Are You Ready? The Key Factors to Planning and Launching a Capital Campaign

The Public Phase (Part III)

by Glenn Vallach,

Vice President for Public Relations and Communications,

Ghiorsi & Sorrenti, Inc.

Debra Gill, Executive Vice President of Philanthropy for Bozeman Deaconess Foundation (BDF) is back for the third segment on GSEye on Philanthropy.

As BDF’s EVP, a position she has held for 14 years, Debra is leading the Cornerstone Campaign which is supporting a new Emergency Services Department at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital (BDH) in Montana. BDH celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2011 and the campaign is the largest and most successful in the Hospital’s history, securing the organization’s first ever seven-figure gift, three additional gifts at the million dollar level, and an outpouring of generosity from the BDH family and community. We are honored that Debra is collaborating with us in a three-part blog concerning the road to a successful capital campaign. Part I focused on campaign readiness and the planning study, while Part II reviewed the critical Advance Leadership Gifts Phase.  Here, in Part III, Debra discusses the Community Phase of the capital campaign with our own Peter Ghiorsi:

Peter Ghiorsi (PG): Debra, it’s been just over a year now since you publicly announced the  Cornerstone Campaign…Realizing the Vision for Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.  We know you were in a great position to transition to the Community Phase. What has the experience been like for you?

Debra Gill (DG): It has been exhilarating and very rewarding, Peter, but it was also a great challenge, of course.  We are working really hard in the public phase to uncover every potential gift, using every resource available to us, so that no money was left on the table.  We made full use of every one on our campaign committee, and compelled them to reach out to others who could help identify other sources. 

PG: Many healthcare organizations transition to the community phase of the campaign, perform the rudimentary tasks laid out in the campaign plan, and raise the necessary final gifts to reach goal and even move beyond that.  You really embraced the public relations and communications aspects of the community phase, and used them to your great advantage.

DG: Thank you, Peter, and we worked hard with GSI to develop the best strategy.  It quickly became apparent to us that a comprehensive and prolonged communications agenda was critical to the success of the campaign, and frankly to any other similar fundraising effort we may do in the future.  This was a new process to so many in our community, and we wanted everyone to play a role.

PG: Most impressive, we thought, was your dogged determination to follow through with events and messages to media outlets that were almost predetermined to help because of relationships you had developed.

DG: Yes, we thought it was really important to spread the word with a grass roots effort, and we were fortunate that there were people on the campaign committee with media roots.  First, though, with GSI’s help, we crafted a communications plan based on a significant truth that is perhaps a bit unlike other capital campaign situations.  In many campaigns, the community phase refers to those in the hospital’s general catchment area, some of which will have a close connection to the institution,  while others will have a tertiary, at best, relationship.  We knew, in Bozeman, that the community phase was critical, because it refers to everyone here in town.   We had a responsibility to engage and involve as many as we possibly could, because all have a stake, a real stake, in the hospital’s future and their own care.  There are no other options.

PG: We were very impressed with that approach, Deb.  You’re right, a wide breadth of communications is always recommended, because we feel it has tentacles that reach beyond the campaign.  A good communications strategy is impactful because it straddles the campaign and the actual operation of the project component…in this case the Emergency Room…casting a positive continuous glow on it.  It was particularly important for you, though, because of your community.  In our view, it worked so thoroughly, it’s a model for everyone employing a community phase. What were the key aspects of the plan?

DG: I appreciate that, Peter.  We wanted to ensure everyone in Bozeman was aware of the critical nature of the project, and then, of course, how important it was that community support was maximized.  We used a comprehensive mix of news, public service announcements which you indicated were quite effective in other campaigns, social media and on-the-street grass roots strategies with widespread signage.  Of course, our stories were reality-based with real ER patients playing key roles.  We wanted to create a buzz in town, establish an extensive awareness.     All indications are we succeeded.  The campaign was well known and even top of mind.  That buzz even helped generate further news, because selling article ideas and reports to media was easier. 

PG: What was the most effective tool you used in this process?

