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January 15, 2016

Optimizing Physician Engagement

Optimizing Physician Engagement


During the past year, we had the privilege of working with some truly amazing healthcare organizations in a variety of capacities. Among those was, of course, providing education opportunities for physicians and other healthcare professionals to better understand philanthropy.


Reflecting on our work with physicians in 2015, it is gratifying to remember those engagements that really “clicked.” The discussions were robust, physicians had significant “ah ha” moments, and participants lingered long after the sessions had ended, discussing plans for the future. These were the experiences that would have a profound impact on physician engagement in philanthropy at the organization.


In our experience, organizations that experience the most success follow certain practices in their approaches before, during, and after each of their physician engagement workshops. Here are five of these essential best practices.


  1. Gaining Leadership Commitment
    Highly successful organizations most often begin by gaining commitment from top leadership at the healthcare organization. Leadership support is critical to gaining buy-in from physicians across the organization. These leaders (C-suite and healthcare leaders) typically participate in an initial kickoff, engaging in a robust discussion of strategies for improving grateful patient and family systems and building a sustainable culture of philanthropy.

  2. Selecting High-Potential Participants
    While it can be tempting to invite all physicians, we’ve discovered that it is much more effective to be selective. Especially with initial sessions, hand-selecting participants can optimize the opportunity for early successes and inspire participation in future engagements. We recommend a nine-point litmus test, including such questions as “Are they in a priority area for fundraising?” “Are they themselves philanthropic?” and “Are they opinion leaders?”

  3. Crafting Invitations that Drive Participation
    Optimal participation results when physicians are invited individually. These invitations make clear that philanthropy training is not about asking for money. It is, rather, an initiative of organizational leadership. The physician has been hand-selected, and learning applied from the workshop will be highly beneficial for patient care and priority projects/programs that serve patients. The most effective invitations are sent directly from the top leader’s office (though written by development).

  4. Planning for Effective Follow-up
    Having a plan for following up with participants after the engagement session is critical, beginning with a meeting immediately afterward to leverage momentum built during the experience. The most successful organizations develop a strategy for engaging physicians, including regular meetings, an agreed-upon referral process, and ongoing communication.

  5. Preparing the Development Team
    Most importantly, those organizations that realize optimal results from engaging physicians have fully prepared their development professionals to work with physicians in the most effective way possible. At those organizations, development professionals have a thorough understanding of physician perspectives, processes for building trust-based relationships with health professionals, and methodologies for managing those relationships in a way that optimizes opportunities for philanthropic referrals.

The most effective organizations employ all five strategies in order to optimize their engagements with physicians. When building an effective program, consider how these might be executed within your own organization.



The Art and Science of Healthcare Philanthropy, a workshop for development professionals in healthcare, is designed specifically to help participants work with physicians in the most effective way possible. We invite you to learn more about our upcoming public workshop opportunites by clicking on the button below.



Interested in learning how best to prepare physicians for their roles in philanthropy?
Check out the Advancement Resources blog Physician Objections to Engagement: Myths and Truths.


Physician Objections to Engagement: Myths and Truths
Physician Objections to Engagement: Myths and Truths



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