Gratitude is key with $6.6 trillion philanthropic dollars on the table

By Kevin Crowe
Director, Grateful Patient & Family Fundraising

(August 2017) - Baby ‪boomers are expected to donate more than $6.6 trillion over the next two decades to the nonprofits they care about.  Dignity Health can be one of those organizations donors support, but only if we refocus and take action today. 

In health care philanthropy we typically make assumptions regarding our patient’s affinity to our hospitals and we first focus on identifying wealth within this constituency. We assume they have a general interest in partnering with us to improve or maintain our programs, services or buildings. We hope, based on their experience, they will invest in our organization.

This approach is successful but evolution is inevitable. According to the Giving USA 2016 Report by Giving USA Foundation, 2015 had the fourth consecutive year-over-year growth in health care philanthropy. But comparatively, in our subsector the last five-year period is last in overall rate of growth, averaging just a 1.6 percent increase. 

We need to find ways to reinvigorate growth in our fundraising and sustain it into the future. This requires a more strategic approach for identifying those constituents who are willing and able to support us. Taking the opportunity to change the focus, changes the conversation and allows us to concentrate on gratitude first.

Clinican referrals connect patients to philanthropy.
Embracing a culture of gratitude and working to normalize it alleviates the presumptions and discomfort our clinical partners often bring to the table when referencing philanthropy. When a patient expresses their feelings of gratitude to a caregiver, that caregiver is empowered to easily refer them to a development professional. From there, foundation staff will follow up with patients and their families based on gratitude, which moves the dialogue forward, often in the direction of philanthropy.  Then conversation can be continued and stewarded into action, where the patient or family member can demonstrate gratitude in ways that have a measureable effect on the future of health care. Patients who are referred to philanthropy by their clinician are 40 percent more likely to accept a visit from a development officer. 

Patients’ gratitude is based on the quality, and compassionate care they receive and the trust they have in their caregivers. In other words, the relationships they have with the individuals that represent the organization to them. The strength of these relationships grow as patients have a higher frequency of interactions with their health care providers. And according to research by the Advisory Board Company, when gratitude is identified as a factor that influences a donors’ decision, in over 70 percent of the highest level gifts, it was essential to the gift being made. 

As we look to the future, health care needs for the baby boomer generation are expected to explode by five times their annual spend over the next 20 years according to the 2015 Baby Boomer Report by U.S. News and World Report. This correlates to increased engagement and enhanced relationships with their caregivers. In the same period, boomers will inherit $8.4 trillion and remain the wealthiest generation until at least 2030 with funds in excess of $6.6 trillion available for philanthropic investments, as noted at the beginning of this article.

The combination of these factors create a unique opportunity for health care philanthropy as both affinity for our organization, demonstrated through gratitude, and capacity of patients as potential donors interested in creating a legacy coalesce within our hallways and offices.