The concept of time for those of us staying at home who aren’t in direct services has radically changed. Months ago, there were weekends when I felt as though I ran from one obligation to the next. This past weekend in my excess of time and growing desire to try to help, I taught myself to make face masks and donated blood – two things that a month ago I did not have on my schedule (and in the case of the mask, had never thought of before).
Now that we have collectively downshifted into the new (temporary) normal, I wanted to share how healthcare organizations around the country are managing it, both on the giving and receiving end. I often tell my healthcare clients that gifts of time and talent are just a precious as the financial ones. We are now seeing brand new corporate partners and individuals stepping forward in new, thoughtful and innovative ways to help. In most cases, it is the foundation of the hospital or healthcare system that is coordinating all efforts – a reminder of the vital role of development in healthcare.
How do we communicate our needs, accept these gifts graciously and safely, and keep these connections strong after the crisis has passed?
I want to thank every organization that shared their policies and circumstances with me. I recognize that gift acceptance and volunteer engagement policies were probably not at their top of mind last week, but I deeply appreciate every returned email and phone call. In my conversations with development professionals around the country, the policies and practices are as varied as the communities that they serve. I’ll say this first: there is no blanket “right” or “wrong” policy. Each organization is encouraged to do what’s right for their community and to be flexible as conditions change. In most I’d like to focus on what was consistent with each of these organizations that I would recommend as two best practices.
Gratitude should be consistent and at the forefront of each and every policy and communication. Gratitude for the community’s commitment to the various stay at home orders, which is keeping infection rates lower, and gratitude for the desire to help however and whenever it’s needed.
Here are some great examples from around the country of the ways I’ve seen gratitude expressed in written communications from healthcare organizations:
- Kentucky (University of Kentucky HealthCare): My fellow Kentuckians – First of all, thank you. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from this community. Our staff is working tirelessly to ensure that patients are safe and cared for while simultaneously anticipating and preparing for what’s next. The fact that you are willing to recognize that hard work is humbling.
- Ohio (Aultman Hospital): We would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude to the many individuals and companies who have stepped up to support the health of our community with donations of PPE items, materials for handmade masks and financial support. Your kindness and generosity mean so much to us, especially now. After hearing from several of our friends in the community who wish to help, we took action and established the COVID-19 Fund. If you would like to contribute to this fund, 100% of your gift will support the needs of our patients and front-line caregivers.
- Texas (University Medical Center (UMC) El Paso): Thank you for stepping up and investing in our community’s health. We are all in this together, and we will get through it because we are El Paso Strong.
- Virginia (Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters): We are receiving generous offers of financial contributions and donations of medical supplies from the community daily. Please know that we are so grateful for these offers and are responding as they come in. Now, more than ever, we will do our part to demonstrate resolve and optimism for brighter days ahead. Most importantly, we wish for you to be safe and well as we weather this storm together. Thank you for your support!
CLEAR, CONSTANT COMMUNICATION
Ensure that when your potential in-kind donor or volunteer is visiting your website or hearing about your need in the media that your information is up–to–date and that your needs are as specific as possible. Your website should always have the date that the information was last updated and your needs, whether they be for medical supplies, materials that directly support your hospital staffs (i.e. food and other), or financial support should be made as clearly as possible. This is will ensure that you are receiving what you need and avoiding disappointment to you or the donor during a time that’s already unimaginably stressful.
Here are some examples of very specific requests that I’ve seen that well–articulated the need for potential donors:
- California (Cedars-Sinai): Food being donated must meet Cedar-Sinai’s requirements including but not limited to the following: Restaurants of food establishments must have a letter “A” Grade or equivalent rating with their local health department. Food processing or mass production companies must meet USDA or FDA requirements and be certified for the sale, distribution or donation of any perishable and non-perishable foods in the United States. All food must be served as individual portions – no buffet style food will be accepted (individually wrapped- single serve portions). All donating entities must comply with food labeling requirements: Nutrition Fact labeling with ingredients and allergies; Safe Handling instructions of package contents; Temperature requirements. Temperature controlled delivery modalities must be secured for any hot or cold perishable food.
- Kentucky (UK HealthCare): We are accepting donations of homemade masks. Instructions and patterns for making masks best suited for our needs can be found online at: The Stitching Scientist (with elastic) or Instructables (with ties). Please use tight-weave cotton fabric (such as quilting cotton) purchased within the past year, that has not been used before. Wash and dry fabric without fragrance or dyes prior to sewing.
- Missouri (Phelps Health): As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has indicated personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are limited across the state. We are currently accepting donations of new and unused PPE in an effort to remain proactive, as we do not know how long the COVID-19 situation will last. At this time, the request for donated PPE items is a precautionary measure only.
- Ohio (Fayette County Memorial Hospital): After receiving calls from the community and a handful of donations, Fayette County Memorial Hospital (FCMH) and Fayette County Emergency Management Agency (FCEMA) have coordinated to collect donations of medical supplies to assist first responders and healthcare workers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following list of supplies will be accepted in unused condition: Gowns – medical-grade, isolation, impervious; Masks – N95, surgical with tie back, isolation with elastic ear loops, procedural masks with or without face shield; Gloves – surgical & nitrile; Caps – bouffant surgical caps; Eyewear – laboratory and medical goggles, safety glasses with side shield; Shoe covers.
- Texas (UMC El Paso): Your gifts to the COVID-19 Compassionate Care Fund will support our efforts by providing basic needs such as food, clothing, medical supplies, toiletries and transportation to patients and families requiring medical attention. They will help financially challenged and vulnerable patients cover healthcare costs and assist with the purchase of supplies, equipment or program needs at our hospitals related to COVID-19. In addition, gifts to the Fund will support caregivers’ needs or hardships resulting from COVID-19. Remaining donations raised through the COVID-19 Compassionate Care Fund will stay with the Fund to continue to meet the needs of UMC and EPCH patients and their families.
- Virginia (Augusta Health): Ways You Can Help: While the most important priority for our community is to stay home and practice social distancing, many people are still looking for ways they can help. Here are some of the ways you can help your local hospital and the community: Do you have a 3D printer? Click here for the link to the design for the Surgical mask tension release band: The National Institute for Health has approved a tension release band for use by healthcare employees. It helps by relieving pressure on the ears, when a mask is worn for extended periods of time.
I hope that you found some of these examples encouraging and helpful as you continue to form and re-form your own policies in this new era of volunteer and donor engagement. If you have any questions about the examples, or need help crafting your own policy, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work on one together at no charge. The important thing to all be helping each other in this time of extraordinary need.