Early in my development career, one of my hospital clients introduced me to the term “Grateful Patient Campaign.” The idea being that former hospital patients would be so grateful for the care they received, they would be willing to make a contribution to the hospital.
Outside of development circles, most people would describe the relationship between a patient and his healthcare provider as transactional. The patient, or her insurance company, pays for the services provided by the hospital. Wise development professionals realized that turning the transactional relationship into a philanthropic one would require a strong measure of gratitude on the part of the patient. So, assumptively, the idea of the “Grateful Patient Campaign” came into being.
Beyond the healthcare environment, other nonprofit organizations are also involved in “Grateful Whatever Campaigns,” though by other names. They are attempting to take a transactional relationship and turn it into a philanthropic one.
Consider colleges and universities. Students, or their parents, pay a school in exchange for an education. Colleges may call a fundraising effort an “Annual Fund” but, really, it’s a “Grateful Alumni Campaign.”
The local animal shelter that charges adopters a fee for spaying/neutering and vaccines in exchange for a new pet runs a “Grateful Adopter Campaign.”
An art museum that charges a fee in exchange for admission to the exhibits runs a “Grateful Visitor Campaign.”
So, what is the most important part of any “Grateful Whatever Campaign”? It’s the Whatevers! Fill in the blank. It’s Patients, Alumni, Adopters, Visitors, etc. It’s obvious, right? Then, why do so many nonprofit organizations do such a mediocre, or even horrible, job providing service and then wonder why they have trouble attracting support?
As a development professional, you have an obligation to help make certain that your organization is providing outstanding service. I’m not just talking about the service provided by your development office. I’m talking about your organization’s core services.
While the direct service providers at your organization might be annoyed when you stick your nose into what they see as their domain, you nevertheless have a duty to do so for two important reasons:
- Stewardship is an essential part of the development process. It is your responsibility to ensure that donors’ money is used, as intended by donors, to further the mission of the organization. Making sure your organization provides great service in the pursuit of its mission is simply good stewardship.
- New donor acquisition is essential to any development program. You will have a tough time acquiring new donors tomorrow without happy service recipients today. Even when seeking support from third-party sources, your case will be strengthened if you can demonstrate the satisfaction of your service recipients.
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