Grant Proposal Submitted, Now What?

 fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, nonprofit proposal, proposal writing, foundations, Saad&ShawYou’ve written the perfect proposal. You submitted it on time. Perhaps you carefully reviewed the guidelines and found that your organization is a perfect match for what the foundation is seeking to achieve through its grantmaking. Or maybe a program officer reached out and personally asked your organization to submit. Maybe your nonprofit or university has received consistent funding over the years, and you have submitted your annual request – on time, of course. But you haven’t heard a word.

You should have heard by now. The proposal guidelines gave a date for when funding decisions would be announced. That date is now in the past. Days have passed. Weeks. A month. Ninety days. What do you do?

You could send a follow up email, or place a call inquiring on the status of your proposal. That’s a straight-forward and appropriate action. Let’s say you do, and you learn “the board meeting has been pushed back” or “we haven’t made a decision yet.” Now what do you do?

Here’s our suggestion: keep fundraising. Act as if you still have to meet your fundraising goal, even if you feel your proposal is a “sure thing” or a “slam dunk.”

For each gift or grant you are pursuing, have a “Plan B” and a “Plan C.” Here’s what we mean: if your nonprofit has submitted a grant to a foundation for $50,000 make sure you submit other proposals to other foundations or individuals in amounts that are equal to or greater than $50,000. And, don’t count each gift as if it would be received – use a 3:1 or 5:1 ratio of submitted proposals to funded proposals. Colloquially we call this “hedging your bets.” In fundraising terms we refer to this as “making sure you meet goal.” Aggressively work on alternative prospects who could give gifts or make grants equal to or greater than the gift or grant you are “waiting on.” Don’t put all your eggs in that one basket.

There is no way that every proposal you submit will result in a grant. Even if you’ve been given all the signals that “things are moving ahead.” Count only those gifts you can take to the bank.

While you can’t count money you don’t have, you can make sure you are ready to implement your proposal when the funds are received. Have you identified the personnel you need? Do you have an evaluation process in place? Has your team created a detailed project work plan to guide their activities and ensure that project goals are met on time?

Here’s the position you want to avoid: sharing with the board that you were unable to meet the organization’s fundraising goal because a certain grant “did not come through.” Hedge your bets, be aggressive, meet goal.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Your fantasy fundraiser

Tired of hearing about fundraising challenges? Maybe it’s time to hire your fantasy fundraiser!

Fantasy fundraiser Saad&ShawThe work of your nonprofit is critically important. You’re helping young people choose the right path in life. You are challenging new forms of discrimination and civil rights violations. The teenagers enrolled in your math and science program are the engineers of tomorrow. Our seniors are protected from fraud and abuse thanks to your organization. And disaster relief is provided around the globe because of volunteers here in the United States.

Your nonprofit’s mission and vision are the drivers for important work. Volunteer efforts play a critical role. Yet, many times your work requires cold hard cash. Why doesn’t the money just show up? And, why, if you hire a fundraiser – or a fundraising team – can’t they meet the ever increasing fundraising goal?

Tired of reality? Let’s play fantasy fundraising! It’s easy and fun. You can hire anyone you want to do anything you want for your nonprofit. The sky’s the limit. Do you need a fundraising professional who can produce the most unique and exciting event ever heard of? One who can also market value-rich sponsorship packages and sell out the event? Write that down.

What about a professional who can build a social media presence and sustain an engaged following for your university or college? Someone who interacts with your young alumni, keeps them up to date, creates fun and competitive giving opportunities and – at the end of the year – shows you a documented increase in alumni giving. Write that down.

Maybe your fantasy is a fundraising professional who is a well connected multi-tasker. She knows everybody. Young professionals and highly placed executives admire her and want to be in her presence. She is a wiz at technology and in just two weeks identifies the right software to run your fundraising back office, tests its reporting functions, migrates existing data, finds those old spreadsheets and enters all the data into the new system. She also finds that stack of business cards, knows everyone personally, places a call to each, records their interests and sends each a copy of your most recent newsletter. At lunch she secures two $50,000 gifts. You love her!

