Friday, November 21, 2008

A Thankathon...

Here's an oldie but a goodie...

One fundraising tip I think works well is really not a fundraising event. Generate a list of your current donors, with phone numbers. Divide it up among your board members, some volunteers, etc. Have them call your donors and say this:

"Hello, Mrs. Jones. I'm from XYZ Clinic, and I am just calling to thank you, as you have been a faithful supporter of our clinic and have been a big part of why we were able to serve xx,xxx patients this year. Again, just a thank you call, nothing else. Can I answer any questions you may have?"

Then SHUT UP and listen... After they pick up the phone from dropping it in shock from you not asking for money, answer their questions. If they have none, just thank them again and hang up.

If they say something like "you're not asking for money?", say "while we need everyone's continued support, the purpose of this call is to thank you for your support, and that's it"

This is a great way to get your board involved in actually doing something (!), as they won't be asking for money (which is their job, but they all hate it - more on that later).

You don't have to call all your donors, and you could spread this out over the course of a year...

Just a quick tidbit.

The Role of An Association


Seems I've been involved with conversations in several states about free clinic associations, and their role. Most associations start out as a networking group, providing a chance to discuss common problems and challenges. Then, some money shows up... An association, like NC, suddenly finds itself with $$ (in the case of NC, $10 million!) for its member clinics via grants, etc. Now, if you ask an NC clinic what the primary role of an association is for them, I'll betcha most would say 'to raise money for me and the other clinics.' But, should that be the role? Associations with money or other resources to give become the victim of their own success. NC was able to get another $10 grant, but I would about bet my 3 kids that there will not be another $10 million. At that point, some clinics will see the association, one that brought in $20 million dollars over 10 years to the free clinic movement, as a 'failure' that fair? Should the primary function of an association be to raise money?

I would argue no - the primary reason for an association is to provide a common voice, to advocate, and to help the clinics in their long-term sustainability. If that means they happen to come across some grant $$ to share, great - but that is NOT their primary mission.

Of course, one could get into the philosophical argument that an association's job is to eliminate the need for free clinics - all people covered, 'universal health care' or whatever - basically, work the associaion and all its clinics out of business. I do not agree with that, but it is an argument I have heard.

I think the association is to teach clinics how to fish...while throwing them a few salmon along the way...

What do YOU think? Love to hear from ya...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Administrator or Program Manager?

Every clinic, as it matures from birth to adolescence, reaches a point where the founding ED comes to a crossroads. Most founding ED's have a medical background - an RN, MD, LPN or something, and they are not only administering the clinic, they are also running the program, the actual medical clinic itself. They are doing triage, or seeing patients, or doing eligibility, or some sort of direct service.

At some point, these two diverse roles come into conflict with each other, as something has to give. My experience has been that the clinics that make a successful transition into a larger, more sophisticated clinics are those where their ED has made the choice to become the true 'Executive Director', the administrator of the clinic, and left go of the clinical/program work they were doing, giving that up to either paid staff or volunteers.

Clinics that I have seen struggling have almost consistently had an ED trying to straddle the fence, trying to serve both roles.

I would be interested in hearing other perspectives, but i believe the admin/program issue makes or breaks many a clinic...

Fundraising Tidbit

In these tough economic times, many free clinic ED's will think "I shouldn't be asking people for money with times so tough." This is exactly the OPPOSITE thing you should be doing. All over the news are stories about tough times - awareness of the plight of the homeless, the UNINSURED, the hungry is very high.

You should make a concerted effort to continue and ramp up your fundraising efforts. If people can't give, they won't, but they will not be offended if you ask them anyways.

The major source of your funding MUST be individual donors, your local community. Don't lose that as your long-term focus...

Engaging Volunteers

At the SC Free Clinic Association conference last month, I gave a presentation on Volunteer Engagement. Within that talk, we discussed some key factors in a successful volunteer recruitment and engagement program:

•Simplify the Experience - It needs to be an easy process to volunteer at the clinic. This does not mean that you bypass key steps like credentialing, etc., but it does mean that you streamline the process as much as you can. Review the 'flow' of the clinic process - is it simple and easy for a new volunteer to pick up? How much paperwork is there? What barriers are thrown up in the process that discourage a volunteer? Look for ways to make the volunteer experience simple, painful and enjoyable.

•Emphasize the Focus - What seasoned health care professionals want to do in volunteering is see patients. Period. That is their focus - to go back to the practice of medicine the way they thought it would be when they started. That's the beauty of the free clinic experience - that's exactly what it is, free of insurance forms and practice management/business concerns (for the doctor, at least). So, be sure to emphasize the focus on patient care in your recruiting, and in the clinic process.

•Stress the Flexibility - Retired health care professionals want some flexibility in their volunteer experience - some may want an evening clinic, maybe weekly, maybe monthly, maybe randomly. Others may want daytime hours. While you do need some standardization and consistency in you clinic, be willing to be flexible. I'd rather have a doctor that will volunteer one night clinic every 6 weeks than turn her away because 'we only do monthly rotations.' Be willing to change and adapt.

•Demonstrate Respect - Volunteer physicians and other health care providers in many ways want to be treated like staff, in terms of knowing what's going on. So, be sure to include them in notices or key information. You may even want to invite them from time to time to a staff meeting, or hold an 'staff' meeting for volunteers. Keep them in the loop.

•Express Appreciation - Look for ways to thank them. My favorite is when a patient writes a thank you note - give the volunteer a copy of it, with an additional 'thanks to you...' note from you. A personal touch is best - you dont have to spend money on gifts.

•Follow Through, Follow up - One a volunteer is active with you, don't forget about them. Check in with them periodically to see how they are doing, to solicit advice and to encourage. Also, remember that your best source of future volunteers are your current volunteers...they are also typically a group that become or are donors as well.

Physician Burnout - An Opportunity?

On our TAP-IN weblog, we recently posted an article about physicians plans to retire early and/or cut back on their practice hours.

The article sites a survey by the Physician Foundation in which over half of physicians surveyed plan on cutting back or retiring. 90 percent said they spent more time on non-clinical paperwork, and 2/3 say this has taken them away from patient care.

This, I believe, presents an opportunity for free clinics in recruting volunteer physicians. Again and again, when we interview seasoned health care professionals on why they volunteer, we consistently hear that a free clinic environment allows them to practice medicine "the way they thought it would be" when they left medical school - taking care of patients, without all the paperwork and practice management headaches.

This needs to be a point of emphasis in your physician recruiting - for physicians to 'come back' to practicing the way they envisioned it, serving a group of patients that need you, and are grateful for you...

Look at your marketing materials on volunteer recruitment, and your process - make sure this feature is a prominent point of emphasis.

(here's the link: )

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TAP-IN's Blog


TAP-IN has a blog that we're working on, to allow seasoned health care professionals to talk to each other on various topics.

You may want to check it out:

We could use your input...thanks