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Priming the pump for outside fundraising.

If your facility is non-profit or otherwise qualifies to raise funds from outside sources, this guide will help get you started

Many nursing homes are finding, for the first time in their existence, that they must give critical review to their sources of revenue. Government resources, at both the national and statewide level, are proving to be increasingly unreliable. Meanwhile, the facility's ability to raise private pay fees is bumping up against the ceiling of reasonable expectation.

What about philanthropic support?

For nursing homes that qualify, this can indeed be a saving endeavor. It does, however, take a great deal of careful thought, preparation, and - yes - initial investment, and more than a little patience. If an ongoing aggressive fund-raising program has been explored by your facility, but never thoroughly discussed, the following six questions may be ones that you and your Board should review in detail.

As you review your response to each question, rate yourself: Is it an area of strength for your organization, a weakness, or possibly somewhere in between? Your final analysis of your responses to all six questions may indicate to you and your leadership the direction you might wish to go with future fund-raising efforts. These questions may also help you to address the issue of whether you should pursue an aggressive fund-raising program at all.

1. At what level is your fund-raising program today? To begin this process you must take a hard look at the current revenue sources of your organization. Has fund-raising been seriously pursued, or have gifts received by your organization been primarily reactive (eg, memorials or estates)? Are there some limited approaches that you are currently taking? Examples could be small mailing programs. Do you have a Development Committee of your Board of Trustees? Is the committee active in soliciting gifts?

Is anyone on your staff currently assigned responsibility of fund-raising? If so, is it one of many tasks they are assigned, or is it their primary responsibility? Do you have materials that are used in the promotion of your giving programs? Does your newsletter contain giving information? Are donors acknowledged in a quick, responsive manner when gifts are given? Is there any type of long-range fund-raising plan?

In short, can you objectively state in this sort of detail just where your program is today?

2. What is your case for support for fund-raising? Are there things happening within your organization that could become good cases for someone to make a gift of support? As an example, are you caring for individuals that can no longer afford their cost of care? Are you attempting to provide new programs for individuals in the greater community, or are you trying to add a new level of service that will not be covered totally by fees?

To put it in basic terms, would you, if you were going to attempt to get into a fund-raising role, have a reason for people to give, beyond just the fact that, say, you are not-for-profit and all not-for-profits have a need for funds?

3. What would the immediate expectations be of your fund-raising program if you were to start one? What would they be one year from now? Three and five years from now? Expectations would probably differ, depending on whether you were talking to a Board member, a staff member or even a potential donor. From the Board perspective, would there be an unrealistic expectation from a fund-raising program? What gift levels and size of gifts would the Board expect within a reasonable amount of time? From a staff perspective, who would work with the program? Would these be new positions, or would this be accomplished by someone taking on a part-time role within the organization?

Will the Chief Executive Officer of the organization support the fund-raising effort through his own personal example and work with top potential donors?

All of this is to underline the fact that initial expectations that are set by a board or management can have much to do with the success of a potential fund-raising program.

4. Are you committed to investing in personnel to make the program happen? As in any well-thought-out program, it will take investment of time, money, and personnel to reap future dividends from a fund-raising program. Are you, as an organization, willing to hire qualified staff and provide them sufficient support staff and materials to develop an effective program?

This can include everything from hiring somebody with experience to allowing them, financially, to be part of a national fund-raising organization such as the National Society of Fund-raising Executives, as well as staff and materials development. As with any investment or effort, what you put forth will, in great measure, dictate what you receive in return.

5. Are you patient enough to give the plan a chance to work? Once plans have been set, your fund-raising case established, your expectations agreed upon, and staff put in place, the next key consideration is, simply, one of patience. This is where most new fund-raising programs fall short. They do not allow the staff and volunteers the time to build a program which will consistently raise funds for years to come. Laying the groundwork can, itself, take several years. Will your organization have the patience, financial and otherwise, to allow this program to grow and eventually flourish?

6. What would be your initial steps in earnestly beginning a fund-raising program? The first step might be for management and the Board, with possibly a consultant, to review the current situation, discuss future needs and goals, and establish what the expectations of a fund-raising program might be for the organization - in other words, going over the above questions together. You might wish to determine what resources are available to help you in your decision-making. Such resources can be other organizations that have established programs, consultants, and Board members of other organizations with fund-raising expertise. The important thing, in the last analysis, is to do something to get started. With appropriate commitment, you will find the way that is best for your facility.

The need for commitment of time, staff and money for fund-raising becomes obvious when one briefly considers the various ways in which this is accomplished. As one's principal fund-raising activity, one might stage an annual event or occasion, emphasize planned giving (via estates, wills, etc.), conduct ongoing mail contacts and solicitation, run periodic phone-a-thons, develop donor clubs, or put together a mix of all of these. Try to envision what it takes to do any of this, or all of it, in the proper manner.

The bottom line, though, is that fund-raising offers a tremendous opportunity for organizations that are willing to commit and plan for it. From a personal point of view, in my ten years with the Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, and for the past six years as the President of The Foundation, I have seen the need for financial resources grow continually. Fortunately, our board and management committed themselves years ago to the decision that fund-raising would be a major player in the overall financial support picture of OPRS. However, only after many years of hard work by volunteers and staff, and much patience by all, has the OPRS Foundation's endowment increased to a significant level and shown a steady increase in support almost every year. The work and the rewards have both been considerable.

It is clear that nursing homes' most pressing financial needs lie in the years ahead, as the number of people who need our services continues to grow exponentially. In view of this growing pressure - and opportunity - shouldn't you have a fund-raising program to help you meet those needs? Hopefully your review of the six questions (and sub-questions) outlined above will help you lay the groundwork for future financial survival and excellent service.

Thomas G. Hofmann is President of the Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services Foundation of Columbus, OH.
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Author:Hofmann, Thomas G.
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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