19 Resources page for useful information and insights.

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