We all have fundraising dreams. We want the money to show up so we can focus on the important work of the organizations and institutions we believe in. It’s understandable. Fundraising is hard work. It requires planning and the right team of professionals and volunteers. And, it can be undermined by fundraising fantasies.

Fantasy thinking can keep us focused on wishes instead of plans. The difference is this: wishes come true magically; plans require involvement, creativity and consistency.

Take the time to dream big and then take the time to plan. Your dreams can come true.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to Create Your Fantasy Celebrity Board

If you could have any five celebrities on your nonprofit board, who would you pick?

Celebrity board membersVisualize yourself as chair of the board of a nonprofit you believe in. Maybe it’s a university, an early childhood education center, a food bank, international research institute, or performing arts company. You pick the nonprofit – and the board members!

Focus first on your vision: as board chair, what do you want the organization or institution to accomplish under your leadership? Be specific. Do you want to ensure all first year college students graduate in less than five years with less than $12,000 in student loan debt? As an early childhood education program, are you seeking to enroll 97% of children under five years of age within a two mile radius? Do you need to fully automate the warehouse for the regional food bank? Maybe you want your research institute to bring two new drugs to clinical trial. As a performing arts company, do you seek to increase the number and quality of performances? You determine your vision, and then pick your board.

Make a quick list.

Does it include Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, George Lucas and Melissa Harris Perry? Are Sean Hannity, Whoopi Goldberg, or Mark Zuckerberg on your list? What about Kim Kardashian, Lorretta Lynch, John McCain, and Jon Stewart? Or maybe you are thinking of Serena Williams, Beyonce, Joel Osteen, Ellen DeGeneres and Michelle Obama. You have a universe of celebrities to pick from!

Review your list with an eye to the qualities “your” celebrities possess. Look beyond the obvious “rich and famous.” In fact, don’t consider wealth and fame. Think about what attracts you to each celebrity. Is it their creativity, persistence, sense of justice, risk taking?

Remember to focus on your vision. Which celebrities possess the qualities, experience and connections that can bring your vision to life? Are they accessible? Committed to a personal or public vision that dovetails with yours? Are they passionate about it? Do they have access to people who can bring your vision to life? Do they follow through on their promises? Are they willing to be an advocate? Can they move beyond their “celebrity” to let a cause be the focus? Are they respected? Do they have political connections, influence, a proven track record – are they involved with other nonprofits?

Once you have your top five it’s time to determine how to approach each. Remember, this is your fantasy board – there are no barriers standing in your way. So, what will you say? How will you make your case? What do you want your celebrities to actually do as board members?

Now, back to reality: can you think of people in your community who can help you bring your vision to life? Who will you pursue and why? The choice is yours.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

The Seven Roles of a Winning Fundraising Team

fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, basketball, fundraising teams, fundraising strategy, Saad&ShawIt’s that time of year – basketball every night! The games get better and better. Fans are loyal, excited and stressed. People on the east coast stay up way too late. Everyone is wearing their team’s logo. The playoffs are on! If you’re a fundraising fanatic you are inspired as you imagine your fundraising team performing with the precision of your favorite basketball team.

In the NBA the coach develops a game plan. In fundraising, it’s the fundraising plan, strategic plan, business plan – or a combination of these – that serve as the game plan.

Read: How to Have a Winning NBA [Fundraising] Team

Before each crucial game NBA coaches scout their opponent. In fundraising, you prepare by researching potential donors. What are their interests and philanthropic priorities? Their current – or prior! – relationship to your organization? Don’t take your team onto the court unprepared!

Good coaching is key to both the NBA and fundraising. Basketball teams have a head coach: in fundraising coaching can come from consultants or the chief development person.

Great teams have loyal fan bases who are with them whether they are up or down. These fans believe in the team, their talents, resources and ability to prevail. With fundraising, there is a constituency that believes in your case. They feel you have all the elements to succeed, or that you are getting there. As in basketball, good fundraising teams feed off the energy. The community gives to your campaign, introduces new donors and encourages you to be successful.

Basketball teams reward their fans with fan appreciation gifts and events. You need to do the same. It’s called stewardship.

Good teams practice, practice and practice. Good fundraising programs are always educating, training, and orienting their leadership, staff and volunteers. They consistently communicate, sharing an easy-to-understand message and clear examples of impact. They don’t take anything for granted.