DG: Our largest asset was radio through GapWest Broadcasting. Also, ABC-TV conducted a couple of morning interviews with me that was very high profile, and allowed us to tell the project and campaign story effectively. Certainly, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle was very good to us with campaign event mentions, and campaign progress stories.  We also employed a three-phased teaser campaign through advertising and publicity that really piqued the community’s interest on a continuous basis, and helped us extend the shelf life of the campaign message.  We first crafted the catch phrase “What do you expect today?” We aired it on radio spots, ran it a couple of times as a newspaper ad, and featured it on promotional items.  Then, we extended the message by adding a benign answer from people.  For instance, “I just expected to go skiing.”  Then, ultimately, in phase three unveiled around the time of the public launch, it was revealed they didn’t expect to break a leg and end up in Bozeman’s ER.  Clearly, no one expects to need ER care on a daily basis, but we wanted to demonstrate that when the situation demands it, the Bozeman facilities have been enhanced to meet those expectations and provide the best care possible.

PG: Obviously, all this helped generate giving momentum, since you are so close to reaching your $9 million goal.

DG: It does make the process of approaching potential donors easier, both individually or in group situations…and we conducted many of those kind of campaign approaches in the community phase…because everyone was so familiar with Cornerstone.  The campaign had a highly positive image in town, and its momentum was self-fulfilling.  We really found that people were anxious to help and play a part in this extraordinary venture.

PG: We consider your campaign a model, Deb, and congratulate you on staying the course throughout.  As you know, campaigns are won and lost in the Advanced Leadership Gifts Phase, and cemented in the community phase.  You conducted all phases with a fervor and intensity that ensured success. 

DG: Thank you, Peter.  It was, and continues to be, with only a few dollars to go, a great experience.


Are You Ready? The Key Factors to Planning and Launching a Capital Campaign

The Advanced Leadership Gift Phase (Part II)

by Glenn Vallach, Vice President for Public Relations and Communications, Ghiorsi & Sorrenti, Inc.

Once again, we welcome Debra Gill, Executive Vice President of Philanthropy for Bozeman Deaconess Foundation (BDF) to GSEye on Philanthropy.

As BDF’s EVP, a position she has held for 13 years, Debra is leading the Cornerstone Campaign which is supporting a new Emergency Services Department at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital (BDH) in Montana. BDH is celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2011 and the campaign is the largest and most successful in the Hospital’s history, securing the organization’s first ever seven-figure gift, three additional gifts at the million dollar level, and an outpouring of generosity from the BDH family and community. We are honored that Debra is collaborating with us in a three-part blog concerning the road to a successful capital campaign. Part I focused on campaign readiness and the planning study. Here, in Part II, Debra discusses the critical Advance Leadership Gift Phase with our own Peter Ghiorsi:

Peter Ghiorsi (PG): Debra, once the planning study was completed and we made our recommendations, the Board endorsed your campaign and you hit the ground running. How did you move forward and what were your first steps?

Debra Gill (DG): Well, it was pretty intimidating at first. But, we were confident knowing that we had done our homework. Looking back, the best strategy was preparation. We prepared as if the campaign endorsement was forthcoming, so we had our first steps mapped out. And it certainly helped that we had cultivated those closest to us in the BDH family, emphasizing that a capital campaign was a critical component in funding the new Emergency Services Department. Supported by that compelling message and guided by a comprehensive campaign management plan that served as our roadmap, we set out appointing our Campaign Co-Chairs, convening the Campaign Steering Committee, and commencing the approaches to our top prospects, board members and senior management.

PG: Your focus in communicating an urgent and compelling case message was right on. Hospitals nationally are struggling with a new landscape: decreasing operating margins, plummeting reserves, restrictive borrowing, decreasing or non-existent endowments, and, of course, the ever-increasing demand for capital. In today’s environment a healthcare organization’s greatest source of new equity capital is philanthropy, and that message is the backbone of a strong campaign.

DG: Exactly. It was just so important that our Hospital family was on the same page in understanding the need as were the people we would be first approaching. We were armed with an exciting vision for the future of BDH that was supported by a dynamic strategic plan. We knew our message was strong and strategically communicating it was priority number one. We worked hard on internal cultivation and engaging and motivating our volunteers leading up to the launch of the Advance Leadership Gift Phase kick off. We had total buy-in from senior administration and the Hospital CEO, John Nordwick. The Board was confident and invested. We were ready.

