Case Study: Health Care Services – LeBonheur
Case 1: LeBonheur Children’s Hospital Fundraising Strategy
Before Hiring Ethridge
As a charitable hospital, in early 2004, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, was in the process of developing a capital campaign. The hospital was concerned that local residents in its home town of Memphis, Tennessee might not know the importance of the hospital to the local community, how it is funded, or the need for capital funding. The marketing objectives of the capital campaign were as follows:
- Develop a strategy to achieve mass-market/grass roots opinion support for the campaign in the region served by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital
- Develop a messaging strategy to solicit contributions from affluent individuals
To help in developing this strategy, the hospital and its ad agency wanted to conduct a custom-designed Community Survey to develop a strategy to raise money for a local capital campaign
After Hiring Ethridge
The hospital and its advertising agency asked Ethridge & Associates, L.L.C., a communication consulting and research firm, with considerable research in developing successful, national fund-raising campaigns for non-profit organizations, to conduct custom-designed marketing research. The objectives of this study, broadly speaking, were to:
- Quantify perceptions, the giving behavior, and attitudes toward giving among the public, including perceptions of the adequacy of funding for children’s medical services
- Quantify predisposition toward giving to children’s medical services
- Quantify perceptions of LeBonheur and, in particular, perceptions of whether the hospital’s buildings and facilities were adequate for both current and future community needs for children’s medical services.
- Test messages for their ability to motivate people to give donations to the capital campaign
The market perceived a need for private donations to health related organizations in general and were most likely to contribute financially to research aimed at life threatening illnesses among children.
However, Le Bonheur was not yet widely perceived as a fundraising organization. By comparison, St. Jude Hospital was.
Ethridge concluded that these findings had three strategic implications.
- First, LeBonheur had to educate the market about its need for private funding and build the awareness of LeBonheur as a fundraising hospital.
- Second, any effort to raise money for research aimed at life threatening illnesses among children would be in competition with St. Jude.
- Third, taking these two implications together, to be most successful at fundraising for healthcare services aimed at children, LeBonheur would have to differentiate itself from St. Jude in terms of why people should contribute financially to Le Bonheur either instead of St. Jude or in addition to contributing to St. Jude.
Ethridge & Associates, L.L.C. recommended that, to be most successful, the capital campaign message should achieve the following communication goals:
- Reinforce the necessity of Le Bonheur to the residents of Memphis and their families.
- Inform the public about how many families use Le Bonheur hospital, to overcome the tendency to perceive that it is less necessary for “me and my family” and to bring the necessity of the hospital “closer to home.”
- Conditionally link the need to modernize and upgrade the hospital’s facilities with the hospital’s ability to provide expanded quality healthcare for children. In other words the message should communicate that, if the hospital can receive funding to modernize and upgrade its facilities, then it will be able to offer the highest quality pediatric heart surgery in the country, expand its wellness advocacy program, buy the latest medical equipment to save children’s lives, and attract the best children’s doctors to Memphis. These services are ones that Le Bonheur should use to differentiate itself from St. Jude to the greatest extent possible.
Results of Following Ethridge’s Recommendations
This study summarized above was presented in March 2004. On June 28, 2005, LeBonheur announced their $100 million capital campaign to build a new facility. Now, six years later, with the help of our research and citizens who donated, the hospital will realize its vision of providing the best health care to all children. Less than a year after that announcement, as of June 5, 2010, they had raised $87.1 million. At this writing, as of September 10, 2011, the campaign has raised $104 million. Today, the $340 million campaign is open and operational (click here to read about the new facility).