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Crack the Code: Turn Advocates into Star Fundraisers with CHOP

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Kay Todd

Product Marketing Manager

Originally posted on AHP Connect, presented by Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. 

As healthcare fundraisers, you're constantly challenged to drive fundraising growth, especially among grateful patients, corporate partners, employees, and your local community. But how do you turn advocacy into revenue generation?

The fundraising specialists at nationally ranked Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) cracked the code on activating patient families, scaling fundraiser stewardship, and embracing technology to reach their supporters when and where they want to engage. The team has generated a portfolio of successful experience-based peer-to-peer fundraising events—including a virtual month-long activity challenge, a pajama day fundraiser for elementary-aged students, and an indoor team cycle party.

1. People Who Care More Raise More

Like any great fundraising strategy, CHOP starts with engaging members of their community with capacity to make a difference for their cause. That means creating outlets for their biggest advocates, who aren’t necessarily those who can write the biggest checks but raise them. 

The team starts with their patient population, partnering with clinical staff to identify patient ambassador families who want to give back. CHOP doesn’t have a formal patient advocacy program, but rather focuses on fundraising as an entry point to connect families with their Foundation team and create opportunities to share their stories.

Patient stories are vital for motivating other participants and even up-leveling corporate sponsors. Citadel Credit Union started out as a sponsor for CHOP’s Parkway Run & Walk event in 2019, and the team connected the President/Chief Executive Officer directly to the family of patient Lizzy. Over the next few years, the relationship with Lizzy and her family inspired Citadel to extend their presenting sponsorship and make additional gifts.

See how far the relationship has come in this clip Citadel created for the 2023 event.

2. Map Engagement, Not Just Fundraising Totals

Often the struggle for fundraising teams comes from prioritization with so many supporters to steward and not enough time in the day to reach them all. An engagement matrix helps focus your team, scaling and personalizing communication to those participants who have the most fundraising potential. 

Start by scoring your existing participants based on key activations. Do your supporters have a relationship with a patient? Have they customized their fundraising page or created a Facebook fundraiser? Do they have a higher-than-average fundraising goal? These are signs your supporter is engaged and ready to make a bigger impact.

CHOP uses DonorDrive to manage their fundraising events and report on engagement metrics. They plot into an engagement matrix and increase scalability by focusing on team captains rather than all participants. 

3. Personalize and Scale Stewardship

Once you have a picture of how your supporters are engaging, you can focus on building a stewardship plan to level up participants. Personalized stewardship could include:

  • Lunch and learn with research scientists.
  • Personal thank you calls from your Foundation staff, volunteers, and/or clinical staff.
  • Handwritten thank you notes.
  • Personalized videos.

For CHOP, outreach looks similar for Stars—those who have already shown high engagement and high fundraising numbers—and Rising Stars—those who are highly engaged but haven’t reached their fundraising potential yet. 

Question Marks are another great opportunity to create additional engagement while Underachievers should receive the least amount of attention. Your fundraising platform should offer opportunities to scale stewardship based on key activations, for example if the participant hasn’t customized their fundraising page a week before your event.

For one Team CHOP participant fundraising and running in the New York City Marathon, the Foundation team created a simple smartphone video featuring clinical staff members, including her daughter’s physician, overlaid with her favorite song. She received the video as she started her trip to the event, and it inspired her not just during her race but to move up the timeline for a major gift. 

4. Invest in Opportunities for Growth

Another key strategy to creating an engaged supporter base is providing diverse opportunities for your biggest advocates. CHOP provides opportunities for third parties to fundraise online with a DIY fundraising option on DonorDrive, virtual experiences for advocates across the country, and engaging fundraisers with a mobile fundraising app.

For their annual Philly Spin-In event, CHOP connects with virtual participants through a livestream broadcast. They use multiple cameras to make the experience authentic and impactful for those watching. 

Check out a clip from the CHOP Philly Spin-In stream.

Their strategy also includes providing supporters an easy way to fundraise on the go with the DonorDrive Charity Fundraising App. CHOP increased engagement for their 31-Day Challenge activity tracking event with half their participants fundraising with the app.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has partnered with DonorDrive for nearly 10 years, powering their peer-to-peer and community fundraising programs with mobile-first event registration, personalized coaching, an easy-to-use fundraiser portal, features proven to drive engagement, and conversion-focused donation forms.


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