The new year is here, providing a great time to reflect on last year’s milestones and consider opportunities in 2023. As we look to the future, one thing is absolutely certain…philanthropy’s role in helping health care organizations provide essential services and programs to the community is only going to increase. Hospitals continue to face unprecedented financial challenges and uncertainty. Philanthropy leaders must rise to these challenges. We must embrace every opportunity to strengthen partnerships with internal and external allies who can join us in sharing stories of why philanthropy is necessary to help sustain and strategically grow the health care organization’s vital mission.
Partnering with physicians, nurses and other clinicians has long been a high priority strategy for health care organizations to advance philanthropy. These partnerships are necessary to help us champion philanthropy, share our organization’s mission and vision and connect us with prospective grateful patient and family prospects. As we enter the new year, here are three questions to help evaluate the current state of your clinician partner relationships and to identify opportunities to strengthen these critical partnerships in the coming year:
1. Are we viewing our clinician partners as true partners or merely referral sources?
The definition of an ally indicates that, “…in the alliance, both parties stand to benefit from the bond or connection they share.”1 Few things in health care philanthropy are more valuable than being introduced by a clinician partner to a grateful patient or family member who expressed gratitude and willingness to be introduced to the philanthropy officer. Yet, in the quest to build relationships with clinician partners to encourage these introductions, we must ensure we are exploring with our clinician partners what they value in the partnership and ultimately how they can benefit from working with us. Simply focusing on referrals makes the relationship one-sided, which is the fastest way to ensure that our clinician partners will lose interest. There are so many valuable and meaningful ways that clinician partners can work with philanthropy to help strengthen our organization’s ability to successfully identify, cultivate, solicit and steward donors. The opportunity to do this is lost when obtaining referrals is the sole focus.
2. Are we putting the same energy into building relationships with our clinician partners as our major donors?
Navigating hospitals and patient care settings became impossible at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and still remains challenging in many settings. This, coupled with the fact that many clinical department meetings remain virtual, has made the opportunity to interact with and build relationships with clinician partners challenging. Despite these challenges, the importance of building strong, mutually beneficial, trusting relationships with clinician partners has never been more important. Clinician partners should be given the same time, attention and communication as your most important major donors. Figuring out how to best communicate with and ultimately meet them where they are to log valuable face time is a must…whether in person or through a virtual platform. It is also valuable to build relationships with the teams of caregivers who support our clinician partners including office staff, inpatient nursing units, therapists or advanced practice providers. Developing relationships with these types of providers means taking the time to regularly visit physician offices, inpatient nursing units and other clinical departments. Try to schedule time to visit strategic patient care areas at least once a week to build these relationships.
3. Are we working with our clinician partners to determine their True North like we do with our major donors?
Accordant Principal Consultant Heather Wiley Starankovic writes, “When you start donor engagement with a True North conversation, the outcome may not end where you anticipate it ending; but it will be the realization of the donor’s philanthropic goal.” Nothing is more rewarding than working closely with a donor to uncover their true passions and help pave the way for them to channel that passion through philanthropy. What if we could do the same with our clinician partners? What if we had the True North conversation with our clinician partners to help them uncover their passions for how they can use their time and talents to help advance philanthropy? The results of learning the clinician’s passions and working together to realize the clinician’s goals would be equally rewarding as it is when doing this with donors.
It’s a new year. It’s time to prove that philanthropy will indeed play a role not only as a revenue source but also as a means to achieve mission fulfillment. The best place to start is through our physicians and clinicians. Let’s do this.
About the Author: Erin Stitzel, FAHP, is a Principal Consultant for Accordant and passionate advocate for building robust clinician partnerships to advance philanthropy. You can reach her through email at Erin@AccordantHealth.com or through LinkedIn.