PG: Engaging volunteer leadership in capital campaigns has become increasingly challenging throughout the country. Share with our readers how you addressed this challenge.

DG: Candidly, we were initially concerned especially because our volunteers already had full schedules However, I come back to the urgency of the need and the steps we took to assure that our best and closest friends, and most effective fund raisers, understood the extraordinary nature of this campaign opportunity. That was a very key factor. Also, the planning study gave us a clear understanding of those volunteers who were ready, willing and eager to jump on board.

PG: What was your strategy in organizing the Campaign Steering Committee?

DG: People tend to think in terms of quantity when organizing a campaign committee, but, we determined that quality engagement would take precedence. Suffice to say, we did not want a long list of committee members serving in name only. So, we built the Campaign Steering Committee with volunteers who were strong advocates, representatives of the major constituency groups we would be approaching. We also decided to go with Co-Chairs so as to spread the workload and responsibility. Our Co-Chairs, Robin Erlenbush and Dan Rust, are loyal friends of BDH who are highly respected in the Bozeman community. They have both rolled up their sleeves and led by example.

PG: Through the planning study we scoped out a large and impressive overall universe of prospects for the campaign and helped you prioritize those most capable of making leadership gifts at the high six and seven-figure levels. We like to say that every leadership gift prospect is a mini-campaign unto itself.

DG: It is easy to ask and just as easy to get a no or a gift at a level lower than expected. The devil is in the details and the preparation, and assuring that approach strategies are tailored to each prospect. We have carefully followed the advice that: “one approach strategy does not fit all” and it has served us well.

PG: Historically, meaningful involvement in fundraising by hospital CEOs has been a challenge. However, in recent years we have begun to witness a sea change in this position and your CEO at Bozeman is a prime example.

DG: Yes, our campaign has certainly benefitted from the commitment and active participation of the Hospital’s CEO, John Nordwick. Let’s face it, no one else can communicate the vision, plans and needs with more authority and credibility than the chief executive officer. And major donors today not only expect but also deserve the attention of the CEO in courting their support. Colleges and universities have done this forever and it is time that we follow suit in healthcare if we expect to raise big dollars.

PG: You were able to secure BDH’s first-ever seven figure gift during the Advance Leadership Gift Phase of the Cornerstone Campaign. What has been the impact of that landmark gift?

DG: Hands down, the impact was credibility! What I mean is that this first seven-figure said loud and clear that our Hospital and Foundation were “worthy” of major philanthropic support. The playing field has changed forever. Testimony to that is working with GSI we have subsequently secured three additional seven-figure commitments which I am totally convinced were inspired by that first breakthrough million dollar gift.

PG: Congratulations on the success to date. You have raised more than ever have before. What are the latest figures?

DG: As of the date this blog is being published, we stand at more than $7.5 million on our $9 million goal, and we are continuing to campaign as diligently as we can.

In our next blog, we’ll continue with our discussion with Debra Gill and turn our attention to the public announcement and community phase of the campaign. Please join us then!

Are You Ready? The Key Factors to Planning and Launching a Capital Campaign

by Glenn Vallach, Vice President for Public Relations and Communications, Ghiorsi & Sorrenti, Inc.

Campaign Readiness (Part I)

We are delighted to make available our GSI Eye on Philanthropy Blog to guest Debra Gill, Executive Vice President of Philanthropy for Bozeman Deaconess Foundation.  Debra has a phenomenally successful fund raising track record in bucolic Bozeman, Montana, and is deeply engaged in the quiet phase of a major capital campaign that will support a new Emergency Department.  During this three-part conversation with our own Peter Ghiorsi, together they map out the key factors in planning a capital campaign.  Today, they discuss the Planning Study.

Peter Ghiorsi (PG): We are seeing some movement on the part of non-profits, gaining more confidence in the improving economy, and pushing off the capital campaign starting blocks.  You weathered that storm in Bozeman, and started the campaign process in the midst of all the economic troubles.  What motivated you to push forward?

