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Optimize your hospital’s grateful patient program with these simple tips

Grateful patient programs are an important source of new donors for many hospital fundraising programs. And when run effectively, they can have very high conversion rates. 

Unfortunately, grateful patient programs can also be challenging to maintain due to their differences from traditional direct response programs. 

In this blog, I'll explain why you can’t just throw patients into a standing digital or direct mail acquisition plan and offer up a few tips to help optimize your own grateful patient program.  

Why grateful patient programs take a different approach 

When it comes to direct response, the more you show a donor you know them, the better. But for grateful patients, personal information is a reason to proceed with caution.   

Due to the sensitive nature of medical information, you can’t personalize content too much without fear of violating HIPAA regulations or making the patient feel like you are invading their privacy.  Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to receive a fundraising piece from a hospital referencing the procedures or treatment you just received? 

At the same time, you can’t just throw patients into your standard acquisition program and expect success. Instead, you need a targeted grateful patient program with a tailored message, tone and approach. 

3 tips for success 

There are many ways to optimize your grateful patient program for higher conversion rates. Here are a few we’re implementing that are generating great results:  

1. Target by general interest flags

While we can’t target patients by specific treatment type, you can try using more general interest flags to mold your messaging.  

Consider testing flags and content pillars for things like cancer, heart disease, neurology or research based on past interactions with your hospital. We’ve found a patient’s disease is a source of affinity for a topic, and hence leads to better engagement with your content. Using this information, you can implement variable copy and creative messaging for each audience that helps drive conversion rates. 

2. Use a model to identify top prospects

Through modeling, your hospital can refine recent patient lists to identify who is the most likely to become a donor.  

Artificial intelligence (AI) modeling can comb through hundreds of thousands of patient names, along with thousands of other variables to develop an optimized list of patients for conversion. From there, we have been able to target the top prospects with specific grateful patient messaging to help convert them into donors. 

3. Consider a rolling format to avoid oversaturation

In addition to the model mentioned above, we also introduced a rolling patient format for one of our hospitals. Each month, we target patients from the model who are over a certain age, have visited recently and have received fewer than two appeals in their lifetime. If they don’t meet these criteria, they are suppressed. This approach can help avoid oversaturation and improve conversion rates. However, it’s important to test this cadence with your program to determine what works best for your audience. 

Because of their affiliation with the great work that your hospital does, grateful patient programs can have high conversion rates—but it can take time to land on the most effective strategies to get them up and running. Just like traditional direct response, they require constant testing and innovation to find the best strategies for your hospital.  

If you’re looking for more help optimizing your grateful patient program, feel free to contact us today!  

Additional resources

Cara Marinelli

As Vice President, Client Strategy, at RKD Group, Cara is a fixture of leadership, providing innovative direct mail, online, phone, research, major gifts and planned giving strategies for clients. Her proven ability to optimize these fundraising disciplines ensure that nonprofits meet or exceed their fundraising goals. A direct marketing veteran, Cara has fundraising experience in multiple different verticals that span hospital, health and disease, relief and development and many more.

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