Long Island Business News
February 27, 2013
By Kristen D’Andrea
LI Hospitals Test Crowdfunding for Fundraising
Last October, when Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals approached Fundly with an opportunity to partner on a national campaign, it grabbed the attention of the folks at the world’s largest crowdfunding-for-good platform.
“The opportunity to partner with the most trusted brand name in children’s fundraising was really attractive,” said Fundly CEO Dave Boyce.
The campaign that Children’s Miracle Network had in mind was the first-ever crowdfunded hospital gift catalog, in which donors had the opportunity to choose their gifts – ranging from comfort toys for $30 to a pediatric wheelchair for $970 to an entire hospital wing devoted to neonatal intensive care for $12 million – from www.GiveMiracles.org. The catalog was launched about two months prior to Christmas to capitalize on the gift-giving season.
An international nonprofit organization, Children’s Miracle Network raises funds and awareness for 170 children’s hospitals, including the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Prior to the crowdfunding gift catalog idea, the organization relied on fundraising partners, including Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, IHOP and Costco, to help raise money in a variety of ways, such as selling the iconic Miracle balloon for $1, $5 or $100.
“As a network, we have raised in excess of $250 million a year that way,” said Kevin Carraccio, vice president of development at the North Shore-LIJ Health System Foundation. Still, Cohen Children’s Medical Center was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the new online fundraising campaign, he said.
“The concept was to encourage your friends to give and be a part of something bigger,” Carraccio said. “It was a great way to market the fact that we’re charities. All the money stays local and you can pick which hospital [in the network] you want to give to.”
Overall, Carraccio said Cohen Children’s Medical Center considers the effort a win. During the eight weeks leading up to the holidays, the online catalog received 46,000 page views, 1,400 media hits and raised a total of $26,000 in donations. Although this met only 10 percent of the hospital’s online goal, “I would rate it as a total success,” Carraccio said. Additionally, the hospital received four calls from donors interested in becoming major donors.
The hospital gift catalog remains active and will be throughout the year, with another big push planned for this holiday season.
Other local hospitals are beginning to dip their feet into the water, as well. Online giving is one of many strategies and techniques used by Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip to identify, cultivate and secure donations, according to Kathy Dulanto, executive director of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation.
“Today, more than ever, we need to be able to reach and relate to our donors wherever they are,” she said. “The Internet enables us to engage with the community demographically, geographically and culturally, as well as target health care service lines that can directly relate to donor interest. Increasingly, people of all ages shop online, pay their bills online and now donate online.”
Dexter Bailey, vice president for advancement at Stony Brook University, said he’s “bullish” on the effort.
“Pursuing an online giving strategy is necessary,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
The medical center has tested the response to various solicitation emails with postcard-type messages, as well as videos that include a landing page with a “learn more, give now” button. Last year, the video was sent out to potential donors, including alumni, grateful patients and parents; Bailey said he was pleased with the numbers on views and open rates. This year, postcards promoting the video’s URL will be sent in advance.
“Years ago, the belief was the pivot to online solicitations would be cheaper,” he said, noting he disagrees. “I think you have to be more creative, put more resources into it. The market is so competitive, you have to work even harder than with direct mail to be relevant.”