Electronic Media and Donor Recognition: Is Anyone Using it?

July 28th, 2009

It’s a very competitive philanthropic marketplace these days for community hospitals. I was reminded of this last week while at the Georgia Association of Development Professionals’ conference (GADP), a segment of the Georgia Hospital Association.  Most of their members are located in small communities and represent the primary health provider for their county or region. I live in Atlanta. Fundraising events and success here in this city are now daily news items. We are home to 100s of non-profits and maybe more Foundations. Not so, currently, in the rest of the state. In those small communities, medical center fundraisers face tremendous challenges even when the economy is more stable than it is today. CEOs enjoy the income that their Foundations provide, yet they often offer little in the way of day-to-day support or, in many cases, any real understanding of the CEO’s role in acquiring and stewarding donors. Many of these organizations are considered “small shops” and the titles bestowed on  many of the chief fundraisers by the CEO and/or Boards, i.e. Development Officer, Development Coordinator, and the like, are less than confidence-building and may be counter-productive, as they strive to solicit corporate CEOs, Marketing VPs, major Foundations and major donors. I wonder if they know that.

It’s a very competitive philanthropic marketplace these days for community…. medical center fundraisers face tremendous challenges…

If I were to be brutally honest, I also wonder if many of the smaller organizations remain small because their leadership  bought into a “scarcity point of view”,  i.e. the glass is always half empty. It happens in industry, I know, and if they have done so, the danger is that their constituents may well believe it now too.

Last week’s roundtable on the “Implications of Digital Media on Donor Recognition and Stewardship” roused little interest at that GADP meeting and even less proactive participation. With few exceptions, nods of interest in the need to know more about social networking represented the most interaction that evolved in that 45 minutes together. Also, the feelings of being overwhelmed with the business of just meeting current obligations were expressed by many. I was struck by the fact that those beliefs seemed to obscure their vision and lessen their enthusiasm for the challenge of taking on something new.

Although Dean Richardson of AVID DESIGN attended the discussions and added references like  “The big 3 excuses hospitals use to nix social media plans“:

  1. “I’m afraid of social media”
  2. “We don’t have time”
  3. “I don’t know what to talk about”

It was hard to gage the attendees’ response. I am unsure whether the chance to discuss these topics helped them or not.

At the end of our time together, I gave them recent examples of data we had authored here on electronic media and donor recognition and stewardship for their further consideration: “Critical Considerations for New Donor Media” and “Deciding Factors in Selecting the Technology for Electronic Donor Recognition Displays”.

Lastly for you, dear reader, scroll down and find another of our articles on “Social Networking for Healthcare Philanthropy”. Share with us your experiences with electronic media and its influence on donor stewardship, gift acquisition, and/or using it to build an awareness of your philanthropic brand.  Let us learn from you, too.

Written by Robin E. Williams

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