With continued pressure on the NHS budget and growing need to find new funding sources for the health sector, Andrew Watt, Chair of the IoF Health Sector Special Interest Group and Senior Principal at Accordant Europe, explores how hospital trusts, air ambulances and others can get the medical profession on board with fundraising.
Culturally, we’re a long way from the point where medical practitioners regularly participate in the call for funds, not least because their time is increasingly stretched and priority is rightly focused on the health of their patients. And yet, getting doctors and nurses on board is critical if vital funding is to be secured for hospital charities, hospices and other health institutions.
As care givers, they have the most established relationships with patients and their families. They are where people will turn to and ask what they can do to help; how they can show their gratitude.
But the biggest challenge for fundraisers is typically to help medical staff recognise this key role and the immense potential they have for securing vital funding. It’s likely not a role that they have been trained to deliver. So how do you succeed in engaging medical staff with fundraising?
Engaging doctors takes time. It also takes effort, and attention to detail. So start with a core group of fundraising ‘champions’, guiding them in their progress and encouraging them to share feedback about their fundraising conversations on a regular basis. Working with a smaller and focused group (at least initially) will help to ensure that each of them feel that they are a key part of the philanthropy team. Once you have a strong group of philanthropy advocates, you can throw the net a little wider.
Gratitude has been shown to have a healing effect on psychological health, to increase feelings of joy and happiness and increase purpose, satisfaction and engagement. So focus your conversations with medical staff on the experiences they have had with patients who wish to show their gratitude. It’s an approach that opens up an entirely different type of conversation, where doctors will often express their own sincere appreciation, prompting revitalised enthusiasm for their medical practice and renewed interest in building a closer relationship with the philanthropy team.
Asking a doctor to partner with the philanthropy team to raise money for something he or she is not personally passionate about or invested in will have the same result as asking individuals to donate towards something they don’t care about. So if you are raising money for a specific project, make sure you ask doctors or nurse from the same field, those who understand the need for the new equipment or building and the difference it could make if the target is reached. Give them the opportunity to have real input on the case for support.
Doctors and nurses are used to being thanked, so much so that it can be easy for them to dismiss such words, saying something like, “No problem” or “I’m just doing my job”. But this can leave patients – those who genuinely wish to convey their thanks – feeling rebuffed or dismissed. It’s important to help them know how to respond well to gratitude in a way that is authentic, personal and reciprocal rather than to brush off the words of thanks and downplay their role. Once accepting gratitude feels natural and comfortable, it becomes much easier for doctors to connect patients and families with the idea of giving back and then to broaden the conversation into the different way they can show their support or to introduce make introductions to the fundraising team.
Ultimately, philanthropy is all about relationships. It starts with the supporter’s first interaction with the organisation and the people on the front line, developing to a deeper connection and often yielding an immense sense of gratitude in patients, their families and loved ones. And it is typically the medical professionals and care givers that are the guardians of that relationship. It is only by engaging the medical community in philanthropy that charities will be able to reach their full funding potential and potentially even change the very fabric of the organisations, its access to medical equipment, specialist services and more.
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