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Campaigns in Times of Uncertainty and Financial Challenges

It is no secret the business of health care is experiencing one of its most tumultuous times in history. There is no shortage of reports on the challenging financial health care marketplace. This creates complexities for the C-Suite, challenging them to successfully operate and navigate through the tumult while also staying true to their organizations’ missions, values and visions. In times of uncertainty and financial challenges, campaigns are a crucial lifeline for organizations seeking to sustain their missions and serve their communities’ health needs. These times also create challenges in building and launching large-scale philanthropy efforts.

Accordant’s Wave Campaign™ model was developed during less turbulent times; yet, has the adaptability, innovation and momentum generation needed to navigate stormy weather. This model is case-driven, clinician-partnered, organization-aligned and passion-fueled to meet and exceed donor needs. Wave campaigning is structured to ensure sustained philanthropy.

Impact of Financial Constraints and Uncertainty on Foundation Activities

The impact of financial constraints reverberates throughout our health systems, including foundation efforts. These rough waters create confusion and a lack of clarity, as well as the following issues:

  • The lack of organizational capital investment or campaigns

  • Limited programmatic growth and innovation

  • Delayed decision making, misalignment and diminished donor engagement

  • Reduced investment in preventive health and community-based programs

These issues compound the downward revenue spiral, hamper vision and cloud philanthropic priorities.

Harnessing the Power of the Wave Campaign™ Model

To counteract these issues, foundations must build momentum, innovate and adapt by:

  1. Creating Momentum for a Larger Campaign – Waves start as a swell and gain momentum as they move forward. Campaigns can follow a similar trajectory—commencing with modest goals and priorities, gradually building momentum through small single-wave efforts, combining into one larger comprehensive campaign. Momentum is essential in philanthropy, especially during times of inertia. Momentum grows as small efforts demonstrate impact. This creates opportunities for more prospects and donors to support the cause, leading to larger objectives.

  2. Innovating for Philanthropic Sustainability – When faced with uncertainty, foundations must embrace innovation, especially as organizational strategic planning is put on hold or capital decisions are delayed. Foundations must maintain impact and pursuit of mission-critical funding to remain a high philanthropic priority for their donors—especially their largest year-over-year donors. Investments must always remain aligned with organizational planning, and foundations must consider being the single funding source for a capital investment or program expansion. Foundations must set the course for responsibility around patient access, prevention and health equity priorities. They must also have new and different conversations about ways donors can continue to drive impact. A willingness to be flexible and nimble in order to sustain philanthropic support and donor engagement is a mindset worth embracing.

  3. Adapting Engagement Efforts to Maintain Donor Pipeline – Foundations must continue to adapt and embrace new and different engagement strategies to build donor pipelines through acquisition and retention. Wave campaigning encourages Affinity Councils—a concept that is case-driven, clinician-led and donor-focused, accelerating the time frame of engagement and gift commitments. Traditional engagements may lead to major gifts, but must be enhanced to build sustainable donor pipelines. Leveraging digital platforms, virtual storytelling events and peer-to-peer engagement enables organizations to engage with potential and current donors in new impactful ways. Foundations must identify and adapt to emerging trends to counteract diminishing donor numbers and the inevitabilities that rise with a smaller donor pool.

Navigating philanthropy in uncertain times is akin to a surfer riding waves. One must adapt to the current conditions, innovate when the conditions are not cooperating and use the waves to create momentum—ultimately propelling the program to the next large wave, initiative and impact. By skillfully riding the waves of change, organizations can sustain their missions, make a lasting impact on those they serve and emerge stronger.

About the Authors:

John F. Donovan, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant. He specializes in campaign strategies and implementation. John can be reached by email at or through LinkedIn.

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.

Accordant White Paper_Campaigns in Times of Uncertainty
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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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