By Nigel Harris – Founding Partner of Giving Architects Australia

One of the most commonly identified challenges I continue to hear in healthcare philanthropy is identifying and engaging a donor constituency.

For many, the easiest path is moving to a broad market through appeals, community engagement, events and corporate partnerships. It makes sense, especially if your healthcare organisation has a broad-based market relevance. And many organisations do a great job of broad-based engagement.

However, it’s not an easy path for others in healthcare, particularly where the market connection is limited. What to do then? Where might you best direct your focus in building a donor constituency?

I suggest the answer lies within. Consider people closest to the organisation and with reasons for having the strongest attachment. That is patients. And families, and even friends of patients.

However, it’s not an easy path to find your way to this audience to have a conversation about philanthropy. Timing, access, and connections are some of the common barriers. So is finding a way to having the right conversation, through and with the right people, at the right time.

Some of these barriers are reasonable and appropriate. Others may be less so. But all of this leads to a common conversation about shared challenges around patient philanthropy programs.

It’s not the only ‘internal’ group to think about of course. Another is people working in the healthcare organisation, especially the people with the strongest connection with patients and families. We are talking about clinicians, nursing and allied health professionals, as well as other staff and volunteers engaged in the organisation.

Our natural default is to only think about these people as prospective donors. This might be true – it’s certainly not uncommon. However, if we overlook the power and value of advocacy and connection then we are most likely overlooking a lot of opportunity.

Engaging people as advocates and connectors is a significant path to building a donor constituency. Especially in healthcare, and particularly if those people enjoy a special relationship with patients and families in the way clinicians and healthcare professionals do.

Like all things, this is not as simple as we might want it to be. There is a lot to consider and even more to put into practice. It certainly warrants a deeper study and preparation than is sometimes considered or exercised.

I have worked in healthcare philanthropy for a long time and have heard constant conversations and frustrations around patient philanthropy. My observation is that despite the conversations, there hasn’t been a lot of change over this time.

The past year has challenged all of us to think about and do things differently around connection and engagement. In healthcare philanthropy this challenge is particularly acute – and timely. So, if your focus is identifying and engaging a donor constituency, it is essential to leverage the connections of healthcare professionals in growing patient philanthropy.


Interested in learning how to leverage clinician engagement?

The upcoming Advancement Resources workshop on ‘The Dynamics of Clinician Engagement’ will be a valuable session that Giving Architects has identified which can offer you unique and actionable insights to help develop your programs in healthcare philanthropy. The two-part workshop is scheduled for the 10th and 11th of March and will take you through a rationale and process of clinician and healthcare professional engagement to engage patient philanthropy. I recommend this Advancement Resources workshop as a positive and practical step in doing something different.

Use the below link to register and enter the unique code – ‘NIGEL10’ to get a 10% discount.——–>

If you are on the lookout for a bespoke and focused programme to implement in this regard in your organisation, do get in touch with us at Giving Architects Australia. We can assist you to translate your learnings into practice.

Give us a call on the below or drop us an email today for a no-obligation chat.
Nigel Harris :  M  +61-407-628-605         |           Email :
New Zealand
Clive Pedley:    T +64-9-215-3626      M +64-27-248-4371         |       Iyanthi Wijayanayake :    T +64-9-215-3624      M +64-21-618-363