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Are You Ready to Campaign?

Campaigns are a valuable lever to accelerate successful health care philanthropy programs. Many successful programs are in “constant campaign,” either planning, conducting or wrapping up a campaign at any given time. Campaigns represent a high ROI development activity which can buoy an organization’s fiscal capacity in today’s fluid health care financial environment. However, many leaders aren’t sure where to start when it comes to campaigns. They often ask: “How do we know if we are ready to start a campaign?” or “What does an organization need to have in place to plan and execute a successful campaign?” To help kickstart your consideration, here are some elements to consider:

Engaged CEO

No single person can impact philanthropy efforts more than the CEO. Campaigns can be an uphill battle without his/her support. Assess your organization’s philanthropy culture by asking questions like:

  • Is the CEO leading the charge on philanthropy efforts?

  • Do people know about philanthropy from the frontline to the boardroom?

  • How engaged are physicians? Employees?

Engagement and participation at all levels of the health care organization reflects the cultural tone set by the CEO. The CEO can facilitate access to key stakeholders like physicians and board members, influence investments in staffing and budgets. The CEO is uniquely positioned to share the vision and to assure prospective donors of the organization’s commitment to execute, while also being a valuable connector to key prospects and influencers. Ultimately, CEO buy-in is essential to the philanthropy initiatives.

Committed Board

How impactful is your board on philanthropic efforts? This critical question starts an initial evaluation of any philanthropy program. Some other questions to consider:

  • Do board members have influence and access?

  • Do they personally give at a meaningful level?

  • How is their meeting attendance?

  • Are they matched with their passions to best benefit the organization?

Answering “yes” to these is essential as board engagement is foundational to campaigns.

Clearly Defined Projects

Many campaigns start out slowly because the organization can’t specifically define its goals, impact, cost and timing. Savvy donor investors demand these details to make impactful gifts; therefore, articulating the rationale for philanthropy is essential. Select compelling projects that align with your organization’s strategic priorities and that elevate the quality of or access to health services. Project selection is enhanced when the philanthropy officer has a seat at the strategy table for input on initiatives that have likely donor appeal.

Patient Data

The most viable and productive pipeline for prospective donors is right inside your hospital. Grateful patients are more likely to make meaningful gifts to health care organizations than any other constituency. Using patient information to facilitate fund development efforts is appropriate under HIPAA and HITECH health care privacy rules and includes (but not limited to) name, address, birthdate, service area and outcome. Having access to this patient data for fundraising purposes is a must and begins with your CEO, compliance office or health information teams.

Development Staff

There must be sufficient development staff in place to plan and execute a campaign. Staff does the heavy lifting to engage donors, manage data, generate acknowledgements, oversee events and advance annual development efforts. Committee and board members who make connections, open doors and help with solicitations and cultivation are a huge help. Campaign counsel can provide the operating systems and strategy. Managing the volume of work can be daunting, so, as you consider implementing new campaigns, also consider your current talent and whether you need to recruit and develop additional members to your team.

Data Management

Does your team have sufficient database resources to track gifts and donors? Software solutions can enable development teams to spend more time engaging and less time wrangling data. Ideally, the philanthropy office has the capability to track moves management progress within the donor database, although this can be built during campaign. Regardless, your team must possess database capabilities for storing, manipulating and reporting donor and gift data. Access to wealth screening and other prospecting tools can be very helpful in enhancing a campaign prospect list.

Next Steps

While this list is not exhaustive, it represents a minimum baseline for campaign readiness. If your program doesn’t fulfill the basics above, you have fundamental work to complete before a successful campaign is in your reach. There are additional next steps, such as wave campaigning and aligning board talents with organizational priorities to further your impact. What are your next steps to become campaign ready?

Accordant White Paper_Ready to Campaign
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About the Author: Heather Wiley Starankovic, CFRE, CAP, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant, with a dedication to supporting staff members and creating programs that keep talented and dedicated servant leaders within the field. She can be reached at or through LinkedIn.


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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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