A Randomized Trial to Evaluate Methodologies for Engaging Academic Physicians in Grateful Patient Fundraising

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Donations from grateful patients can support medical education, research, and clinical programs. This study sought to compare the effectiveness of three approaches to educating physicians about grateful patient fundraising.


In 2010, the authors conducted a randomized trial at an academic health center to compare the effectiveness of three educational strategies that encouraged physicians to participate in grateful patient fundraising. The authors randomized physicians into an “e-mail arm,” a “lecture arm,” and a “coaching arm.” All participants received weekly e-mail articles describing philanthropy processes and outcomes. Those in the lecture arm also attended a single, one-hour training session taught by a physician with prior fundraising success, and those in the “coaching arm” received personalized, one-on-one communications with development professionals. The intervention period was three months. The primary outcome was the number of “qualified referrals” (i.e., individuals capable of making a ≥$25,000 gift) whose names participants provided to the development team during the three months of and three months following the intervention; dollars received was the secondary outcome.


Participants in the e-mail arm (n = 14) generated 0 referrals and $0, those in the lecture arm (n = 18) generated three referrals and $0, and those in the coaching arm (n = 19) generated 41 referrals and $219,550 (five gifts). Of the 19 physicians in the coaching arm, 17 (89%) generated at least one qualified referral.


A process in which development officers give one-on-one coaching to physicians can effectively enhance collaboration on grateful patient philanthropy.

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