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By Denise Pope

Healthcare fundraisers know there are unique challenges when fundraising based on someone’s medical experience. Those who have fundraised for hospice care know these challenges are especially distinctive, and yet the gifts resulting from these difficult philanthropic conversations can be awe-inspiring.

Hospice organizations offer a caring, compassionate, and often innovative program for their patients. There are many opportunities for philanthropy to make a difference in hospice care, however, often the most passionate donors are unlikely to fit a traditional major gift cultivation plan and require extra planning to make up for the unique challenges of this type of fundraising.

  • Due to the nature of hospice care, most often, patients are near the end of their lives. Many people find discussions of death incredibly difficult, making approaching a conversation about giving especially sensitive, and requires an extremely high level of ethics and compassion on behalf of fundraisers.
  • Families who are grateful for the care offered to their loved ones may wish to make a one-time, more transactional gift. Many are familiar with the idea of including a beloved healthcare organization in a loved one’s obituary and directing gifts in memory to that organization; expanding this giving beyond this one moment can be a challenge.
  • A family’s grief, and its connection to an organization, may be complicated and fleeting, making the time available to cultivate a donor more condensed.

To overcome these challenges, fundraisers have found strategically partnering with physicians or care staff can lead to the most inspiring conversations with donors and their families. These partnerships will lead to identifying prospects with the highest affinity for the organization and help craft an opportunity which can help a family heal from their grief.

In order to maximize success, it is important to build a culture of gratitude and trust among medical colleagues. To start, strategically reach out to physicians and care staff and ask to speak with them. Find out about their work and passions and explain how philanthropy can support those efforts. Reassure colleagues that no one is asking them to solicit an individual or family and their primary role will be to identify and make introductions. In addition, involving physicians or key care staff in stewardship meetings can be valuable for the donor families, as well as the physicians who cared for their loved ones.

Build a culture of gratitude by regularly communicating with physicians and care staff about philanthropic successes and how those funds will be used by the organization. Consider reporting on the number of gifts received, total amounts raised, etc, and while doing so, highlight the medical partners who helped secure these gifts. Allow the medical staff to feel like a true part of the team.

As in traditional major gift cultivation, discovery phone calls are an essential step in the process of cultivating a potential hospice donor. It is important to focus on listening during these calls – listening patiently and strategically to identify a potential donor’s affinity and interest in donating. Be sure to be warm and conversational, consider that having a script outline with questions or topic prompts can be helpful. Lastly, always have a next step to make with a potential donor if they express interest in learning more. Some individuals may wish to make a transactional gift, consider directing them to give to your annual fund to provide future stewardship and cultivation opportunities. If they express interest in learning more about the fundraising priorities of your organization or about how to best support a medical professional who they have developed a relationship with, be sure to make clear that you will follow up, and then do so in a timely manner.

The complex medical nature of hospice care provides a myriad of professionals that individuals interact with, and are grateful for their care. Donors and donor families may wish to support programs like adaptive gardening or honor supportive care staff like nurses and chaplains. Following the inspiration of your donor will allow you to craft personalized gift opportunities. Creative stewardship tools, such as pins for staff to wear if they’ve been supported by philanthropy, can inspire further philanthropic efforts. Traditional tools to thank your donors and tell their stories, such as videos and publications are also helpful to encourage more to support your organization.

Does your organization have additional strategies for effective fundraising in a hospice environment? Is your organization interested in beginning a grateful patient fundraising program for your hospice program? Contact to learn more about how we can help!

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