Debra Gill (DG): Frankly, Peter, we were comfortable we had an urgent need, a great family of constituents who would understand the critical need, and a passion to get a campaign rolling quickly and definitively.  We operated under the assumption that with a need as urgent as we all understood it to be, we couldn’t wait out a bad economy. 

PG: During our 22 years in business, we’ve developed an effective road map for campaign success.  As you know so well, it starts with the organizations’ strategic plan which clearly states a long-term vision.  Consensus is very important, of course, at the Board and Administration level. 

DG:  Everyone needs to be on the same page concerning the urgency and the need.  And with operating margins always under pressure and reduced debt capacity, healthcare organizations’ greatest source of new equity capital is philanthropy.  So fundraising has become more important to an organization’s health, and the capital campaign is the most effective way to achieve results.  In today’s economy, campaigns have become a necessity.

PG: Once this foundation is in place, you’re ready for the campaign planning study. As you experienced, there are several key steps to take as you prepare for this process.  First and foremost, you need to identify and prepare volunteer leadership. They have to believe in the project and the process, and be ready to roll up their sleeves as part of a carefully constructed campaign infrastructure. 

DG: Yes, and we are very fortunate at Bozeman Deaconess to have an outstanding senior leadership team and volunteer base who responded with passion and enthusiasm to this opportunity.  Then, we decided on capital campaign counsel to guide us through the critical steps and help us maximize the potential.

PG:  And we are grateful for the opportunity to provide that service for you.  Moving forward, the campaign case abstract is of paramount importance. A powerful case is essential to a powerful campaign.  If it’s compelling and urgent, it will help inspire sacrificial giving.

DG: Ultimately, the case abstract was the first formal evidence to our most important constituents of the urgency of the project

PG: With the help of counsel, then, it’s time to develop a Planning Study strategy.  You’ll need a carefully developed list of interview candidates to involve in the process … a group who will provide you with valuable information in terms of resources and prospects, those who themselves may prove to be the cornerstones in terms of leadership and individual giving, and others who may serve as the eventual ambassadors of the effort. 

DG: Again, we were fortunate to engage the participation of so many…Board members, administration, long-time donors, grateful patients, physicians…who helped mold our plans and strategies, and gave us a great sense of whom to approach and how to approach them.

PG: As part of the planning study process, we also developed the integrated campaign planning strategy years ago that encourages organizations to selectively approach appropriate interviewees for gifts as the study progresses, thereby creating a great sense of buy-in and momentum. While your study wasn’t, by definition, integrated, you did experience the benefit of securing a few major gifts very early in the campaign assuring that momentum.

DG: Yes, our campaign committee was very excited when we started our first meeting with an announcement that we had already secured our first $1 million gift. 

PG: I know we were very impressed with the outstanding preparatory work you undertook. We interviewed 78 people, and it was a great cross-section of the BDH family and community.  

DG:  We knew it was important to get everyone who is critical to BDH and the campaign’s eventual success invested in the process.  It showed in the planning study results, and now, during actual campaigning.  The planning study report told us that a great majority of those interviewed considered the ER project vital, and a similar majority would invest in it.  There were more than 80 quality leadership gift prospects to approach to help us reach the working target GSI recommended.  It was at that point the Board endorsed the campaign, and we were blissfully plunged into uncharted waters at BDH.

In our next blog, we’ll continue with the “key factors” conversation and transition from the Planning Study process to the capital campaign.  Hope you’ll join us then!

A Time for Reflection

by Peter GhiorsiDan Sorrenti

For those of us who are involved in fundraising or enmeshed in the day to day operations of the healthcare, education, and all other non-profit industries, it is natural to focus on the business of giving and occasionally lose sight of the results of giving.  As we become immersed in the warmth and glow of the Holiday season, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on the real value of all that you do for all that you serve.

Tens of thousands will reap the benefits of the Elizabeth M. Pfriem SWIM Cancer Center, an Emergency Department expansion and the new Ambulatory Surgery Center that St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, CT is undertaking.  Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ is in the midst of a major initiative that will greatly enhance oncology, emergency, and cardiology services and ensure the well-being of patients throughout the region.  Capital Health System in Trenton, NJ is building a brand new medical center that will make available the very latest in medicine and technology for their expansive community of patients.

Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), headquartered in San Francisco, CA, and the eighth largest hospital provider in the nation, has built an outstanding reputation implementing the latest innovations and playing a critical role in the health of millions throughout their history.  They prepare today to lift those standards to an even higher level with projects and programs designed for future generations with the dollars being raised all across the more than 30 foundations throughout the system. 

Cancer patients and their families in Hunterdon County, NJ will thank Hunterdon Medical Center for their enhancements in oncology, surgery and other initiatives.   Better access and expanded facilities at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, NH will benefit thousands of patients and their families.  Saint Clare’s Health System embarks on a new capital campaign to support a series of projects, all designed to improve the health of the people in the Denville, Boonton, Dover and Sussex areas of New Jersey. 

At Morton Plant Mease in Clearwater, FL, the Morgan Heart Hospital has taken cardiovascular care to a new level, and enhanced women’s services are addressing a critical healthcare need.  Over in nearby Tampa, St. Joseph’s Hospital will be building a new hospital to better serve its community.   

Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, VA is greatly expanding their campus and all services because they need to care for more people.  McLeod Health System in SC wants to expand their Cancer Center because it is necessary for the people of the Pee Dee region.  In the same State, it is also a critical need in Greenwood County, so Self Regional Healthcare endeavors to build the Self Regional Cancer Center.

A new emergency department at Stamford Hospital will bring a new generation of emergency care to the people in that part of Connecticut.   Boys Town in Omaha, NE continues to look for groundbreaking ways to help troubled youths with plans for two new facilities.  Our friends in Bozeman, MT at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital are expanding their Emergency Center, and that will help save lives.  Among the many projects underway at Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport, MA is the creation of private patient rooms, and the expansion of outpatient emergency services for the many patients and families they serve.  Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, NJ is building a new Surgical Pavilion that will have an enormous impact on thousands of patients who will have access to latest and best surgical facilities.  Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, CT is constructing a new Outpatient Facility that will improve access for many of their friends in the community.  Vassar Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY is responding to community need with a new Ambulatory Center.  The groundbreaking discoveries of tomorrow and the lives they impact is the focus of Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY with their new free-standing Research Institute. 

Bishop McDevitt High School is building a new school on a spacious campus and ushering in a new era of education in Harrisburg, PA.  The Immaculate Heart Academy will enhance their facilities in Washington Township, NJ for the benefit of their students. The YWCA in New Britain CT expands their facility to better secure the safety and future of children.

We are barely scratching the surface here.  These above represent only a few from our client family.  But there are literally thousands of such projects and capital campaigns across this country, raising hundreds of million dollars, that require the passion and forethought of people such as yourselves and the response from thousands of donors before others can be helped. 

And what is the ultimate result? For this Holiday season and hopefully many to follow, there’ll be people gathered around their Christmas trees, or at Chanukah gatherings, or anywhere else Holidays are celebrated that have survived and lived healthfully as a direct result of that forethought and that generosity. 

On behalf of them all, we thank you during this period of seasonal reflection…we thank you all.

Please share your holiday thoughts with us here, and Happy Holidays from all of us at Ghiorsi & Sorrenti, Inc.

What a Difference a Year Makes

by Dan Sorrenti

Well, it’s a year now since our economy fell to its knees taking the financial services, banking, automotive and how ever many other industries with it. 

In short order, we lived through the fall of the venerable Lehman Brothers, the mammoth Citigroup plummeting and trading at around a dollar, the U.S. government rescue of AIG and General Motors, Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, the tumble of college and retirement savings, and much more.

Amidst these battlefield conditions, our industry has had to carry the flag, besieged with heavy artillery fire in raising money for our schools, hospitals, museums, social service organizations and the like. Our charge always is to raise more money, but under these circumstances, one might just want to raise the white flag. 

But we didn’t!

Yes, the numbers showed that giving declined in 2008 and the prognosis is that 2009 could be similar.  But, our industry has persevered and persisted in winning the battles that ultimately will win the war. 

How? From our corner of the world at GSI, we have seen that organizations which have resisted the cries to retreat have been successful.  Maybe they haven’t raised as much as they would have in different economic times, but, they raised money because they continue to ask, strategically and with integrity.

