Using National Doctors’ Day to Cultivate Your Grateful Patient Program | npENGAGE

Using National Doctors’ Day to Cultivate Your Grateful Patient Program

By on Feb 15, 2019


Download the Doctor’s Day Toolkit!

Every March, National Doctors’ Day provides a time when healthcare development operations can lead the charge to honor their physicians in a myriad of ways, often with gifts and messages. Some offer a year-round program touting, “Every day is Doctors’ Day,” offering continuous opportunities for special recognition. But how can Doctors’ Day be more?

Development offices that are getting serious about their Grateful Patient programs are seeking the engagement of physicians. Having them open doors to those patients perceived to be both grateful and capable of supporting the important work of physicians and their institutions is key to continued success. Those with true physician champions see the positive impact on their giving program.

To engage a physician, we must first think about their attitude and motivation within and around your healthcare institution. In my experience, I have found that outstanding healthcare CEOs see their jobs as providing the best places to practice medicine. Excellent physicians see their jobs as providing the best care possible. It is the development office that can help both leadership and physicians fulfill these missions for the greater overall good of the institution.

Using Doctors’ Day to not only recognize physicians, but to also contribute to the causes and services that motivates their daily missions, is a wonderful way to motivate and engage! If the concept of Doctors’ Day is new to you, you will be glad to know that implementing some strategies is very doable.

Learn more about patient fundraising at

Checklist for Creating a Doctor’s Day Program

Download the checklist!

  1. Start with a written plan!

    • Make your plan and secure your budget. Get it all in writing. It’s ok to start small and grow over the years. Start with simple notes of gratitude.
    • Ideally, plan two to three months in advance. If needed, you can use Doctors’ Day as a kickoff and run the plan for three to four months or use it as the cultivation date.
    • Have a defined time frame. For example, distribute the notes on Doctor’s Day and run the campaign for several months with a one to two- day promotion each month for special recognitions, treats, events, etc.
    • Include a timeline for promoting the campaign. Determine type and frequency of publications, calls, electronic messages, and telephone communications. Keep the promotions steady throughout the campaign, internally and externally. Think about signage throughout your waiting and public areas that drives people to your website.  Celebrate the staff, leadership, and volunteers who go over and above to show respect and appreciation for physicians.
      • Tip: Consider weekly Facebook, digital in-hospital communications and other means to celebrate a physician and those that recognize them by highlighting a thank you note or accomplishment.
    • It’s important to start with simple appreciation – a note of thanks. With time, create and allow a way for the volunteers or staff members to make a gift to the development program in a physician’s honor. Accept gifts of payroll deduction, check, cash, credit card, online payments, or one-time payroll deduction on a specified paycheck. With this in place, then determine how the general public can make donations and implement that.
      • Tip: Administration may want to make a cumulative gift so that no one physician receives more attention than another from this group and so that the donations go to the overall mission. Making the first gift is a great example to set for the start of the giving campaign.
    • Roll out your plan within your internal staff members.
  1. Recruit Your Champions!

    • Have leadership start the process with hand written notes.
      • Tip:  Ask leadership to select physicians, writing them a personalized note thanking them for their dedication to providing the best patient care in their specialty area. Provide a list of physicians who admit and treat patients frequently for reference. Ask each leader to give you the written notes for later distribution.
    • Recruit a Doctors’ Day Committee of 10-15 members who will help share the message, timing, and plan for the campaign. At the first meeting provide that same list of physicians (and the ones in which leaders have already reached out) to the team. Ask them to select additional physicians for personal notes. Recruit others to join a brief meeting where personal notes and emails will be written and sent.
    • Asking volunteers to get involved is a great idea! While sitting together writing notes, gather patient stories to use in communications.
      • Tip: Patient stories are a great way to tell your healthcare organization’s successes. While they require patient and physician approval, it is worth the time and effort to assemble a good bank of stories.
    • Use your iPhone to video volunteers telling their own personal patient stories. When appropriate, attach them to emails that are sent to physicians.  Put the stories on your website to drive engagement, with everything approved in advance to protect privacy.
      • Tip: Seek to have at least 3 patient stories for each medical and surgical specialty, as well as general practice areas.
  1. Promote and track the program!

    • Promote the program through email, newsletters, and signs. Use quotes from notes or even videos to promote the doctors.
      • Tip: Consider putting a message on the WIFI connection page to create interest and gather patient and family emails and comments for future campaigns.
    • Update each month’s communications with responses from physicians – their reactions to notes, etc.
      • Tip: Highlight a physician group each month, mentioning their successes and what funds are being used for to enhance their services.
    • The main responsibility of the development staff and the Doctors’ Day Committee is to track the communications from staff and volunteers to the physicians, ensuring each physician on the list gets at least one communication. Track any feedback from doctors as well.
      • Tip: Every month of the campaign, share the progress of communications and feedback with your CMO and CEO. When necessary, they can help you get additional support and promotion.
  1. Make it Fun!

