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Achieving Exponential Growth in Grateful Patient & Family Giving: A Case Study


Since 2018, the Tampa General Hospital Foundation has transformed its philanthropy by shifting from a sole focus on special events to becoming a robust, high-performing philanthropy organization raising $19+ million a year. Under the leadership and vision of Senior Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer Frann Leppla and Vice President of Development and Campaign Manager Michael Masem, the Tampa General Hospital Foundation is launching a $100 million comprehensive campaign.

To prepare for campaign, the Tampa General Hospital Foundation partnered with Accordant to develop and implement a comprehensive grateful patient engagement strategy to coincide with Tampa General Hospital’s focus on key, high growth service line development and the hiring of new service-line focused major gifts officers.

About Tampa General Hospital

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is a private, not-for-profit, tertiary, research and academic medical center located on Davis Island in Tampa, FL. As one of the largest hospitals in Florida, TGH is licensed for 1,040 beds and employs more than 8,000 team members. Consistently recognized for world-class care, TGH is ranked as the #1 hospital in Tampa Bay by U.S. News and World Report for 2022-23 and is nationally ranked as among the top 50 hospitals in the nation in seven specialties. TGH was ranked in 2022 by Forbes Magazine as the country’s #1 best employer for women.

Tampa General Hospital is affiliated with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and serves as the primary teaching hospital for the university. Over 300 residents/fellows are assigned to Tampa General Hospital for specialty training in areas ranging from general internal medicine to neurosurgery. In addition, USF medical students, nurses and physical therapy students receive part of their training at TGH. Faculty from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine admit and care for patients at TGH as do private practice physicians, many of whom also serve as adjunct clinical faculty. TGH also serves as a teaching hospital to students in many disciplines from several area schools.

Strategy Overview

In 2019, the Tampa General Hospital Foundation partnered with Accordant to advance a comprehensive grateful engagement strategy. Key goals included:

  1. Create a scalable and sustainable effort

  2. Recognize the highly regarded and clinically distinguished TGH and USF Health physician and clinician partners as allies to connect and engage grateful patients and families as philanthropic donors to support TGH

Implementing a strategy that was consistent and sustainable over time and could be replicated within other service lines was imperative. It was also essential to develop strategies to nurture a culture of gratitude across the entire organization.

Physician and clinician partners were carefully selected and recruited to partner with the foundation within five key service lines:

  • Transplant Services

  • Heart & Vascular

  • Oncology

  • Women’s & Children’s

  • Neurosciences & Spine

Accordant provided a full scope of services to help the TGH Foundation develop and implement a comprehensive grateful patient engagement and clinician partnerships strategy that included the following key initiatives:

  • Identification of service lines and strategy creation

  • Recruitment of physician partners

  • Formal training and education of leaders, physician partners and the philanthropy team

  • 1:1 coaching and support for philanthropy officers managing physician partner relationships

Partnering with Physicians

Following the identification of service lines and strategy creation, physician partners were recruited and training commenced. Informative presentations led by the TGH Foundation Development Directors were held at service line department meetings to provide an overview of strategy and goals. Following the initial education, formal training of physician partners and service line leaders was led by Accordant on the psychology and neuroscience of gratitude and how to connect a grateful patient to the foundation. Most of the formal training sessions were facilitated in a one-on-one setting with a handful taking place in small groups of three or less participants. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50% of the physician partner recruitment meetings and 100% of the education sessions and formal trainings were held virtually.

Activating the Foundation

Once the formal education was complete, work began for the TGH Foundation Development Directors to build strong, trusting,mutually beneficial relationships with physician partners. The development of these critical relationships would eventually lead to regular grateful patient and family referrals and robust, dynamic partnerships between physician and development director to helpraise significant philanthropy for TGH. During this time, the TGH Foundation acquired the ability to access, screen and analyze HIPAA compliant patient information to be used for prospect research and compiling patient lists for physician partners to review. Additionally, the TGH Foundation sent its first annual giving appeal in 2019. Since then, the TGH Foundation has sent several appeals each year including mailings for Doctor's Day, Healthcare Heroes and other causes. The TGH Foundation will soon begin launching appeals to more than 8,000 former patients every other month.

Key Success Factors

C-Suite and Service Line Leadership Engagement

Alignment and support from both the C-suite and service line leadership must be obtained from the onset to obtain effective and essential engagement. It is also important that these leaders remain engaged and continue to be informed and educated about progress and success on a consistent basis.

Trust Comes Before Referrals

Trust must be established between physician partner and philanthropy officer before the philanthropy team can expect grateful patient referrals. Building trusting relationships with physician partners takes time and only happens with consistent engagement and stewardship.