Last November, Peter Ghiorsi wrote an article posted on GSI’s website that used this metaphor in describing the economic turmoil: “The field is burning but it will come back greener.”  We all know you can get dizzy trying to predict the economy, based on all that’s happened, but here we are 12 months later and what a difference a year makes.  It would appear, though with fingers crossed, that we are emerging from the burning field. 

Recent news reports confirm the recession is technically over and leading economic indicators rose in September for a sixth straight month.  This augurs well for economic growth and expansion, albeit slow. 

Record profits have been recorded by Goldman Sachs, the stock market’s resurgence, generally one of the first signs of economic recovery, is staying strong, and our banks seem to have the capital to start lending again. With all of this, it’s a renewed confidence that we need most to see giving come back and propel upwards again. And, while we have a ways to go, we can sense from our friends in the industry that donor confidence is returning!

What a difference a year makes and if all continues on pace, what a difference another year will make. This is what we see one year later at GS “Eye” on Philanthropy.  What do you see and envision for giving over the next 12 months?

Of Healthcare Reform and Healthcare Philanthropy

by Peter W. Ghiorsi, MBA, FAHP

Recently, at dinner with a major contributor and his wife I asked them how they thought healthcare reform would impact philanthropy.  Frankly, my sense was they hadn’t given it much thought, which was telling in and of itself.  But after a minute, their reply was a provocative one that any fund raiser would hope to hear.  Summarizing:  The needs are so great and ever-increasing that philanthropy will need to play an even greater role going forward, especially if significant healthcare reform occurs, primarily because resources will be even more scarce. There was not one word concerning the tax aspects of giving.

We have seen a glimpse of this mindset in educational fund raising.   In the past we have had potential donors to a state university offer the following concern: “Doesn’t the state fund this institution?  Why are you approaching me for a philanthropic gift, when the state should be providing the necessary capital to make this happen?”  To wit, we were able to turn the situation to our advantage, channeling their objection toward a response focusing on the diminishing support from the state, leading to the tried and true “margin of excellence” argument.  State funded educational institutions seem to have done just fine.

The big difference in healthcare is that governmental “support” of our healthcare system will by no means diminish.  Rather, it will increase exponentially.  Expanded entitlements, more government mandates, etc., will compound exploding deficits and grow healthcare to a progressively increasing share of the country’s GDP, already at roughly 18%. 

Regardless of where you stand politically, it is possible that the government’s aggressive search for new sources of revenue might result in the government’s diminished “support” for healthcare philanthropy.  We have observed for years now the attacks on the tax-exempt status of healthcare providers, and hospitals in particular.  Most recently, the idea of limiting tax deductions for wealthy donors has been tossed around.  Will these headwinds negatively impact healthcare philanthropy?  Or is it all political blather and posturing?

GS “Eye” on Philanthropy will be querying President Obama and his staff about the impact his plans will have on philanthropy, and we will be reporting back to you in this space.

What do you think?  What are you hearing? .  Let us know what would you ask our President about this issue?

Welcome to GS “Eye” on Philanthropy

To Our Colleagues and Friends,

For more than 20 years Ghiorsi & Sorrenti, Inc. (GSI) has been honored to partner with thousands of non-profit organizations in raising billions of dollars all across America.   During this time, we have never witnessed a period more exciting or challenging for fund raisers than today.  And never before has our work been given such priority and scrutiny!   Fortunately, there is a myriad of information sources and tools available to us today to communicate, network, and dialogue about the world of philanthropy.

That’s why we have developed GS “Eye” on Philanthropy, a forum for fund raising enthusiasts to share thoughts and ideas about everything philanthropic.  We want to know what you are experiencing and what you are thinking on matters important to our industry…. and, frankly, it will be wonderful to speak with you outside the boundaries of a conference or a conference room.  We will also be inviting guest bloggers to dialogue on subject matter that falls into their particular area of expertise.

So please keep an open line of communications with us.  Our goal is to help all GS “Eye” on Philanthropy participants stay on top of the very latest developments, fund raising strategies, best practices and the like, and to have some fun in the process!

Thank you, and we look forward to blogging with you here!

Peter & Dan