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3 lessons learned from health systems that turned to philanthropy to fund population health

September 27, 2018

    In a recent Advisory Board survey of health system foundations and development teams, 59% of respondents reported fundraising for programs aimed at improving population and community health.

    That's a positive development for many population health leaders—especially those with one foot stuck in fee-for-service—who are often strapped to find the dollars and resources to set up non-traditional programs for their patients.

    Here are three lessons learned from health systems that have turned to philanthropy to fund population health initiatives.

    1. Promote population health as a system priority to tap into new donor markets

    In 2015, Lehigh Valley Health Network's foundation added community health as a third pillar of its major fundraising campaign, alongside cancer care and pediatrics. It found a donor market eager to support the change: fundraising for community health is outpacing fundraising for traditional priorities.

    Donors are excited about funding mobile health initiatives, remote patient monitoring projects, and programs that support homeless and veteran patients. Just three years into their five-year campaign, the foundation has raised 72% of their $30 million goal.

    2. Craft targeted messages to diverse donor groups to touch on donor priorities

    Dayton Children's Hospital is building a new center to expand clinical and social services for children in the Dayton area with the support of a diverse donor community.

    For traditional donors, Dayton makes its standard appeal for funding a capital project. For a newer wave of non-traditional donors focused on community health, Dayton advertises the social services the Center will house (e.g., food pharmacy, foster care support). By making a multidimensional case for support, Dayton has expanded the breadth of its donor pool and already met half of its fundraising goal since December 2017.

    3. Advertise the direct impact of donations to help donors understand the impact their donations

    Bridgeport Hospital found that the biggest driver of its 30% no-show rate in primary care was patients' inadequate access to transportation. So the Connecticut hospital decided to use grant and philanthropy dollars to provide patients with vouchers for transportation and parking.

    To clearly demonstrate the value of the upstream intervention to donors, Bridgeport developed a giving menu showing donors exactly how far their donations would go. For example, $1,000 would provide 250 bus rides, 500 parking passes, or 76 Uber rides. The menu starts at $10 and hits every giving level. And it appears to be working: In one year, Bridgeport has raised $43,000 through donations and grant funding and provided transportation to over 600 patients. As a result, the hospital has reduced its primary care no-show rate by 27%.

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