Key takeaways in this post:

  • Understanding why people donate and why they should donate to your organization is the first step in creating successful content for fundraising communications and campaigns.
  • Recognize that building relationships takes time and numerous touches before donors typically donate.
  • Make sure your fundraising communications are authentic and genuine so you can better connect with donors
  • Use technology to make donors’ experience donating as simple as possible.
  • Showing gratitude to donors is very important and there’s numerous ways to share your appreciation.

Chronic underfunding by state and federal agencies has left many health systems in precarious financial positions. Rural hospitals – especially in states that have not expanded Medicaid – are particularly hard hit. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, policymakers have ongoing concerns about the financial health of rural hospitals and the implications for access to care and the local economy.

Private donations increasingly help hospitals invest in cutting-edge equipment, clinical research and programs to improve the health of their communities. Moreover, many organizations use transformational gifts ($1M+) to recruit and retain star physicians and investigators.

That’s why many healthcare institutions are building teams of fundraising professionals to solicit gifts from grateful patients, foundations and venture capitalists. But to succeed, fundraisers must also work early and often with your organization’s marketing team.

As a healthcare marketer, you may not know the best way to reach this critical audience. But here at WG Content, we specialize in building relationships with different audiences one word at a time. You can too.

Creating compelling fundraising communications — pieces that engage, inspire and move people to action — will fuel lasting connections with donors.
Here are a few tips to consider when working with your organization’s fundraising team.

To determine the best strategy to reach prospective donors, answer these questions:

  • Why should someone support your organization?
  • Why now? Why should they give today?
  • Why should they care about your work?

The answers to these questions will become key messaging points you’ll circle back to as you create pieces.

Why do people give back? Fundraisers have intimate knowledge of what motivates individuals to support a healthcare institution. But there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The best way to target your audiences is through storytelling. So when writing for one of these groups, remember these things:

  • Grateful patients and their families want to give back to an institution that has helped them or someone close to them. Giving back is powerful — it’s part of their healing process. Stories that recognize their caregivers or show the impact of giving on patients resonate with this group.
  • Millennials and Generation Z are fueled by a desire to improve their communities. They want their gifts to make a difference. And they want to know about the vision and mission of an institution they support. Share stories that focus on your organization’s impact on the health of the community you serve.
  • Healthcare venture capitalists invest significant sums into research or drug discovery with the potential to spin off into biotechnology companies. Due to legal requirements, most fundraising offices have separate teams who work with corporations and investors.

To reach this group, share stories highlighting your organization’s reputation, successful track record and reputation among their peers.

Here’s a fundraising maxim: It can take seven to 12 “touches” before a donor decides to make a gift to your organization. These touches extend across the life of your relationship with the donor.

You’ll want all your fundraising communications to have authentic language and consistent messaging. These communications can take many forms, including:

  • Direct mail
  • Emails
  • Events
  • Gift acknowledgment letters
  • Media coverage
  • Newsletters (print and digital)
  • Social media posts
  • Stewardship reports
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Websites

Work with your fundraising team to identify donor paths — a set of touches designed to engage prospective donors and leave them wanting to learn more.

Keep in mind that people give to people, not to faceless organizations. So let your frontline caregivers, investigators, patients, donors and volunteers speak for your institution.

Start small. Perhaps it’s an email newsletter with stories showcasing how philanthropy impacts your institution. Or maybe it’s a letter from a doctor eager to share their research with former patients.

Over time, these initial contacts can be followed up with a solicitation letter or email to encourage smaller, first-time gifts, which your team can grow over the years with the right stewardship.

And don’t forget to amplify these stories across social media and your website. You never know who might be looking.

Consumers today are electronically savvy. They recognize good customer service on sites like Amazon and expect that same convenience from other sites.
Streamline your donor’s electronic journey with these steps:

  • Optimize your website for search and mobile. According to Exploding Topics, over 60% of website traffic comes from mobile devices. When designing your website, ensure a pleasant experience for everyone.
  • Build online giving forms that are simple and safe to use. Capturing as much information as possible about a new donor is tempting. But we’ve all jumped off a site that made it too hard to buy something. Streamline your giving forms and make sure they work on mobile.
  • Let people opt-in to the communications they want. If a donor receives too many emails or letters from an institution, they will opt out of all Instead, let donors choose what information they want to receive. You will learn about a donor’s possible philanthropic interests this way.
  • Measure your ROI. Always use source or appeal codes to measure the effectiveness of your fundraising pieces. How much money did it raise? How much did it cost in time and budget? It takes time to know if your strategy is working. But be prepared to pivot to new messaging or communications channels if necessary.

Tip 4: Show gratitude

You can never say thank you enough.

The key to any gift acknowledgment letter or stewardship report is authenticity. Avoid language that says a gift will make your organization great or “the best.” Instead, speak directly to your donors’ motivations and showcase what their gifts make possible for the greater good.

Here are a few ways to express gratitude and build stronger bonds with donors.

  • Short thank-you letters can be a frequent and welcome touch.
  • Plan special events that bring donors together with caregivers, researchers and other grateful patients. Look for the most engaging speakers and brief your leadership so they know who will be in the room.
  • Personalized reports can showcase the full impact of a donor’s gift. These reports can be a paper keepsake or a private page on a website.
  • Some institutions also use short thank-you videos from frontline caregivers, investigators, medical and nursing students and patients. Longer videos (but no more than 4 minutes) may also be appropriate, depending on the gift size.

Ready to create fundraising communications and campaigns that get results? WG Content can help. We can craft content for websites, newsletters, videos, emails and stewardship reports to engage and inspire individuals to support your institution. Contact us to get started today.

Editor’s note: This post was last updated on March 29, 2024. It was originally published in April 2023.

Follow up questions on fundraising communications:

There’s a fine line between building a relationship with donors and overwhelming them. Studies suggest that once a month, or every 30 days, is a great cycle to follow.

A crucial part of fundraising is of course, finding new donors. A couple of ways to find new donors is to leverage your existing base of donors and research of similar organizations. Lastly, reach out to one-time or past donors who you haven’t connected with in a while.

Understanding your audience and what value or benefits donating to your organization can bring them. It can also help to share content that allows them to build an emotional connection with, which can be done through successful storytelling.

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