Did you see this amazing New York Times story of manuscripts and other Timbuktu artifacts being stored away for protection? (click here, but may be subscription-based) While the circumstances there are dramatically more dramatic than any development shop, I was moved by the care in handling these materials. And, at the risk of seeming glib, I thought this fit well in the spirit of National Constituent Record Filing Month. What files does your organization most treasure? Are they safe yet still accessible? Give it some thought.
It’s 2013…a lot transpired in recent months that may affect healthcare fundraising. New and different taxes. New and different healthcare provisions. New and (potentially) different court rulings. But, one this hasn’t changed: your organization must get serious about installing and leveraging an effective grateful patient program.
Great grateful patient and family programs have interrelated components–physicians and other care givers, admissions, development, and compliance folks are all in the mix. None of your internal sensitivities should be ignored, but none should be allowed to derail an effort to put a great, HIPAA-compliant process in place. We also know that some parts of a program matter more than others. In particular, physician referrals seem to make the most difference. A robust, end-to-end business process will cement the behaviors needed to capitalize on, or start to create, such referrals.
So, what does a great process look like? Much like great fundraising campaigns, details of the process will vary from organization to organization. I submit that a great process for some could be completely paper-driven and manual while others must be automated to be effective. All of them share key core process and technical components, though. The following diagram depicts each element that must be in place.
A few points about this process:
- Patients can include outpatient and clinic visits, but you might want to start with the smaller data set of in-patients.
- Nightly screening matters most when there is a subsequent daily review and triggers.
- In-patient visits are permissible, but a philanthropic culture must be in place first.
- If you don’t record and analyze the data and activity generated from the process, you are missing a big part of the process.
- It will take time to yield big results, but some of our clients processes leverage annual giving channels to provide immediate financial benefit, and identify potential major donors.
- There are dozens of other considerations not covered here but important to the process…so many issues, to be honest, that I joke this should be the subject of my next book.
Your team may not have the technical ability to build real-time data exchanges from the patient database to the screening company to your donor database. If API and SQL are foreign concepts, your process can still be rigorous and daily. However, automating visit ticklers, introduction letters, and other elements of the process, it is typically worth the effort. Ultimately, this business process should generate big-ticket leads while greatly expanding your solicitable constituency.
Remember that developing a business process here is the responsible thing to do. The law allows it and your organization’s competition may already be doing it. If you already have a process in place, could you make it even better? And, if you don’t have a process, now is the time to get going? Get the data, people, and processes in place and start delivering better and better prospects to support you fundraising efforts. Good luck and feel free to share any challenges or successes you’re experiencing.
Last night, 8:32 p.m. CT. A truncated transcript from a call (note: I’m sensitive to using a single anecdote to make decisions, but this was teachable moment):
(some guy, about 10 second later): “Hello? Um, hello?”
(me): “What can I do for you?”
(some guy): “Is Mr. or Mrs. Cannon home?”
(me): “This is Chris Cannon?”
(some guy): “This is [name] calling for [top 10 national nonprofit]. I’m not calling to raise money. [really?] I’m calling to ask you to write10-15 letters…[script went on for another minute]”
(me): “Thanks. That’s not really how we like to participate in the organizations we suppo…”
(some guy): Click.
Seriously? I answered the phone, listened to some guy, and was interested enough in the organization to start to tell him how I might become engaged and that guy hung up. The reminder here is that we entrust dozens, maybe hundreds of people to our philanthropic brand each day. Are you doing all you can to train, engage, and otherwise prepare these folks to be good stewards of your good will? Are callers on quotas that diminish real discussions? If you’re not addressing these issues, your fundraising may suffer along with your brand.
The phone call didn’t provide the only lesson, though. After hang-ups, etc., I frequently call the organization back. I care a lot about nonprofits, and I’d bet management would like to know when their good reputation is being sullied.
So, in calling this organization back, an odd and maybe very dubious thing happened. The 800 line provided an opt-out (“press 2 if you do not want to receive calls like this”). I pressed “2”. Then, I had an option to add my number to the organization’s opt-out list. Terrific, I thought. I didn’t want more wasted calls like the one I had just experienced. Next, though, a very curious thing happened. I entered my phone number but the computer program didn’t register it correctly. I entered my area code but the computer-generated response indicated a different number. My wife watched me enter the correct number, only to hear the wrong number repeated back. I hung up and called back with similar results. I tried a third time and the computer program finally “figured” it out. Computer programs can fail, of course, but it sure felt like a purposeful, nearly endless loop to get off the list.
So, the second lesson of such a call is that, even if it’s an error or an oversight, you can lose potential donors forever by appearing to be too automated, too computer-driven, and too focused on your agenda rather than your potential donors. Fundraising is my vocation and I encourage groups to push their boundaries. For example, I frequently tell healthcare nonprofits that it’s patently irresponsible not to engage patients as potential donors. I do so because it can raise dollars and I truly believe in the power of philanthropy in the healing process (see a great application from Children’s Minnesota). This advice isn’t about limiting efforts but your strategy should mirror your constituency and stay away from gimmicks.
I’d love to hear your stories about these sorts of experiences. Together, we can help to keep our reputations strong and our (potential) donors happy.
I get this question a lot: how much should it cost to process a gift? It’s a valid question most easily handled with: “It depends.” Well, I’m tired of that answer so I’ve devised a calculation. My math is not as important as your organization’s math, but we should all be more focused on how to deliver more resources to forward our missions (i.e., streamline costs and/or increase revenues).
What are the costs of processing a gift or pledge? The components vary, by gift type, organization type, and others. The main cost is staff time, but we should also include a portion of the database costs, any services or service fees, and the materials/resources involved.
With costs estimated, how do these costs accumulate? Gift processing has four stages–intake, batching, entry, and finalization–so I’ve explored each to give a sense of costs per stage:
- Intake: how the gift comes in affects costs.
- Batching: the type of gift and associated information should be factored in.
- Entry: some gifts take a lot longer to enter than others.
- Finalization: receipts, thank yous, and reconciliation all take time and money.
Of course, every organization will differ in the actual calculation. That’s part of what makes this such a hard number to determine. Have a look at this infographic that calculates the cost to process each gift:
The bottom line is that all gifts cost time, energy, and resources to process. Is your cost $6.50 per gift? Is it much more? Less? If your team is too efficient, you may be missing stewardship or quality control opportunities. Below some level, a gift costs an organization money. That number is probably closer to $20 for some gifts (tributes) than anyone would like to admit, especially if your team processes thousands of $20 gifts. The nature of philanthropy makes it nearly impossible (and certainly un-palatable) to reject small gifts, but messaging around the impact of giving could switch from the overly naive “every dollar counts” notion to something more sophisticated. So, be sure your efforts are pointing donors in the right direction.
Don’t take my word for it. Do the math. Then, with your organization’s answer(s), try to shape donor behaviors through smarter direct response strategies supported by streamlining your operations so that you deliver as much money as possible to support your mission.
And, please share your calculations and ideas in the comments.
The central challenge in fundraising operations is managing data, technology, reporting, business processes, and people while balancing the countervailing forces of accuracy, speed, and volume. This new blog will focus on the difficulties that fundraisers experience and, more importantly, how to overcome these challenges, deliver results, and help our organizations raise more money and build more relationships.
I welcome feedback and input, stories and tales of success or caution.