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Medical Fundraising: “It works primarily through networks“
Cornelia Kliment; © private
In times of financial crisis money is tight. Nobody has anything to give away. This is also evident in everyday life at a hospital. There are some exceptions: Some private individuals or companies are helping clinics out financially and therefore help themselves and the hospital to gain more recognition.
Cornelia Kliment is a Fundraising Representative of the German College and University Association. As the “Senior fundraiser in the education sector“ she is servicing several hospitals. MEDICA.de talked to her about constant donation generosity and profitable networks.
MEDICA.de: Ms. Kliment, for many years donations from private individuals or companies have been a very important source of income for big hospitals in the USA. According to your survey on developments in fundraising at medical faculties and University hospitals, Germany is now going to hop on the bandwagon as well. Can donations really fill the financial gaps for hospitals?
Cornelia Kliment: No, real gaps cannot be filled just by fundraising. However, we are not talking about just money here, but also about donation in kind, networking, recommendations and support of any kind. What’s more, donors have the opportunity to become immortalized at the facility they donated to. Often a campus or a newly built operational wing is named after its benefactor. In this case, donating makes you immortal. (laughs)
MEDICA.de: How big is the donation generosity of Germans?
Kliment: Generally speaking, the yearly donation income in fundraising lies between two and four billion Euros. That said, at the moment there are no exact statistics to determine the amount that is actually allocated toward clinics. The willingness to donate though has not dropped in the past few years.
MEDICA.de: Who has enough money left to give in times of economical crises and rising unemployment rates?
Kliment: Larger enterprises tend to be more generous. And then there is the alternative of inheritance. This happens rarely, but it is very lucrative.
MEDICA.de: Can you explain this a little further?
Kliment: For wealthy private persons or conglomerates to sign their entire inheritance over to a hospital, it takes many years of observation. The hospital needs to prove itself as worthy to them through their excellent services and good reputation. If the hospital can continually maintain its excellent reputation, the likelihood of receiving a multi-million inheritance is very high.
MEDICA.de: Medical faculties and University hospitals also define their patients as targets for their fundraising efforts. Exactly how are patients integrated in this process?
Kliment: Everything about hospitals works on an emotional basis. That is why fundraisers do not approach patients directly and ask for donations. They use a more indirect approach: If a clinic manages to create a comfortable atmosphere for the patient, he/she develops more receptiveness toward it and therefore becomes more willing to help out. Then he/she should be informed – for example - that the hospital needs a new MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) machine.
Networks are an important element for fundraising; © clix/SXC
MEDICA.de: To know it and to contribute financially are two different things though.
Kliment: This is true. However, if I am not able to donate myself, perhaps an old friend of my boss might be. Fundraising works primarily through networks.
MEDICA.de: And so the MRI gets paid for through those networks?
Kliment: Yes, you could put it like that. In a roundabout way, the wealthy school friend of my boss hears that this device is needed. He knows the hospital and its excellent reputation and he values their work. Now he wants to become part of the success of the hospital and donates several million Euros for the expensive MRI.
MEDICA.de: Only a few Universities work with specific concepts and instead use anniversary galas for example as an opportunity to attract potential donors. Do those sporadic campaigns make sense?
Kliment: No, in the long-term they do not. Universities and hospitals generally are not geared toward doing business like an entrepreneur. They just think: Fundraising is the answer. To become active only once in a while though is unprofessional management behavior.
MEDICA.de: How could you do it better?
Kliment: You should hire somebody, who really knows fundraising. Aside from that, fundraising needs to be in the heart and mind of each individual staff member. Medical specialists for example make a lot of important contacts during their conferences and conventions. Technically, they should pass that contact information on daily to their fundraiser. That is the only way to build up working networks.
MEDICA.de: Why don’t more hospitals concentrate on fundraising, if it is so lucrative and profitable?
Kliment: To be honest, I do not understand that either. My experience shows that many actually have good foundations for it. Yet, the people in charge keep procrastinating. One time I even heard: “We do not need to beg for money.“ Fundraising really is not about begging for money. I guess more persuasion work needs to be done in that regard.
MEDICA.de: In the future, will we see big Fundraising departments in hospitals?
Kliment: I hope so. Today, if I arranged a meeting of experts with German medical fundraisers, we would be a conveniently sized group of six or seven people. If in a year from now there would be twenty people sitting at the same roundtable, it would be real progress. The trend is definitely there. Many hospitals continue to want to invest in fundraising and see profits from it in the near future.
This interview was conducted by Nadine Lormis and translated by Elena O'Meara.