    • Hold a kickoff at a volunteer’s home or local gathering place. Identify a grateful patient who has been touched by one or more of the physicians and ask them to share his or her story.  The members of the Doctors’ Day Committee should serve as cheerleaders during this first gathering and throughout the campaign.
      • Tip: Other than the Medical Director, you may want this to be a gathering of those who will work on Doctors’ Day but not doctors themselves.
    • Hold fun, internal gatherings to celebrate victories: specified number of notes written, donations received, etc.
  1. Celebrate and recognize all who participated and those who were thanked!

    • Depending on the notes sent or funds raised in the effort, have a plan to recognize this. If donations were received, announce where the funds will be used. Perhaps the administration would match the funds to up the amount and can be done in a final ceremony.
    • Recognize and publicize the project through social channels with recognition going to the physicians who were honored.
      • Tip: If a good number of physicians were recognized with gifts, load their pictures on the posts and the hospital/foundation website as a thank you to all who honored them.
    • When the campaign is over, debrief with all who were involved and tweak your plan to include next year’s enhancements.


Sample Ideas for a Doctors’ Day Program:

Download the tip sheet!

  • Simple website for Doctors Day: a place to make donations and send notes.
  • Luncheon/Doctor’s Day Party/Other special event sponsored by grateful patients.
  • Build a Physician Committee to design the program and give input.
  • Launch an ad campaign(s) featuring MDs and their patients.
  • Letters to patients asking for their stories, including a sample.
  • Have notecards available at meetings for Governing Boards, Foundation Boards, Committees, Auxiliary or staff gatherings for anyone to complete a hand-written note to a physician.
  • Load videos onto a specified YouTube channel with patients/families thanking physicians.
  • Launch a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign both from doctors to thank those with whom they work (referring physicians, partners) and for patients/staff to set up fundraising campaigns to honor a doctor through bike races, foot races, mountain climbing, or any sport in which they are engaged.
  • Launch a book club of medical nonfiction: ask MDs to recommend articles, research projects, books for clubs to read and discuss, perhaps with a specialist leading the group.
  • Launch a social media blitz of “thank you’s” from anyone to their doctors. Patients of all ages can take a picture with a handmade thank you sign and email it to the foundation to post.
  • Take a series of iPhone photos capturing any physician in an “act of kindness” and send thank you notes with the picture. Don’t forget all approvals!
  • Have physicians draft a “thank you” to patients for trusting them with their care. Orchestrate sending the note to their patients.
  • Ask patients and doctors to provide their favorite healthy recipe and do an online cookbook.
  • Ask patients and staff to send a picture of their pet and use “talking pet” to say thank you for the pup (or kitten) for taking care of their special person.


Physicians are the key players in the healing of patients. By showing your organization cares how they feel about their work and their relationships will go far in building a culture of philanthropy in your community and institution(s). This Doctors’ Day-type of campaign goes far beyond one simple mailing or driving folks to your website to honor a physician. It will take effort and organization but has many dividends. It can start small and continue to grow.  And, it is a substantial platform to either start, grow, or enhance your Grateful Patient program.


June Bradham, CFRE, Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions, uses her experience as a thought leader to refine products and build bridges with healthcare leadership, physicians and development offices across the world. In addition, June is the President and founder of Corporate DevelopMint founded in 1987, an organizational development and fundraising consulting firm having served hundreds of clients since its founding. Under her leadership, Corporate DevelopMint has served over 200 non-profits across the US. International clients from Australia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. She and the team she leads have directed campaigns of $2 million to over $1 billion. But more importantly, they have succeeded at organizational turnaround resulting in a shared view of philanthropy.

Recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, innovative fundraising and board dynamics, June is an internationally sought after speaker whose recent engagements have included plenary and keynote addresses at such prestigious conferences as AFP – International, AHP, CASE, CASE Europe and Blackbaud’s Conference for Nonprofits. In addition to the numerous articles in national publications she contributes to each year, June was the author of a monthly column for the Charleston Regional Business Journal and was named the Journal’s “Most Influential Woman CEO” and was their recent keynote speaker. June’s groundbreaking and insightful book on board dynamics, The Truth about What Nonprofit Boards Want: The Nine Little Things that Matter Most, was published by Wiley and is fast becoming one the industry’s most talked about books.

June and her team have worked with Higher Education, Independent Schools, Healthcare Systems and Community Organizations.

June’s deep commitment to the growth and success of non-profit organizations is underscored by her years of volunteer experience, including service to a number of healthcare and education boards, community organization boards like the Spoleto Festival and the Community Foundation as well as Chambers of Commerce and boards of industry associations. She is the past president of the board of the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations as well as AFP – International and the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, a top ranked business school.  Her most recent interest in pro-bono work among professionals and companies is evidenced in being selected to join the International Board of CreateAthon™ known for serving nonprofits through pro bono professional work. She joins fellow board members from companies such as BMW, Hewlett Packard, Netscape and others showing her ability to stay in front of the curve of trends.

June holds a Bachelors degree from Columbia College and a CFRE and has completed the Harvard University Governance Education program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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