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Healthcare philanthropy annual giving

GOBEL Subject Matter Expert Blog: Doctors Day and Nurses Week Opportunities

By Ann Fisher

Director of Annual Giving, Leadership Annual Giving and Data Services, Michigan Medicine

Philanthropic giving to healthcare is often a form a gratitude from patients and loved ones who appreciate the care they received. The bond between the patient and their care provider can be strong, particularly when the care they receive saves or improves lives. Throughout the year your organization will likely receive tribute gifts from grateful patients who want to thank their care providers. But we are currently approaching two special times of the year when philanthropic gratitude for healthcare providers is strongly encouraged.

Doctors’ Day takes place Thursday, March 30, and Nurses Week 2023 will take place May 6 through May 12. These are two specific times when annual giving teams can encourage grateful patients and their families to consider making a gift in honor of the doctors and nurses that provided them exceptional care. These gifts are generally small, since the vast majority of these individuals are newly acquired donors — but the gifts are heartfelt. As annual giving professionals, we are responsible for ensuring that the gift has meaning for both the donor and the recipient.

If you have not run a Doctors’ Day or Nurses Week effort before, one of the key pieces of advice I can give you is to determine how you will hand the tributes before you begin. Can you use your organization’s existing process for tribute giving to share any messages you receive. Or will you have to develop a different system of communication? Part of this will depend on how you run your Doctors’ Day or Nurses Week campaign. For example, our Nurses Week campaign involves mail, so we distribute the messages to the nurses via hard copy through the nursing leaders, down to the individual nurses. For Doctors’ Day, we run a digital effort so those come in electronically and go through our standard process of emailing doctors when a tribute gift is made. Some organizations also recognize their doctors with a token, like a pin, which would need to be coordinated.

Although many of the messages in response to your campaign will be for a specific doctor or nurse, there may also be general messages like, “We love the nurses” that will come in as well. Those should not go to waste. We give general messages to organization leadership to share with the clinicians so that all the doctors or nurses feel the love. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure your process is in place before you begin.

Once your process for distributing the tribute messages is established, you can move forward with a plan. What channels you choose to use for your effort depends on timing, budget, and desired return on investment. For example, my current organization has done a multi-channel campaign for Nurses Week for a few years, but we have decided to add Doctors’ Day in 2023. It is only a few weeks after our Day of Giving, and the first mailing for Nurses Week will drop two weeks later. With this in mind, we decided to focus on a smaller digital-only effort with an emphasis on acquisition of grateful patients. This will keep our costs low and will hopefully not compete with our Nurses Week efforts. The point being, look at your annual plan and your goal for the effort and tailor your approach accordingly.

Finally, there are a lot of emerging technologies that might assist us in our Doctors’ Day and Nurses Week efforts. Historically most medical fundraising has been limited to mail to engage patients, but some email platforms are moving to being HIPAA compliant. There are also opportunities to explore text to give, and QR coding has made a resurgence since COVID, which provides us scan-to-give opportunities. These methods are more cost-effective for acquisition and make it easier for our grateful patients to give. Since we are often charged with raising more money and increasing our donor counts without significant budget increases, including these more cost-effective strategies can help achieve your goals.

If you have been part of a Doctors’ Day or Nurses Week effort before and have read some of the messages you receive from donors, you know how meaningful these gifts truly are. I honestly shed a few tears every year when I read the messages we receive, and when I hear feedback from the recipients who appreciate the words of gratitude. It reminds me how beautiful philanthropy can truly be.

ABOUT GOBEL SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS: GOBEL Subject Matter Experts are healthcare philanthropy professionals working in some of the top shops in the country, sharing best practices and insights. For more information about GOBEL’s Subject Matter Expert program, or to suggest a topic for coverage, email

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Fisher is a fundraising professional with more than 25 years of experience in annual giving. Ann began her career at Hospice of Michigan where she developed numerous skills from data base management to grant and appeals writing. From there she moved on to University of Detroit Mercy where she spend nearly 20 years in annual giving, eventually becoming their Executive Director of Annual Giving and Data Services. During her time at Detroit Mercy, Ann was instrumental in introducing new initiatives like online giving and crowdfunding while also improving the ROI in phone and mail and coordinating the University’s President’s Cabinet leadership giving program. Ann then spent two years at UC San Diego as Senior Director of Integrated Marketing, where she launched their first Day of Giving and restarted their grateful patient giving program. Ann currently works at Michigan Medicine where she serves as Director of Annual Giving, Leadership Annual Giving and Data Services. In 2021 Ann and her colleagues were selected as CASE Platinum Award Finalists in the Best Practices in Fundraising Award for their Nurses Week Campaign, which raised over $80,000 from 1,300 donors during the height of the pandemic. She has also served as a judge for the CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. In her spare time, Ann is an avid runner and has run several half and full marathons as a charity runner to raise money for various causes.