Basketball teams are big on stats: the number of points, how they compare with the competition or prior years. Same in fundraising. It’s time to get big on data: use it to compare your activities and results. Review it closely, make adjustments to your strategies and tactics and increase the odds of meeting your goal.

Let’s talk about recruiting. NBA teams have scouts out on grade school courts – or so it seems. What about your organization? What is your recruiting strategy? Where will your talent come from? You need more than one superstar: you need a winning team. How are you cultivating your next fundraising hires, your new board members and advisors?  And don’t stop at scouting: winning teams keep their top talent. You know what that means: time to invest in building and reinforcing your current talent and helping them to be the best they can.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to Have a Winning NBA [Fundraising] Team

NBA and Fundraising Recent columns have focused on questions for employers to ask prospective fundraising employees, and questions for interviewees to ask their interviewers. Our goal: to help all parties understand the critical role of fundraising professionals and what it takes for them to be successful. As a nonprofit executive – or as the person in charge of fundraising for an organization – you need to know what to look for in a candidate when hiring. And, as a fundraising professional you have to know how to ask questions that will reveal whether or not you are joining a fundraising team or if you will be expected to be a miracle worker.

A number of readers reached out to us in past weeks, sharing reactions to these columns along with true confessions. We heard from a development director looking for work because the new executive director doesn’t know fundraising and doesn’t know strategic planning. Another confessed he really hadn’t given his all in his prior position: he never felt a part of the team. Through our work we have heard a common plea from executive directors and board members who talk with us about their staff, asking in exasperation “why don’t they just raise the money?”

Given that it’s NBA playoff season we offer the analogy of basketball. Consider these comparisons.

Great basketball players go beyond scores and defense and are known for how well they elevate the play of their fellow team mates. Think of superstars such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson. The list is long.  Point guards such as the Warrior’s Steph Curry, the Clipper’s Chris Paul and the Spur’s Tony Parker make sure the strengths of each player are brought to the game.

In fundraising it’s the same. Sure there are superstar vice presidents and development directors who exceed fundraising goals year over year. But are they leading a fundraising team? Some are, but some hog the ball, becoming a one person team. These fundraisers don’t take the time to invest in their team members. Think about it: do all members of your team have a chance to play, or are some left consistently sitting on the bench? And, what happens when your top people leave?

A fundraising superstar engages the key players. As the chief fundraising officer he or she is the “play maker,” setting things in motion. He or she takes the time to learn the strengths of team members and figure out how to best deploy these. Fundraising team members include the chief executive or president, board chair, development chair, chief operating officer, chief finance officer, the data management and administrative team, researchers, and proposal writers. All these individuals need to be in motion, working the game plan.

More next week.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Five Compelling Questions to Ask When Interviewing for a Fundraising Job

Job Application, New Hires, Questions to Ask during an interviewYou’ve been selected to interview for a fundraising position. You’ve read the job description; researched the organization online; you’ve even talked with people who have been involved with the nonprofit over the years. You feel it inside: “this could be my dream job.” Yes, it could. But, it could also be a nightmare.

Read Part One: Five Thought Provoking Questions to Ask a Potential New Hire

Careful interview preparation can help inform your career path and save you some frustration. Listen to your heart, but take the time to develop and ask a few specific questions. This is your opportunity to find out whether or not you will be able to be succeed in the position you are interviewing for. Reflect on past experiences – what made your positions exciting and which made going to work a drudgery. Develop a few questions that you believe will uncover the information you need to make an informed decision.

Here are five to consider.

