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Beyond the Referral: Developing True Partnerships with Physicians at Baptist Health A Case Study

In order to prepare for and accelerate success for Baptist Health’s comprehensive $100 million campaign, Baptist Health Foundation partnered with Accordant to develop and implement a comprehensive grateful patient & clinician engagement strategy across eight Baptist Health markets to identify a new pool of prospective grateful patient and family donors.

About Baptist Health | Kentucky & Southern Indiana Healthcare
  • 9 markets

  • 2,770 licensed beds

  • 400+ points of care in Kentucky & Indiana

  • 94K inpatients

  • 2.1 million outpatients

About Baptist Health Foundation
  • 36 FTEs across system office & 9 market foundations

  • $25 million raised in FY22

  • System office founded in 2019

Following a rigorous campaign planning process across all markets, Baptist Health Foundation worked with Accordant and market leadership to identify, recruit and train clinician partners that practice within clinical service lines aligned with campaign funding priorities. Initial efforts over the six months following clinician training saw progress and success with the following results:

Commencing grateful engagement at Baptist Health helped Baptist Health Foundation engage leaders, physicians and clinicians across the system, align with and support the campaign and begin embedding philanthropy into the culture at Baptist Health. However, several factors provided Baptist Health the opportunity to find deeper success with grateful engagement. COVID-19 made it difficult for Baptist Health market leadership to participate in a meaningful way, which made it difficult to engage some key, influential physician leaders. Some recruited physician partners lost interest due to a lack of a real relationship with their assigned philanthropy officer and lack of true understanding about philanthropy at Baptist Health. Ultimately, Baptist Health Foundation knew that to build true, lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships with physicians and clinicians, an enhanced strategy and approach would be needed.

Building True Partnerships

Several strategies were employed to build deeper grateful engagement clinician partnerships.

Leadership Activation

Baptist Health Foundation activated leadership through recruiting Grateful Engagement Executive Sponsors in larger Baptist Health markets to champion grateful engagement. They also partnered with system service line vice presidents to personally invite key physician leaders to participate through hosting dinners and staying involved until the foundation built strong relationships with the physicians.

Coaching & Mentorship for Philanthropy Officers

Conversation guides, progress report templates and extensive bi-weekly 1:1 coaching and support were provided to philanthropy officers managing clinician relationships to help guide their efforts to build true partnerships with service line leaders and clinician partners in their assigned service lines. Philanthropy officers were encouraged to take time to build relationships first with clinician partners before asking for referrals.

Physician Feature Events

In a switch from solely focusing on receiving grateful patient referrals from clinician partners, philanthropy leaders and officers invited physician partners to share their expertise with small groups of prospective grateful patients and family donors at physician feature events. Physicians collaborated with the foundation to personally invite their own grateful patients to the events and embraced the opportunity to passionately speak about the impact their work has on the community. This highly effective strategy exponentially boosted referrals and garnered significant interest for philanthropic investment to Baptist Health from many patients and families who had never engaged before.

The Critical Importance of Strategic Internal Ally Engagement

An internal study examining two years of solicitations from Baptist Health’s highest producing philanthropy officers proved that when allies like board members, C-Suite executives or clinicians support the philanthropy officer through introducing the prospect or participating in the cultivation, solicitation or stewardship of the donor, the solicitation and gift amount of the prospect is exponentiallyhigher than when the philanthropy officer works alone.

This study also proved that involving the ally directly in the philanthropy process proves more impactful than receiving the referral alone.

This data, coupled with increasingly complex circumstances for navigating hospitals due to COVID-19, and the fact that many BaptistHealth Foundation philanthropy officers started their roles working from home during the pandemic, made building important relationships with internal allies challenging for Baptist Health Foundation philanthropy officers.

To encourage philanthropy officers to embrace the strategic engagement of internal allies within the hospital, training and parameters were provided to encourage philanthropy officers to engage internal allies on a formal and informal basis. Philanthropy officers were encouraged to informally engage allies within their assigned service lines on a weekly basis through rounding, attending huddles and department meetings. Philanthropy officers were encouraged to conduct formal ally engagement on a monthly and quarterly basis with service line leaders and clinician partners through 1:1 interactions and strategy meetings.

Informal Ally Engagement

  • General relationship building

  • Can be in a group setting

  • 1 per week

  • Must be strategic/within assigned service lines/clinical areas

  • Find a rounding partner/guide

Formal Ally Engagement

  • 1:1 engagement

  • 1 touch per month; 1 meeting per quarter

  • Primary goal is to elicit action

  • Approach with a “moves management” mindset in donor cultivation

  • All activity should “move” the relationship along and elicit action

Lessons Learned

Active Leadership Participation

Verbal support from leadership is not enough. The active participation of leadership in inviting physician and clinician partners must occur to encourage clinician partners to meaningfully participate.

Relationships Come First

Relationships must be built with clinician partners before ever asking for a referral to build true partnerships.

Find the Physician’s Passion

There are many ways for clinician partners to engage with the foundation beyond just making referrals. Asking the physician to speak on behalf of the foundation about their work, knowledge and experiences can ignite the physician’s passion for partnering with the foundation.

Focusing on Internal Ally Engagement is a Must

Do not assume that philanthropy officers who started with the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic know the importance of or know how to navigate the hospital to build important internal relationships. Ample training, guidance and parameters are needed to help support philanthropy officers in building relationships with strategic internal partners to strengthen the philanthropy process.

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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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