Donor Benefits, Grateful Patient Programs, Etc.: Not a perk, but an opportunity to understand the mission.

3 05 2012

Recently, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an editorial about a Texas hospital that had been the subject of an investigative report on a “grateful patient/VIP program”. While I know little about this particular instance, it raises important questions about these types of programs.  Are they necessary and do they matter? Absolutely! Not just at hospitals, but at zoos, orchestras, colleges, etc.

What do I get in return for my membership at the zoo, gift to my alma mater, or local hospital?  Well often I get special educational e-mails, invitations to special events, and finally the occasional extra access opportunity.  The payoff for the organization is steady support and most importantly – an opportunity to deepen my commitment to their mission and as a result, more support. There is a third beneficiary that is often ignored – the general public.  My steady and/or increasing support helps make programs available for the general public. 

Why the issues at hospitals? There is a perception that there is “better care”.  It is not better care, you don’t get more blood because you are a donor, docs don’t try a bit harder during surgery, but you get a visit from an executive who shares the vision of the hospital with you, “free parking”, or perhaps a bottle of water.  So it might be a slightly better experience. Who is the real beneficiary?  The community members who cannot afford to make that gift and now enjoy a new emergency room, better rooms, or the tests performed with equipment purchased through philanthropy. 

Programs like these are critical to deepening the understanding of organizational missions and relationship building.  The development community must implement programs like these ethically and with sensitivity.  Not every grateful donor program should be alike.  They should be shaped by factors such as their community, needs, and history. Grateful donor programs and benefits are important to public and private institutions alike if we want to have both of these types of organizations thrive in our communities.

Good Luck!

Mark J. Marshall

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One response

15 04 2013
you turn

Hello, I check your new stuff regularly. Your writing style is witty, keep up the good work!

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