It’s an understatement to say that raising funds for your hospital foundation is a challenge, particularly in a tough economy. Having an online presence, however, can be an effective solution. Online marketing is quick, flexible, and a cost-effective means of soliciting and promoting your foundation initiatives. Still, challenges remain on knowing how to promote your foundation online, finding tools to use for capturing donations, and discovering which best practices are actually best for you. Following are some thoughts you should consider.
Defining Your Target
Before you begin mapping out an online strategy, you need to be clear on your objectives. Whether you are seeking donations to grow a specialty line or raising funds to hold a community event, your tactics will be different. Maybe you are looking to help support an affiliated cause such as breast cancer research – your online approach will be different yet again. By having specific objectives, you’ll know when and if you are reaching them.
Growing a Specialty Line
Suppose your objective is to raise money to expand your hospital’s cardiac care unit. An online blog is an excellent starting point. Blogs allow you to post case studies about local patients (with their permission, of course) that have received heart surgery and that are thankful for the technology and care they received from your hospital and staff. Another option is to have a cardiac surgeon post commentary about surgical procedures and the need for continued advancements in technology. You will likely be surprised about the level of community engagement the blog generates.
Your PR manager could also join in by posting on your hospital’s Twitter and Facebook site about the need for expanded cardiac care and the benefits it could bring to your community. Tapping into these forms of online social media provides the local community the ability to join discussions and ask questions in an open, friendly environment. Social media also provides users with the means of remaining anonymous if they so choose.
Social Media widgets (mini Web applications) are available for plugging into your blog or Website for collecting donations. For instance, www.GoFundMe.com provides a free donation widget that you can download from their Website. The widget connects directly to e-commerce programs, such as PayPal, to give you instant and secure access to every donation you receive.
Funding a Community Event
From women’s health seminars, to dinner galas and children’s helmet safety programs, increasing donor income through fund-raising events is one of the most widely-used forms of foundation marketing. So, how do you get the word out about your event through online channels?
If you have looked into online banner advertising in the past but thought against it due to suggestions of low “click-through” rates, you should reconsider. Online banner advertising has made significant advancements over recent years with hyper-local and user-centric targeting capabilities across large distribution networks. Most of these advertising networks can zero in on users based upon previous online history (behavioral targeting), page content (contextual targeting), and user location (geo-targeting).
For instance, these capabilities would allow an advertiser to promote a bike riding event to those in its local community who are visiting a healthcare Website, and who have also visited an Alzheimer’s-related Website within the past 30 days. Some online banner programs also allow targeting by age and income demographics.
If you need further evidence that online banner advertising is still viable, consider the fact that according to investment firm ThinkEquity, U.S. online ad spending is expected to reach $37.5 billion this year, up 18% over last year.
Supporting a Cause
Another big question is “what marketing vehicle should I use to promote our foundation’s cause? While it’s true that mail-acquired donations is the leading medium for promoting gift-giving, you may be surprised to learn that online-acquired donors tend to give much larger gifts and give more in total revenue each year than mail-acquired donors.
Whether you are seeking funds to directly support AIDS research or looking to promote your pediatric department with portions of the donations going to the Children’s Miracle Network, online marketing is a must for promoting healthcare causes.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is another very effective method of online marketing, particularly due to the nature of search – where online users are seeking relevant information, rather than having the information broadcast or pushed to them. Google Ad Words is the leader in SEM advertising. It allows users to promote local gift-giving through the purchase (bid) of keywords. For example, a hospital foundation for children’s research in Des Moines may want to bid on keywords that include cancer, oncology, children, pediatric, pediatrics, foundation, research and giving. When the user searches on any of these words and specifies Des Moines or Iowa, the foundation ad will appear in the search results. The higher the advertiser bids, the higher its ad will appear in the search results. Performance-based SEM programs are also available whereby advertisers only pay for ads clicked by the user.
There are many ways to use online advertising to promote your healthcare foundation. Taking advantage of blogs, banner ads, social media, and search engine marketing is a great place to start. So, if you haven’t looked into online advertising lately, now is the time to look again.
About the Author: Mark Williams is a Senior Media Strategist at Berry Network. Berry Network provides advertising solutions to national and local advertisers through a variety of print and online media. Berry Network is also the preferred advertising vendor for Novation member organizations. If you have questions or comments about this article or would like more information about online advertising solutions, please contact Berry Network, Healthcare Marketing, at 1-800-366-1264, or visit www.berrynetwork.com.
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