  1. How is fundraising success measured within this organization? How do you intend to evaluate my work? Beyond meeting the fundraising goal, what are the factors that determine success or failure? If the interviewer doesn’t know these, it may be hard for you to “meet the mark.”
  2. What resources will the organization provide to ensure my success? For example, what percentage of time does the executive director allocate to fundraising on a regular basis? How are board members involved in fundraising, beyond oversight and policy approval? Will I be allowed to contact board members directly? No matter how talented you are you already know that you cannot succeed without leadership’s full engagement.
  3. Is the organization working from a fundraising plan? If selected for a second interview, can arrangements be made for me to review the plan before that interview? Is your current fundraising volunteer led or is it staff led? Again, if the interviewer doesn’t know that should be a red flag.
  4. Did the organization meet its annual fundraising goal last year? Were there any “extraordinary” gifts that impacted the final numbers? Related questions can include: what was the annual goal? Was it meaningfully larger or smaller than the prior year? Was the annual goal met in the prior year? How is the annual goal determined, and by whom? These questions will reveal the extent to which the interviewer knows and understands fundraising.
  5. Please share with me the specific fundraising skills and experience you expect from the person you hire. Answers to this question can quickly reveal if your experience is a fit.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are reporting to someone who doesn’t know fundraising it may be a challenge for you to be successful. It’s better to know before you start a new position.

Additional reading on  career success as a fundraising professional: 

5 Things to Consider Before Accepting a Fundraising Position

How to Keep a Fundraising Job

Fundraising Fables: Retaining Fund Development Professionals  

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Nonprofit Fundraising Professional

How to Hire a Fundraiser

Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Five Thought Provoking Questions to Ask a Potential New Hire

fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, fundraising jobs, how to hire a fundraiser, interview questions, Saad&ShawNeed a magic cure for nonprofit fundraising blues? Hire fundraising staff. That’s it. Problem solved. Time to get back to what we were focusing on before we “got sidetracked” into all this fundraising. Ah…. if only that were the case.

If you have funds to hire staff how will you know you are hiring the right person? How will you evaluate this person? Will you know how to manage and coach your new hire? Will you depend on their progress reports to know whether or not they are “doing their job?”

We raise these questions because we have found many organizations seek to build a fundraising program or increase their fundraising by making a new hire. That can be the right solution, but there are other prerequisites that need to be in place for a fundraising professional to be successful. Alas, making a hire is not the silver bullet!

Earlier columns address things to consider when hiring. You can find links at the bottom of this post. In this column we offer five questions to ask during the interview process. A candidate’s responses can provide insights to help you determine who is best qualified to help you meet your fundraising goals.

  1. How do you feel about asking for money? This is really at the core of fundraising. Feelings about money – and people who have money – color many people’s consciousness and can interfere with fundraising. At a basic level being afraid to ask for a gift means a fundraising professional may hesitate when soliciting. Confusing one’s own economic conditions with those who have more can cloud a solicitation with an unconscious attitude of “they have enough, they should just give us some.”
  2. Share with me a professional or volunteer project you started and developed into something meaningful that you are proud of. Please share the challenges you faced, the solutions you proposed, and lessons learned.
  3. How do you want to be evaluated at the end of your first year working with our organization? Answers to this question can provide insights into what is important to a candidate, and how they evaluate their work.
  4. What resources and support do you believe you would need to succeed in this position? Learning a candidate’s expectations can help you prepare to bring him into your organization. You may also learn that you need to be better prepared to work with a professional, or that he has expectations you may not be able to meet.
  5. How would prepare for this position? This lets candidates know you expect them to prepare: success in a new position is a two-way street. How a person prepares for a new job may also reveal how they prepare for a solicitation or new campaign.

Additional reading on hiring fundraising professionals:

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Nonprofit Fundraising Professional

How to Hire a Fundraiser

Fundraising Fables: Retaining Fund Development Professionals  

To Hire or Plan? Which come first

Next week: Five questions for job candidates to ask!

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

The Effect of a Butterfly Gift

Butterfly Effect, Saad and Shaw, Paying It Forward, Random Acts of KindnessThis is what we’ve heard – when a butterfly flaps its wings it can start a hurricane on the other side of the world. The idea being that a tiny movement can initiate unanticipated activities. We hope you will join us in a burgeoning butterfly movement of unintended positive consequences.

Here’s the back story. We were watching the show CBS Sunday Morning when we saw a segment of Chris Rosati of Durham North Carolina. He is living with ALS and chose – on a whim – to give two girls at a restaurant $50 each. He asked them to each do something kind for someone else. It was a no-strings gift to girls he might not ever see again. The girls gave the money to a village in Sierra Leone where they knew villagers were fighting ebola. And, they shared their experience with Rosati, who had never thought he would hear from them. He was so delighted he has announced plans to give out butterfly grants – $50 each – to kids who want to change the world.

