The following article originally appeared in The NonProfit Times Live from bbcon newsletter. To subscribe to a future newsletter, visit http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/enewsletters/

There is one group of healthcare constituents that is more connected to the hospital than anyone else – patients. It makes sense to develop relationships and connect with patients.  In return it will give them the opportunity to support your institution while paying tribute to their special caregivers.

Speaking during bbcon 2013, Blackbaud’s Conference for Nonprofits in National Harbor, Md., Ann Donah of Baystate Health Foundation shared insight from her experience developing a grateful patient program at her organization.

Since the program started two and half years ago, the organization has received more than 970 gifts of gratitude and honored 428 caregivers. The benefits have been three-fold: 1. Engagement has improved as employees are being directly honored for their services; 2. The program has increased the amount of funds raised and has experienced tremendous growth year after year; and 3. The Foundation has been able to significantly enhance its prospect pool.

Ann shared the following tips for healthcare institutions considering building a program of their own:

  • Develop a strategic plan and get approval across the organization.
  • Interview former patients about the care and services received and use that as the messaging platform for program collateral materials.
  • Create an implementation schedule that includes design and development of materials, internal program introduction and training, a recognition program, stewardship and an external marketing plan.
  • Get patient data daily, run through wealth screening and provide major gift officers a list of potential prospects to visit while in the hospital. Make certain they follow-up with a personal note. Augment that with a monthly mailing that goes out to all patients that fit your organization’s prospect profile.
  • Recognize employees publicly by involving their manager and team. The Foundation presents pins to honorees along with a certificate signed by the CEO. In the case of large gifts, involve the donor as appropriate in the recognition.
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