IT Forefront

Philanthropy's a big growth driver for health systems—but IT can make it better. Here's how.

by John League

Philanthropy can be a significant driver of growth for hospitals and health systems, sometimes contributing 20% or more of net income. But without access to data and digital tools, fundraising teams struggle to connect with donors. IT leaders are uniquely positioned to help health care philanthropy achieve its potential to support hospitals' and systems' mission.

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Here are three ways that IT can provide essential support to philanthropy:

1. Enable timely conversations with patients

Patients are natural donor prospects because of their firsthand care experiences and attachment to specific caregivers. The evidence shows they want to give back: In the Philanthropy Leadership Council's recent national survey of patients, one in six patients sent a thank-you note, non-monetary gift, or made a charitable donation to their health care provider over the past three years.

HIPAA allows access to patient data for fundraising purposes, but development teams don't always have the right information at the right time. IT leaders can help provide development staff with a regular patient census and contact information (including email addresses) via redacted health records. But development teams also need that data quickly: Patients who receive fundraising information within one month of treatment are twice as likely to give as those who get information after one month.

2. Support data-driven decision making

Progressive fundraising organizations are layering together data from multiple sources to create a consolidated view of an individual donor's potential. For instance, Saint Luke's Foundation complements standard health care fundraising inputs like patient utilization and wealth screening with information from its own donor database and the system's marketing response data (i.e., email clicks and opens) to identify prospects with high affinity for specific clinical services.

Projects like this require integration and back-end infrastructure that IT can provide—but they can deliver gains in both efficiency and revenue.

3. Ease the transition to a digital donor experience

Fundraising teams must modernize their external communication channels. A traditional print-heavy outreach strategy fails to connect with prospects in the ways they prefer. Only one in 10 patients receives fundraising information via email from health care providers, but nearly four in 10 prefer email over other channels.

Philanthropy will need to collaborate with IT to design and leverage digital engagement tools. The good news is that these needs are largely in step with your hospital's consumer engagement strategy, including mobile-ready communication and online portals.

A successful fundraising enterprise has considerable—and likely increasing—IT needs. With a strong sense of implementation and integration pain points, IT leaders can provide essential guidance and support for the highest-margin operation in the hospital.

For more information about Advisory Board's research on giving to health care providers, check out the Philanthropy Leadership Council.

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