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Partnering with Nurses for Philanthropy: A Guide to Transformative Impact

Nurses’ critical role in health care is undisputed as they provide compassionate care and support to patients. Patients and families spend ample time with nurses, allowing for a genuine, trusting relationship to be formed. According to Gallup’s annual Honesty & Ethics poll of 23 professions across the United States, nursing remains the most trusted profession.¹ Therefore, it should come as no surprise that nurses play an important role in philanthropy. The compassionate care they provide undoubtedly sparks gratitude in patients and families, unleashing their desire to express thanks by sharing stories and even making a gift. When nurses grasp their role in receiving patient gratitude and assisting patients in expressing it meaningfully, they become one of philanthropy’s most valuable allies for transformative impact.

Here are five things to remember as you partner with nurses to create transformative impact for your philanthropy program.

1. Recognize the value of nurses as philanthropy allies. In philanthropy, it is not uncommon to work with C-suite leadership to understand and align philanthropy strategies to the organization’s overall priorities. Physicians are often invited to help identify and connect grateful patient and family prospects to the philanthropy team. However, patients often spend more time with their nurse than any other provider. Therefore, nurses should not be overlooked at critical philanthropy allies. Nurses are on the front lines of patient care, witnessing firsthand the challenges and needs of patients and families. This makes them invaluable allies to help share how and why philanthropy is needed to fund the health care organization’s philanthropic priorities. There is no better way to understand the daily needs of patients than to hear it from nurses. Their unique perspective and insights, expertise and commitment to improving patient care make them ideal allies for philanthropy.

"As a nurse, I have seen firsthand the impact of philanthropy on patient outcomes, from funding life-saving treatments to providing essential resources for underserved populations." – Emily, RN, Cincinnati, Ohio 


2. Shared governance and buy-in is key. Nursing shared governance is shared decision making between bedside nurses and nursing leaders, and it is utilized in nearly all aspects of decision making, including resource allocation, nursing research, equipment purchasing and staffing.² When it comes to approaching nurses for philanthropy partnership, it is important to remember shared governance is key. Any decisions about who to partner with, how to partner and how to educate them will need to be made through the same nursing shared governance processes already in place at your organization. To commence nursing partnership, set up an initial meeting with your Chief Nursing Officer, who can help to outline the proper pathway for partnership and decision making.

3. Build relationships first. Many nurses will tell you they entered the profession due to a calling to help others. Not unlike philanthropy professionals, nurses feel a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work and take pride in building strong relationships with their patients and others. Upholding patient confidentiality and building and maintaining trust with patients is among their highest priorities. Therefore, it is essential to take time to build strong, trusting relationships with your nurse allies before you ever ask them to connect you with their patients. To build relationships with nurses, you must spend ample time within the four walls of the hospitals, clinics and care settings where they work. Attend nursing department meetings, huddles and Daisy Award ceremonies. If you're recognized by your nurse allies when you enter their unit and have a rapport with them, you can begin to discuss how they can best connect you to their grateful patients and families.

4. Understanding philanthropy and funding priorities is essential. Any ally will be more inclined to help when they have a clear understanding of how philanthropy dollars will be used and who will be impacted. This is no different with nurses. Given the vast responsibilities that nurses have and their limited extra time, it becomes even more important to give them a crystal clear understanding of your organization’s philanthropic priorities so they understand why they are being asked to help. It’s important to also remember that many grateful patients’ first gifts to your organization will be modest and in honor of their nurses. Having a nursing education fund at your organization that patients and families can donate to is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to engage both nurse allies and patient donors.

5. Tailor recognition and celebration opportunities. Recognition and celebration are important parts of nursing culture. Nurses deserve abundant recognition for their vast responsibilities in providing excellent, compassionate patient care and receive recognition from their leaders, colleagues, patients and families through hospital and national recognition programs. Nurses who dedicate time to partner with philanthropy should be recognized and celebrated in the same manner. When doing this, it is important to understand there are many ways to recognize nurses. Some nurses enjoy public recognition, but many nurses will shy away from fanfare and prefer a more behind-the-scenes approach. Many nurses will say a simple thank-you is enough. When it comes to recognizing nurses for their partnership with philanthropy, make sure to talk to your nurse ally’s manager first. They will be able to inform you of the best way to provide this important recognition.

"Philanthropy is the love of humanity or a desire to promote the welfare of others. Philanthropy offers opportunities that might not otherwise exist to bring excellent care to our patients. Care teams can provide the essential human touch necessary for optimal healing. I’ve seen nurses’ education funded through philanthropy—these same folks return to their practice with advanced training to serve the community and strengthen our workforce. I’ve seen the significant impact of investment in medical education and research for the next generation of excellence—from endowing positions that draw elite personnel to this region to clinical trials offering unique care and life saving interventions. A giving culture is created and fostered in an environment like our philanthropy department. This transforms health care within our system, enabling both patients and employees to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.” –Lindsey, MASL, BSN, RN, VP, La Crosse, Wisconsin 

Involving nurses in philanthropy is a powerful way to harness their passion, expertise and commitment to providing excellent, compassionate care. By acknowledging the significance of nurse participation, adhering to your organization’s nursing shared governance procedures, fostering relationships, clarifying philanthropic priorities and tailoring recognition and celebration opportunities for nurses, organizations can advance transformative philanthropy programs and create positive change in the health care community.

Accordant Perspectives_Partnering with Nurses
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About the Authors:

Heather Wiley Starankovic, CFRE, CAP, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant. She remains inspired by all things within health care philanthropy, with a special dedication to supporting and recognizing staff members along with the desire to create programs that keep talented and dedicated servant leaders within the field. You can reach Heather by email at or by connecting through LinkedIn.

Erin Stitzel, FAHP is a Principal Consultant for Accordant and a leader in buiding robust clinician partnerships to advance philanthropy. You can reach her through email 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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