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New Donors Skyrocketed During COVID. What Do We Do With Them Now?

Non-profit hospitals recruited thousands of new donors during the pandemic. Communities rallied behind healthcare workers and were constantly in tune with the needs of their local hospital. And their donations were put to good use — hospitals were able to purchase critical PPE to protect caregivers, staff capacity was expanded, and life-saving equipment and treatments were made possible. But the needs of your hospital go much further than COVID response.

As we transition out of the pandemic, it’s important to nurture your COVID donors and convert them into lifelong supporters of your hospital. Here are a few recommendations: 

You’re more than your COVID response: Introduce new donors to all of the work your Foundation does

Many of your new COVID donors gave for a specific reason: supporting healthcare workers during the pandemic. But these donors may not be familiar with the other life-saving work that your foundation supports. You should pay special attention to your new COVID donors — welcome them to your community of supporters, highlight the priorities of your foundation, and detail the impact of philanthropy at your hospital. 

Segment your COVID donors, and speak directly to them

New COVID donors were there for your hospital at a critical time. As you transition them to long-term supporters, it’s important that you segment your renewal appeals to them. 

Your messaging should be targeted and it should underscore the unique circumstances that brought them in as a supporter. You should also highlight the impact of their past gifts. As you ask for continued support, you should customize your donation asks based on their pandemic giving history. Over time, you can begin to fold your new COVID donors into your regular universe — but not without taking the time to nurture them at first. 

By segmenting COVID donors appropriately, one hospital foundation was able to retain 21% of their COVID donors into 2021. But, more importantly, those retained donors increased their giving amount, leading to a 137% increase in revenue for our client. 

Acknowledge the past, but don’t dwell on it

COVID-19 fundamentally transformed the way that we deliver care — and the way that our communities view their health. Unfortunately, its impact will be felt long after the pandemic ends. And when compiled with the everchanging health concerns ahead of us, the need for philanthropy is even greater. Those with long COVID will continue to need care. New infectious diseases will develop. The growing epidemic of substance use and mental health challenges will strain our healthcare system. And those who delayed preventive care will require more care and focus.

However, there is a reason for hope. Healthcare supporters have shown their willingness to give at a critical time. Now, it’s on you to show them how their continued support can help going forward.

Identify your new donors with high giving capacity

Every donor is a valued member of your community — no matter the amount that they give. But it’s important to ensure that you’re taking advantage of all that they have to offer. That’s why wealth screening is so important, especially after such a huge influx of new donors. Now is the perfect time to review your new donor list and wealth screen them for giving capacity. Use these insights to find a giving level that fits their profile — and be sure to slide on your white gloves and nurture them, especially those at the higher end of the spectrum.

Here’s the bottom line: You relied on COVID donors to support your work at an important time. Now, the ball is in your court to retain them and support your care for years to come. We work every day to help hospital foundations speak with their communities and raise money for a good cause. And we’d love to help you, too. Reach out to a team member today.

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Why Email Open Rates are a Thing of the Past

Every email marketer knows that open rates have long been the gold standard for measuring an email’s success. We build lists around them, adjust our content based on them, and can gauge the results of a fundraising campaign on them. We’re here to tell you that all of this has changed. But fortunately, there are other ways to measure success and have a strong email program without them.

In the fall of 2021, Apple implemented a Mail Privacy Protection program across their operating systems. In short, their system may tell your platform that an email was opened — even if in reality it wasn’t. A recent report by Litmus showed that 58.4% of desktop email opens happen through Apple Mail, and 90.5% of mobile opens happen on an iPhone. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but this change will affect your organization. So what does this mean?


Your open rates are likely inflated.

Any of your supporters who use Apple Mail and opted in will appear as “opens” on your recent emails, regardless of whether they’ve seen them or not. 

Your deliverability shouldn’t change.

If you didn’t have issues with bouncing emails in the past, this program won’t create new problems. But should these challenges arise in the future, they’ll be harder to identify.

The impact on other trackable metrics will be small.

Your click-through rate and other conversion metrics won’t be affected by this change (in fact, these metrics have become even more important!)

You need to rethink the way you build your lists.

Most email fundraisers (ourselves included) tend to use recent openers to build an “active list”. This won’t be effective anymore. Instead, consider building your list around new contacts (through our Honor Your Caregiver℠ platform).


There are still quite a few unknowns when it comes to the impact of this change. But it’s important to remember that this is a barrier you can overcome. Email marketing and fundraising is a dynamic industry because it has to be. We’ve maintained our success in non-profit hospital digital fundraising by sticking to the Four Pillars of Successful Email Campaigns and identifying innovative new ways to connect with our audiences. 

And remember, we’re here to help.

If you need a team of dedicated experts by your side to help you navigate this change and build a digital fundraising program that you can count on, drop us a line and connect directly to a member of our team. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Four Cornerstones of a Successful Email Fundraising Campaign

No matter when you’re reading this, there’s likely a fundraising campaign right around the corner. As we write this in January 2022, our team is already ramping up for Doctor’s Day in March. Are you prepared for your next campaign?

