8 ways to strengthen your hospital’s culture of philanthropy during Covid-19

By Helen Liu and Nick Cericola

Covid-19 is introducing a critical moment for health philanthropy: new donors are emerging at unprecedented rates, and your organization needs support more than ever.

Hospitals may never achieve the oft-admired philanthropic culture of colleges and universities, but now is the time for development teams to make a run at it—not through opportunism, but through impact. A culture of philanthropy is one in which your institutional stakeholders value, encourage, and participate in the activities of fundraising. And it is built by putting the power of philanthropy on full display.

Here are several ways your response to this incredibly challenging moment can strengthen your organization’s culture of philanthropy for the long haul:

Meet clinicians’ pressing needs

Your clinicians are short on time and supplies. Fortunately, philanthropy teams are skilled in identifying gaps and taking steps toward fulfilling them:

  1. Make it easy for clinicians to ask you for help. Learn about your care team’s needs as unobtrusively as possible. One idea is placing funding suggestion boxes in clinician break rooms and other convenient locations.
  2. Break down barriers to accessing funds: If you already have an employee assistance fund (you should), make sure it’s as accessible as ever. Two quick tips are to limit application requirements and prioritize speed of fund distribution.
  3. Tell clinicians' stories. Share their voices and heroic efforts with your community across your media platforms. This may inspire further giving and improve internal morale.

Communicate empathetically and transparently with donors

Like most people, your donors are stressed by this uncertain time. As their link to the hospital, expect to be their first place for questions. Getting ahead is essential:

  1. Proactively check on your supporters. Your donors may be uninterested in a proposal you sent pre-Covid-19 but welcome a phone call to check on their well-being. Block staff time each week for these calls, which should focus on being available for questions and thanking them for any previous generosity.
  2. Clarify fundraising activity during this time. Specify how donors can support relief efforts. Also, communicate early about changes to future fundraising activities, such as event cancellations and postponed campaigns.
  3. Document and communicate philanthropy’s impact. Whether they’re new donors that have just made their first gift or long-time supporters lending a hand, your donors will ultimately want to know how philanthropy helped your medical staff and your patients through this challenging time. Your leadership will too.

Amplify community partners’ voices

Community organizations, such as food banks and homeless shelters, are providing critical support to many of your patients and their neighbors right now. Yet some community members still struggle to find the right resources for their needs. Use your platform to help community partners reach vulnerable populations and build their own capacity:

  1. Become an information hub for community resources. Include links and service summaries for critical community organizations on your website. This will help patients and donors navigate to the right resources.
  2. Fundraise jointly with existing community partners. Your hospital likely already has programmatic and financial ties with organizations addressing social determinants of health. Social determinants are a growing focus area for donors, and will only increase in importance given the effects of Covid-19. Joint fundraising with these organizations may capture new donors and strengthen both organizations.

Fundraising depends on relationships. With Covid-19, your relationships depend on you. Your team’s unique strengths can support the community, whether meeting nurses’ needs in a timely, sensitive manner, or making sure informational resources reach the right hands. Right now, taking action—or holding back—can fundamentally change your culture of philanthropy.

Philanthropy comes from the Greek philanthrōpía, meaning love, or altruistic support, for humankind. Never before has this seemed more urgent—and by loving and supporting our fellow humans, we may inspire them to do the same.

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Philanthropy resources to support your Covid-19 response

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