Although your institution may have cut positions, services, and other programs due to not having budgetary means to fund them, that doesn’t mean that these resources aren’t needed; it means they aren’t part of someone’s annual budget. For good or bad reasons, this is a reality. Rather than fuss about it, do something. That “something” can be identifying opportunities such as this for philanthropic donors to embrace.
Whether you are aware of it, cancer patients and their family members like to say thank you in some tangible way to the oncology team that took care of them and got them through. This includes families who lost a loved one as well. Although not something for discussion during active treatment, it is important for navigators to pay attention and learn during their treatment what their patients are passionate about. When passion and purpose meet, extraordinary things always happen.
You may have a patient who wishes there had been a yoga program for breast cancer patients. She may be interested in funding one as her way to say thank you. No fund for supporting patients in need of transportation for their treatments? There may be several patients who want to contribute to a “transportation fund.”
Therefore, collaborate with your administration and make a list of what these services, programs, etc, are that patients have expressed a desire to have had and were missing, and work with your doctors and development staff to identify patients who may have a capacity to give. The development officer will be able to determine if the patient and their family have the financial means to give in a small or significant way. Every dollar counts. And when people can see a tangible return for their donation, it prompts them to want to give more.
Stewardship is critically important too. Although commonly thought to be a task for development staff, planning and management of resources needs to be a function shared by everyone impacted by the service or program being funded. For example, let’s return to the example of a yoga program. Attending the yoga class yourself, getting feedback from participants enables you to give the donor specific comments of praise and appreciation that yoga class attendees told you. This makes it personal. If it’s money for a transportation fund, tell the individual donor how many taxi rides that donation will provide, and, at the end of the year, let everyone who contributed to that specific fund know how many patients were supported and how many transportation trips were provided to help ensure patients stayed on track with their treatments so they could become survivors.
Without philanthropy, I would personally not be able to do all that I do here at Johns Hopkins for our patients. Several breast cancer nurse navigator positions here are funded solely by philanthropy and have been for more than a decade. Our metastatic breast cancer couples retreat has been funded through general donors. The patient educational materials we distribute all come from donations deposited into the “patient education fund.”
So make a list, make it tangible, make it personal, find out what services and programs are important to patients who have completed their treatment, and work with your development officers to identify potentially grateful patients. Start practicing stewardship, and, before you know it, you will see an influx of money to support the programs and services that otherwise would remain unfunded. In the past 15 years I have raised more than $6 million through donations. Some donations were as small as $2 in an envelope to hundreds of thousands of dollars to help me launch a new program or fund oncology nurse navigator positions. Whether you receive $2 or $200,000, each donor deserves stewardship from you, because collectively they make it happen!