Service Line Entrenchment is Key

Learning as much as possible about assigned service lines including the patient’s journey, clinical services, current research endeavors and the service line’s funding needs is essential to gain credibility and trust with physician partners.

The Long Game Wins

Training the physician partner about gratitude is just the first, small step. Physician partners must be continually engaged, reminded and re-educated about the importance of and the process of how to connect grateful patients and families to the foundation. Philanthropy officers must also continually remind physician partners that giving takes time, and all gifts and wins, big or small, must be enthusiastically celebrated.

On the Front Lines

Heart & Vascular Institute

Staffed by: Taylor Baker, Senior Director of Development Number of Heart & Vascular Physician Partners: 7

When world-renowned cardiologist Dr. Guilherme Oliveira joined Tampa General Hospital and USF Health as Executive Director, Heart & Vascular Institute at TGH and Chair, Cardiovascular Sciences at USF Health in 2020, TGH Foundation Senior Director of Development Taylor Baker knew she would need to ask important questions about funding needs and learn as much about TGH and USF Health’s Heart & Vascular Institute.

This insight would not only allow Baker to educate donors and answer their questions, but, more importantly, to build trust with Dr. Oliveira to represent his work in a polished way. “I like to regularly send a snapshot of where we are at to Dr. Oliveira and Penny (Vigneau, Senior Administrator, Heart & Vascular Institute) to show all the gifts we have received for Heart & Vascular and the gifts we have in the queue,” Baker says. “It’s fun for me to see what we have accomplished and what’s on the horizon. I want to prove to Dr. Oliveira that work is being done.”

Baker also ensures her physician partners are kept informed by forwarding a copy of all emails sent to referred grateful patients to the referring physician. She also sends a note of congratulations to the physician partner when a gift is made.

Transplant Institute

Staffed by: Lindsey Knarzer, Senior Director of Development Number of Transplant Physician Partners: 7

TGH Senior Director of Development Lindsey Knarzer has been working within TGH’s Transplant Services for over four years. “I have always been told that it takes a development officer three years to hit their stride and get comfortable. I feel that this holds true in working with my physician partners,” Knarzer says. “The education piece has been crucial, as well as reiterating over and over to the physicians that this doesn’t happen overnight and is not a quick turnaround. That can be difficult for a surgeon to understand as someone who is trained to identify a problem and quickly do a surgery to provide a fix.”

Knarzer’s most recent success was receiving a $50,000 pledge over five years in honor of TGH Nephrology Transplant Surgeon Dr. Luis Beltran from a grateful patient who received a living donation kidney. This patient also made a gift in honor of his brother who donated the kidney to him.

Knarzer tries to meet with her physician partners once a month and regularly brings screened patient lists to review in the meetings. She has developed an Affinity Council for Transplant Services that is led by Dr. Kiran Dhanireddy, Vice President, Chief of the TGH Transplant Institute and Surgical Director, Center for Advanced Liver Disease and Transplant, and populated with several transplant grateful patients. She is working with the Affinity Council to help plan the first transplant salon event to learn more about the vision, goals and future of the institute and how people can get involved.


Staffed by: Vic Teschel, Senior Director of Development Number of Oncology Physician Partners: 5

Coming from higher education, TGH Foundation Senior Director of Development Vic Teschel spent the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic volunteering as a patient transport in TGH’s patient departure lounge. This, along with shadowing physicians, building relationships with physician partner’s administrative assistants, attending department meetings and learning the behind-the-scenes details of the oncology patient’s journey helped him truly entrench himself into Oncology Services.

One of his favorite success stories to date is working in partnership with Dr. Charles Cox to raise $650,000 to purchase a molecular breast imaging machine for TGH’s new North Tampa Breast Clinic. “The first time I met with Dr. Cox, I just spent time getting to know him, asking about his family and learning about his life. I learned that his father was asked to be the first astronaut but said no to be a physician,” says Teschel. “This was really the catalyst to being able to develop such a strong relationship with Dr. Cox.”

In November 2020, Teschel and Dr. Cox hosted a virtual event where attendees could virtually tour the new North Tampa Breast Clinic. The event was attended primarily by Dr. Cox’s current and former grateful patients. Dr. Cox and the vendor presented information about the new molecular breast imaging machine. Dr. Cox closed the virtual event by telling attendees “Vic from the foundation is going to follow-up with you after this event. If you don’t want to make a gift, that is okay. I just ask that you come and see the machine when we get it and tell your friends about it!”

To date, $1.4 million has been contributed to the North Tampa Breast Clinic Fund.

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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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