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.
Most of us have heard of the Pareto Principle, or the 80-20 rule (80% of production comes from 20% of the resources). For years, philanthropy experts have used this economics principle from Vilfredo Pareto to explain why so much giving comes from so few people.
Of course, for many of the “best” fundraising organizations, that ratio is more like 99-1. That is, in many cases, single, sometimes 9-figure gifts dramatically shift the fundraising landscape for an organization. These great gifts are frequently transformative and non-repeatable, making the replacement of such big gifts a driving and often maddening force for fundraisers. And, such huge gifts may have the unintended consequence of diminishing future, smaller donations from others whose future in the 1% is yet-to-be-determined.
How should you deal with your organization’s experiences with this rule? Here are two angles of approach.
First, your team (researchers, analytics folks, prospect management professionals, gift officers, etc.) need to know wealth, and particularly your organization’s profile. How is it generated? Who has it? Who had it? Who can get more of it, so big gifts are reasonable? Who has so much that they’d like to leave a legacy instead of being the richest guy in the graveyard. A great set of articles in the NY Times (click here) puts some perspective on how new wealth is being generated. Your team needs to know these trends, your constituent’s sources of wealth, and stay on top of it.
Second, and slightly related to the other 99-1 “Occupy” messaging so prevalent in 2011, your team needs to understand that the enormous gap between the super-rich and the rest of us has big ramifications for your programs and your mission. Sure, we need to devote more time to our best prospects. But, you cannot just focus on the super-rich, because it’s a fluid and sometimes cloaked group. And, for many nonprofits, mass-effort, grassroots fundraising pays the bills, even if less efficiently than 7- and 8-figure gifts seem to. So, your team should work hard to treat all constituents well, while employing effective annual giving, analytics and other tactics to maintain base building efforts that help the best bubble to the top.
So, our fundraising efforts need to efficiently direct energy toward the 1% while conscientiously engaging the 99% as valuable near-term partners, some of whom may matriculate into the 1% (or are already there!).
UPDATE: CASE provided some great data on this topic. Here you can see the impact of the top few percent of donors on campaigns. It appears this is a little more like the 70:1 rule, but the lessons are the same:
I’m no CPA, nor am I a lawyer. So, the tip here isn’t about taxes, per se. Instead, this quick note is to encourage your team to use tax time as a stewardship touch. Advancement services, aka fundraising operations, gets caught at the wrong end of the 80/20 rule around tax time. We sometimes focus so much on volume (i.e., everybody gets a year-end statement) that we sacrifice quality. I’m not referring to accuracy but instead volume of effective touches. So, as April 15th comes along this year, commit your team to this top-focused, tax tip:
- Use tax time to ensure that every major prospect and donor gets a spring-time touch–in-person, call, or mail, in that order of preference.
- Create lists of “last fiscal year” donors who deserve a call to ensure that they have everything to support their giving.
- Engage portfolio managers to connect with every assigned individual along these lines. Non-donors could be contacted with a special script designed to engage them for the current year or reflect back on previous year’s giving.
- Make it a habit to go beyond any year-end giving statement for your best donors. Consider linking a tax message to a calendar year impact statement, complete with response devices for your donors.
Data suggest that donors claim that tax deductibility is minor driver for gift decisions. Nonetheless, every American donor has potential gain from such tax issues, so your team should be prepared to engage every donor in the next few weeks to ensure that your organization’s gratitude–and ongoing worthiness and need for future support–are front-and-center.
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.