Needless to say we were moved. We have vowed to be butterfly agents! That means giving people we know and love a gift that is equal to or greater than the amount we would have spent on a gift, and asking them to do something good for someone else. It will cut down on the challenges of trying to find the perfect gift. More seriously we want to be part of this new “butterfly movement.”

And, we want you to consider being a butterfly! You may never know what you set in motion, but we feel it will be something good. Here’s our plan: first birthday on our calendar is our nine year old niece. We will give her the gift money, ask her to do something nice for someone else, and ask her to let us know what she did. She may tell us, she may not.

Our goal is for her to contemplate “who can I help?” We look forward to learning her. Our hope is that the adults we touch with this type of gift – and the ones you touch – will also have a child-like moment of stopping and pondering, “what can I do for someone else?”

It’s an intriguing proposition. The money is suddenly in your hands. You don’t have to decide how much to give, just who to give to. It’s different from being asked to make a gift to a nonprofit – though that’s a good choice. And of course there’s the chance that once receiving such a gift you – or your friends – will choose to give others such a butterfly gift.

View the Chris Rosati video online at ButterFly Gift.

Image courtesy of akeeris at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to Transform Fundraising Challenges to Success

CEO Dr Coopwood, co-chair Susan Arney, Tammie Ritchey, co-chair Sally Pace, Regional One Health Foundation

CEO Dr Coopwood, co-chair Susan Arney, Tammie Ritchey, co-chair Sally Pace, Regional One Health Foundation

Challenging finances and what feels like an onslaught of “bad press” can be part of the nonprofit experience. Addressing these is what leadership is all about. Keep an eye to the future, talk with your donors and stakeholders, and find a game-changing way to engage the community. This is the story of Regional One Health and its foundation.

Tammie Ritchey, Vice President of Development and Executive Director of Regional One Health Foundation in Memphis Tennessee knows what it’s like to be part of a team that weathers the storm and emerges with stronger leadership, new visions, strategy, partners and donors. She credits her board, new leadership and engaged donors with the turn around of what was once The MED and is now Regional One Health.

First, executive leaders took time to personally share strategic directions and vision with major donors, keeping them in the loop. The foundation board played a major role too, and continues to do so. Ritchey credits their leadership and initiative, sharing “They help develop strategies and tactics that raise the money needed to advance the system’s goals.  They are our advocates, providing guidance and vision.” And they recruit new board members.

Ritchey proudly promotes the foundation board, “I sincerely believe we have one of the strongest board of directors around.  They are all quite brilliant in their own lives outside of the board and very successful men and women.  They are dedicated to Regional One Health, they believe in the vision, and they all work passionately on our behalf.  They challenge me every day to go harder, to push further, to give more to the patients and families we serve.  “And we have several members who held on with us during some very challenging times. It was very difficult to be on a fundraising board and not be able to raise a lot of funds because of the public’s perception of the hospital at that time.”

Read Part One:
How to Have a Visible and Active Foundation

But that has changed. The foundation now hosts a sell-out gala that is nothing short of spectacular. How did it get started? By a board member! “The gala started when then board member, Leigh Shockey, asked her friend, legendary producer David Guest to bring a soul review that he was doing in London to Memphis and allow the money raised to go to the then MED.  He agreed and she recruited board member Susan Arney to assist her with this.  The first gala had 14 artists and was put together in eight weeks!,” Ritchey explains.

“We used the gala specifically as a way to challenge and change the business community’s and donor community’s public perception of us.  It’s very important that our gala guests have a one-of-a-kind, first class experience – just like what we strive for with our patients and their families when they use our services. The first year we held the gala people said they were happy to support us, but they were unsure about what the experience would be like – so in a way it was a bit of a test.”

Robert (Kool) Bell, Regional One Healthcare Foundation, Saad&Shaw

Pictured: Robert (Kool) Bell

The foundation clearly passed the test, as the event is an annual sell out with people who literally buy their tables a year ahead of time.  And the health system has passed the test as well, Ritchey adds. “Patients used to be reticent about using our services, but once they get on campus and have their first experience with us they are thrilled with their care and outcomes and trust us for their healthcare needs.”

