Our recent presentation at the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy Annual International Conference focused on the value of content to support donor acquisition and growth strategies. Here are three takeaways healthcare fundraisers need to know.
More than 80 percent of healthcare organizations used content marketing last year, and hospital and health system foundations are among the leading adopters of content as a way to lead audiences toward action. This makes perfect sense considering the goal of content marketing is to deliver value to a unique audience—a guiding purpose that aligns perfectly with the primary reasons that people give to charity.
Most people are overwhelmed with opportunities to donate time and money. From the tug-at-your-heartstrings solicitations to help children, homeless, and military veterans in need to impassioned pleas to save waterways, protect green spaces, and even help restore old buildings, there’s no shortage of noble causes to support. This volume and variety of worthy options requires an intimate understanding of your audience and their specific interests to set your philanthropic message apart.
Having a firm grip on the reasons for giving is the first step to ensuring your content matches those catalysts. The good news is that while there are myriad causes to support, studies of the factors that drive charitable giving have discovered common threads throughout the data.
Based on the 2016 U.S.Trust® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy and similar research, we have compiled the top three primary reasons for giving—along with proven methods for ensuring your message resonates with each type of donor.
Why People Give: Believing in the Mission
How to connect with these donors: With so many competing and altruistic alternatives, your mission has to be crystal clear and presented in a compelling way. This is where a well-crafted and authentic founder’s story (like one of my favorites from charity:water) and other team-generated content can humanize your healthcare brand and put a personality behind the philanthropic effort. For healthcare foundations, we recommend putting your medical staff, administrators and support personnel, and volunteers in the spotlight through profiles, Q&A pieces, and "day-in-the-life" blog and social posts written from their perspectives.
When the organization’s mission is “lived out” through real people who are dedicating their lives to making a difference every day, your donors are more likely to feel a connection and be inspired to open their hearts and wallets to advance the cause.
Why People Give: Believing Their Gift Will Make a Difference
How to connect with these donors: Donors need to have confidence that their gifts will make an impact, and content is instrumental in demonstrating the value of every dollar contributed to your organization. By specifying how the donated funds are used, your organization can engage those seeking opportunities to see their investments at work within the community. Focus your foundation content on the advanced training and life-saving technology—acquired through the generosity of donors—that is giving their friends and neighbors a second chance.
This approach inspired a recent donor to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, who was moved to send a gift of $5,000 after reading a feature article in the hospital’s community publication. The first-time donor said he loved reading about the difference that gifts make every day at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and wanted to be part of the donor community.
Why People Give: Personal Experience with the Organization and/or Cause
How to connect with these donors: Nearly everyone has a cause that is near and dear to their hearts, either based on a direct or indirect relationship with someone whose life was impacted. Whether supporting cancer research or participating in a walk for Alzheimer’s in memory of a loved one, a relationship based on family ties, friendship, or simply familiarity with the individual's story is one of the strongest motivations for sacrificing time and resources.
You can create an emotional connection with these donors through patient stories (like these from Spectrum Health) illustrating the people whose lives are directly affected by contributions. And as in real life, these stories don’t always have a happy ending. It might seem counterintuitive, but being transparent about situations where your hospital exhausted all possible resources can paint a realistic picture that resonates with donors.
Of course, these reasons aren’t mutually exclusive and there are certainly others—including alignment with personal values, affiliation with religious institutions, and of course, more egocentric motivations addressed through naming of hospital wings and pages of lists in your annual report. However, focusing on these three primary drivers can help you prioritize your efforts, plan your editorial calendar and enhance your fundraising performance.
Like with any content marketing strategy, the key is getting as close to your audience as possible and speaking their language in a meaningful way.
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