Though our economy continues to struggle, philanthropy has not been as impacted as was first feared. And despite the constraints of HIPAA requiring tight security and privacy of patient information, navigators still have a golden opportunity to use storytelling, without patient identifiers, to inspire other patients to utilize their philanthropic abilities and make a difference in the lives of patients you and others navigate. Below are some tips on how to make this a reality in your cancer center:
Make a list: Begin with your oncology team coming together, with a development officer if possible whose job is to solicit donations, and create a list of needs. Be specific. When someone is deciding to make a contribution they prefer specifics rather than general categories. For example, writing a check for deposit into a general fund without knowing its use for the “radiology dept” doesn’t feel as good to the soul nor as inspiring as would writing the check and selecting that it go specifically to support 5 screening mammograms to happen for underserved women. The latter is very tangible. So be specific.
Stewardship is key: Maintaining a relationship with the donor is very important. This should not be a philanthropic gift that is received, generates a thank you note, and you are done. You should remain in touch with the individual and keep them informed of how the monies were spent and what the outcomes were. For example, you can provide statistics, and can inform the donor later that her contribution along with others enabled your breast imaging staff to provide X number of free screening mammograms this past year, resulting in X number of women being diagnosed. The donor will feel confident that her investment in your breast imaging center made a difference. If a patient has written a thank you note to the imaging center expressing gratitude for getting her screening done at no cost, ask the patient if you can copy this letter, deleting the patient’s contact information and send to donors who provided the monies to make this possible. The human touch is quite powerful and provides another way to conduct stewardship with donors. Commonly this will result in another donation.
Here is a list of possible funding needs and ways that have succeeded in philanthropic support at the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center recently:
Funding for our breast surgical oncology fellowship— We needed funding for this position. In order to raise these monies I outlined what a fellowship is, why this training is vital to future patients across the country since it provides the comprehensive training and experience of “creating” breast surgical oncologists who will be taking care of newly diagnosed patients following state of the art, evidence based care they deserve. I provided a list of the training components that the fellow would be exposed to and learn, and how fellows are selected to be permitted to come for such training. A fund raising event was selected to be the target for raising these monies which meant it was very important for the planning committee to grasp the impact fellowships have on breast cancer care. This included several meetings with the committee members, personal participation at the event, recruitment of volunteers from our survivor volunteer team to help staff this 2 day event, and continued stewardship before, during and after the event. The physician chosen to be in the fellowship position for the coming fiscal year attended the event with me and was able to give a brief presentation regarding her appreciation and what she hoped to learn during her fellowship. We took this a step further and I had the fellow blogging on the organization’s website every other week to keep the event planners and leadership as well as membership of this organization continuously informed of her progress. At the completion of her one year fellowship, I had the fellow accompany me again to this event to thank everyone for their financial support, recap what she has learned, and announce her career plans as an outcome of having completed the fellowship. In this case, she was able to tell them that she had accepted a position as a medical director of the breast center in a very rural underserved area of the country where breast cancer is prevalent and care prior to her arrival required patients to travel long distances. This resulted in the past with a high mortality rate due to the inability of patients to access screening, diagnosis and treatment. She stated that she would continue to blog on their website, particularly during her first year in her new leadership role, to keep them informed of how she is applying her fellowship knowledge to make a difference in the lives of underserved women and the families facing breast cancer.
Support for an additional navigator: As volumes of breast cancer patients seen and treated grew it was clear that we would need additional navigation services for our patients. When a patient has a good experience with you, they can personally see and feel the power of navigation and your role as a navigator. Provide statistics regarding the number of patients currently being navigated including from what point you begin to when your navigation point ends. Compare this information to national statistics (by obtaining this information from AONN or the Healthcare Advisory Board’s Oncology Round Table team). Express your sincere concern in not being able to meet all of the needs of all of your patients due to you being a navigation team of one (or however many nurses are functioning as navigators). Give examples of what those needs are (ie, seeing the patient in preop room to reduce her anxiety and fears before going into the operating room; providing educational time one on one for drain teaching instead of merely providing a drain management instructional document, etc.) Focus in particular on specific things you did for this donor that you know she was greatly appreciative of and valued. Once the donation is made and the new navigator is hired, meet again with the donor to do stewardship and have the navigator inform the donor of her personal appreciation to join the navigation team, what she hopes to offer in her navigation role, and how updates will be provided regarding her ongoing work with patients. As thank you letters arrive praising the work of the new navigator, make copies, again deleting the patient’s name and any other identifiers, and send a copy to the donor(s). When the navigator holds a community outreach program, take her photo at the health fair booth and send it to the donor as well. Remaining engaged with the donor is again very important. You need to look at this as a long term relationship and not a one time contact.
Funding for Survivor Retreats—We have held survivor retreats for 13 years. These events consist of a 2 day overnight stay and the number of survivors attending range from 18 to 30, depending on the location, time of year and venue. They are designed for women who have recently completed their acute treatment (surgery, chemo and radiation) and are having trouble re-engaging in their lives emotionally healthy again. Such programs cost money however to execute. A successful way to raise the monies needed are to have a potential donor attend a survivor retreat either as a patient herself or as an observer. Experiencing the event really resonates with individuals as they can tangibly see what is taking place and how beneficial it is to the patients there. Conducting surveys with the attendees is important even unrelated to philanthropy, however you can utilize this information to demonstrate the benefit that patients are reaping by coming to such a retreat. A donor can sponsor one or two patients to attend a future retreat, or financially support the entire retreat for one year, or, even endow the retreat. We have had all of the above types of donations making it now an event that has perpetual funding.
Conclusion: So start making your list of what needs funding, why, what are the outcomes expected by funding these things, and prioritize what is most important to fund. Meet with your development officer (all hospitals and cancer centers have such individuals as employees) and put together a strategy for identifying potential grateful patients as well as other group organizations which might be useful to approach that result in providing the dollars you need!