HomeTopicsPatient CareBuilding a culture of philanthropy – one person at a time

Building a culture of philanthropy – one person at a time

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By Suzette Strong

An exceptional patient experience is where it all begins.  A patient receives great care and they often want to find a way to give back to the hospital.  When a patient has an incredible experience and asks their caregiver how to say thanks, that caregiver should know how to properly direct that patient to the foundation and discuss the critical impact that donations have on the hospital. This is just one way that a hospital can exude a strong culture of philanthropy.

That is of course the ideal scenario.  But in a hospital where staff work in a 24/7 environment with numerous demands, philanthropy and the role that staff and physicians play in it – isn’t always top of mind.

Creating a culture of philanthropy is essential to fulfilling the fundraising requirements necessary to support all the hospital’s vital equipment needs. Employees, volunteers, and members of the public need to understand that the government doesn’t fund all these priority needs. This is a common misconception that can often deter potential donors from understanding the needs and importance of giving.

Building a thriving culture of philanthropy is all about developing a relationship between the hospital and foundation that is rooted in trust and mutual respect. A synergistic relationship between the two organizations must be valued and understood—ultimately fundraising should be viewed as a core shared responsibility. The hospital needs to understand the importance of actively participating in the delivery of the foundation’s mission of raising funds and awareness for the hospital. This culture shift is essential in raising the funds needed to support a hospital.

At Markham Stouffville Hospital we have instilled a strong culture of philanthropy within our walls and are continuously finding ways to grow that culture. From the moment a staff member begins working at MSH they are introduced to the foundation. In November 2015, senior staff members from the foundation began presenting at each new hospital staff orientation. This is an opportunity to start off each new hire with an appreciation of philanthropy and the role they play in supporting it at the hospital.

Sharing information about the foundation and the benefits of giving with new hires is just the first piece.  If we want our staff to not only give back by supporting the foundation, but also become ambassadors and share our information with their patients – we have to develop an ongoing relationship.

Through posters and presence on the units, to participating in staff recognition events – the foundation team is highly integrated into the work of the hospital and is able to consistently deliver our messages.

By integrating marketing and communications functions within the hospital and foundation, a unified approach to the development of this philanthropic culture emerges. This stems from a strong commitment from both hospital and foundation CEOs to work jointly on communications as it supports the overall brand of the hospital.

This leads to frequent meetings between hospital public relations and foundation marketing teams as well as the creation of a joint marketing and communications strategy.  The collaboration helps to ensure that internal and external initiatives to promote the culture of philanthropy are consistent and top of mind.

Working in partnership with the hospital leadership and operations, the MSH Foundation continues to build engagement among physicians to encourage their role as hospital advocates and donors. Awareness throughout the organization must begin with senior staff leading by example, acting as champions, identifying potential donors, and providing their own financial support.

Physicians play a key role in a culture of philanthropy and in translating great patient experiences into potential donations.  Physicians are leaders within the hospital and within the community.  Their support of our hospital speaks volumes to our patients and our staff.  A physician who actively supports the foundation is much more likely to share information with patients and community members and be able to speak comfortably about the need for donations and support.  Developing and maintaining a relationship with physicians is critical.  At MSH, it started with developing one-on-one relationships with each of the Chiefs and then working with the physicians in each department.  In some cases, the Chief took on a leadership role within their department to encourage participation.  Many physicians take great pride in the ability to say that all doctors within their department support the foundation.  And that pride translates into action – from being a donor to being an ambassador.  Our physicians have stepped up and participated in advertising campaigns and attended fundraising events – all because they felt invested in the success of the foundation.  In one instance, our physicians demonstrated their commitment by donating one million dollars towards our Expansion Campaign that ran from 2008-2014.

The planning and development of the new building at MSH was another prime example of hospital and foundation collaboration.  Both entities acknowledged the importance of creating a customized space to recognize donors. The foundation was heavily involved in the design process which led to the prominent display of our donor wall featured in the main lobby of the hospital.  Having a collective, donor-centred philosophy that honours and recognizes our supporters is essential. This shows our donors how much we care and helps us to maintain a loyal donor base in our community.

In the end, all of our caregivers need to be fundraisers—we can’t do it without them. We can’t do it without our staff setting the stage as influencers within the organization. It comes full circle—caregivers work hard to provide great service, patients then choose to give back; donated funds are used to purchase critical equipment and support life-saving programs, ultimately enhancing the patient journey. A unified fundraising approach benefits the patient experience and the ability for caregivers to provide excellent care.

Suzette Strong is the CEO of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation.



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