In our years of experience helping non-profit hospitals raise money, we’ve made countless changes and optimizations to the way we strategize and implement our campaigns. No matter the changes, we consistently return to what we see as the four cornerstones of successful email fundraising. Keep these in mind as you prepare for your next campaign:

1. Steward your donors throughout the year, not just at campaign time.

Your relationship with your donors, just like any relationship, needs cultivation and hard work. Donors don’t only want to hear from you when you’re asking for money. Be sure to steward them throughout the year and keep them up-to-date on what’s going on within your organization. They’ll be more likely to give at campaign time, and will appreciate hearing what’s new in your hospital. After all, they likely helped pay for it!

Pro-Tip: Build regular stewardship communications into your communications calendar ahead of time.

2. Set a campaign goal or get a matching gift (or both!)

These goals don’t have to be a dollar amount. They can be a number of donations, a number of new donors, or anything else creative! What matters is setting a goal that you and your donors can aspire to. And if you can secure a matching gift from a generous individual or business, it helps create buy-in from the rest of your community. They see that others are supporting you, and they want to join.

3. Drive urgency in your messaging

You know when your campaign ends. Make sure that your donors know that, too. Using your goal or matching gift is a great way to drive urgency. Explain to your donors why it’s important that they donate now, not tomorrow or next month. 

4. Provide tangible funding priorities

It’s perfectly fine to raise money for your organization’s area of greatest need. But be sure to tell your donors exactly what that’s funding. If your hospital needs new medical equipment, or you’re funding a nursing education scholarship, make that clear! Donors are significantly more likely to give if there are tangible priorities that they can help you achieve. 

Pro-Tip: Use clinical staff to your advantage here. Hearing from a physician or a nurse why a new piece of equipment or a facility upgrade matters to them can be very impactful.

We are here to support!

No matter what your next campaign is, best of luck! And remember that our team is here to help. We love working with non-profit hospitals to optimize digital fundraising and communications. If you want to learn more, we want to hear from you! Connect with a member of our team today.

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Four Email Best Practices to Maximize Your Hospital Foundations’ Digital Fundraising

If you’re anything like us, you’re constantly obsessing over every aspect of your fundraising emails. What can I do to boost my open rate? Is my content engaging enough? What changes can I make to raise more money? The smallest details can make or break your email campaign. As you know, less engagement means fewer donations. And that leaves your foundation with less to invest in your patients, caregivers, and community. 

Here are four simple email best practices to set you up for fundraising success:

1. Use your physicians and clinical staff to your advantage.

Emails from a physician or other clinical leader can produce open rates 2-3x the industry average*. Your supporters see them as trustworthy, familiar, and authoritative. And they can provide a unique perspective about the impact of philanthropy. As an added bonus, engaging with physicians is a great way to build a relationship between clinical staff and your foundation. *(Source: Digital Health Strategies Internal Data)

2. Yes, the subject line matters — more than you’d think!

The subject line is the first piece of content your supporters see in their inboxes. It should be catchy, engaging, and make the reader want to learn more. Avoid direct asks in your subject line, be careful with emojis and punctuation, and be concise. This ensures that your message gets through spam filters and is opened by your supporters. When in doubt, use A/B testing.

3. Find a time that suits your supporters.

Even half an hour’s difference in send times can have a drastic impact on your engagement rates. Every audience is different, so it’s important to take a look at your personal trends. In general, avoid sending fundraising emails on the weekends, late in the afternoon, or very early in the morning. For us, 8:30 am is usually a safe bet. 

4. Keep your ask simple.

Your email should have a single call to action: “Donate now, Honor Your Caregiver℠ today,” or “register soon.” Too many asks can clutter your email and cause confusion for your supporters. Make sure that your ask is direct, and make it as simple as possible for your supporters to follow through. 

Want to learn more?

At Digital Health Strategies, we obsess over the details so that you don’t have to. Through years of working with non-profit hospital foundations of all sizes, we’ve identified the trends that drive success in digital fundraising. If you’re ready to learn more and maximize your fundraising opportunities, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email and let’s get to work!

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New Trend Alert: Digital Grateful Patient Programs

It’s time to turn your grateful patient program digital. As more and more of your supporters use online channels to engage and donate, it’s critical to your fundraising efforts that you be on the leading edge of the trends that drive success and growth for your organization. Taking this step can save you time and money and cultivate your donors in a new and exciting way. And getting this started may be simpler than you’d expect. Let’s break it down:

What is a digital grateful patient program?

Turning your grateful patient program digital accomplishes everything that your existing program does — without the headache and cost of direct mail and other channels. Instead, you’ll use the power of email and automation to reach discharged patients in a timely and efficient manner, driving them to a customized web application to share their stories, honor their caregivers, and donate to your organization.

Why is it effective?

What are the results?

Don’t just take our word for it. Digital grateful patient programs are driving results for non-profit hospital foundations of all sizes right now. One of our clients implemented a digital grateful patient program and grew their email list by 500% within one year. On top of that, they converted one patient into a $1 million+ donor within 6 months of receiving a grateful patient email message.

Are you ready for a digital grateful patient program? We’re here to help. 

We’re experts in building digital grateful patient programs that work for our client’s specific needs. We’ve helped non-profit hospital foundations of all sizes grow their email lists, honor their caregivers, and raise more money. 

Our Honor Your Caregiver℠ platform provides you with every tool you need to get this done. Within 90 days, we’ll help you launch a digital grateful patient program with customized messaging and content, a dedicated online platform for patients to share a story and make a contribution, and automated workflows to streamline the process from discharge to donation. 

Ready to learn more? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us and our member of our team would be happy to chat!

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