To close out our interview we asked Ritchey what two things she wants readers to know. Here are her words:

“Regional Health One handles cases that some physicians can go a lifetime without ever seeing or experiencing…in the areas of trauma, burn, neonatology and high risk obstetrics… we are national industry leaders.  We are creating an institution that our community needs and deserves but that does not currently exist. With our partners (donors, advocates, physicians) we will transform health care in this region.”

“Much of what is considered national industry best practices in the areas of trauma, burn, neonatology, and high risk obstetrics, were developed here at Regional One Health.  In the areas of trauma, burn, neonatology and high risk obstetrics, we are national leaders and our physicians are sought after for their industry knowledge and expertise.”

Here’s to a bright future for Regional One Health. We salute your vision and leadership.

Answers to our readers’ frequently asked questions:
Q. Does your board have a giving requirement?
A. All board members are required to give financially each year.

Q. Does your board have term limits?
A. Yes.  Members are eligible to serve two consecutive three year terms.

Q. Are all event costs underwritten?
A. No – I wish! We are working on building that up.  This event is just four years old – but we have made money every year.

Q. What is the primary source of funding for the foundation?
A. It varies each year but last fiscal year it was foundations and individuals.

Q. What is the relationship between the CEO of Regional One Health and the foundation?
A. The CEO of the system serves as the President of the Foundation board.

Q. What awards has the medical center received recently?
A. We were just named to Becker’s Healthcare just announced that we are one of the 150 best places to work in the nation.

Here’s all their information:
Regional One Health
877 Jefferson Avenue | Memphis, TN 38103
901-545-8373
Web: www.regionalonehealthfoundation.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RegOneHealthFDN
twitter:@RegOneHealthFDN

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to Have a Visible and Active Foundation

Tammie Ritchey, Healthcare Revitalization, Regional One Health Foundation

Pictured: Tammie Ritchey, Regional One Health Foundation

Healthcare is always in the news: advances in healthcare technology, groundbreaking research, and healthcare disparities are just a few. Yet there’s one story we rarely hear: the role of hospital or medical center related healthcare foundations. These foundations play important roles in communities across the country, bringing together leadership, vision, money and initiative to help improve the delivery of healthcare.

Wanting to learn more we spoke with Tammie Ritchey, Vice President of Development and Executive Director of Regional One Health Foundation in Memphis Tennessee. For the past 10 years Ritchey and the foundation board of directors have worked behind the scenes to help improve healthcare across the mid-South.

We started our conversation wanting to know – in general terms – the role of a foundation in the life of a nonprofit healthcare system. Not surprisingly, fundraising is a foundation’s most obvious role. Foundations raise money for research, new buildings, and investments in projects that improve patient outcomes and increase employee training, and more. But, according to Ritchey, fundraising isn’t always the most important role.

“A less visible role is the work of keeping the mission and vision of the healthcare system in the public’s mind,” Ritchey shared. “The relationships a foundation  forges with donors translates into the making of very strong advocates for not only the system it represents but also for improved community health care.”

Here’s an example she shared, related to the health system’s challenges in 2010, and how things have changed.  “The system was losing a great deal of money; we were downsizing staff, looking at service lines to cut, and working with an interim executive team for a couple of years.  Now, we have stable permanent leadership, progressive minded thought provoking visionary leaders who have created a clear mission and vision for the system, and are putting together the strategies to make the vision a reality.  We have a formal physician’s group to care for our patients now, which we did not have before, and all team members are playing from the same play book, all pointed in the same direction.”

Communication and relationships were key to changing the situation. “During difficult economic times, the foundation spent a great deal of time communicating what was going on inside the walls of the hospital with those who support us. We helped tell the story that was not getting told in the papers. We were able to strengthen a lot of relationships with community leaders even though we were not raising a lot of money. With the changes in our financial situation, we are now raising a great deal more money, and much of that is because we had established such strong relationships with donors during our lean years.”

You can learn more about Regional One Health Foundation at www.regionalonehealthfoundation.org or by calling (901) 545-8773.

Next week: the role of the board

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.