For better philanthropy returns, invest in fundraising staff

To establish successful philanthropy programs and sustain them long-term, nonprofit hospitals and health providers must create a culture committed to it, according to two new studies from the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AAHP).

For the first study, AAHP researchers surveyed 335 hospitals and medical centers, 45 of which kept detailed records on fundraising revenues and expenses between 2007 and 2012. Twelve of these organizations raised an average of $10.8 million even in 2008 and 2009, the worst years of the recession. These institutions made significant investments in their fundraising wings, spending an average of $907,000 on fundraising department salaries and other expenses. The other 33 health providers, meanwhile, spent an average of only $291,000 on fundraising, according to the report.

The high performers tended to invest specifically in fundraising staff and kept staff turnover low. On average, they had 15 fundraising staff members, compared to only six for lower-performing hospitals. The high performers also had, on average, 13 staffers dedicated to administrative tasks, such as keeping in touch with donors. 

Organizations that take the time to give donors individual attention and inform them about how their money was spent is also a "leading priority" among high performers, according to the researchers. "This is commonly the area where many organizations drop the ball due to staff shortages and a one-dimensional focus on securing larger gifts," they wrote in the second report.

"Gone are the days of heavy investment in annual funds and special events as the cornerstones of development operations," the researchers wrote in the first report. "More sophisticated organizations rely on a mix of programs with heavy investment in major gifts and grants raised through individuals, their estates, government funding, and corporation/foundation grants."

Online philanthropy in particular is a growing field, especially for medical expenses, with GiveForward, a medical philanthropy fundraising site, helping patients raise more than $20 million last year, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.  

To learn more:
- here's the first report (registration required)
- here's the second report (registration required)