8 Reasons the Doctor Recommends Cause Marketing for Hospitals

The doctor is in! Many hospitals are leaders in cause marketing. Here in Boston Dana- Farber, Children's Hospital and Boston Medical lead the charge. Nationally, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, City of Hope and the Children's Miracle Network raise tens of millions of dollars each year. But many hospitals, large and small, never even try cause marketing.

Here are eight reasons why your hospital is sick not to give cause marketing a try this year.

Hospitals have a perfect emotional message. Sick children. Sick women. Poor, sick people. Sick people without insurance. Sick, old people. Moms with cancer. All of these messages are emotional hot buttons that will resonate with consumers in a cause marketing campaign. Indeed, some of the most successful cause marketing campaigns ever have involved hospitals. Right here in Boston, Stop & Shop Supermarkets has raised $40 million for The Jimmy Fund, the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Hospitals have good name recognition and credibility. People want to support causes they know and trust. While not every hospital enjoys great credibility, most are well known and won't have to jump the hurdle of anonymity and suspicion most nonprofits face at the register.

Patients just aren't donors, they're business owners. Most hospitals rely on grateful patients with capacity--wealthy hospital alumni--for support. This is the #1 way most hospitals raise money. But they're missing an opportunity by not capitalizing on the businesses these donors own and run by introducing them to cause marketing. Not only could they raise more money, but they could deepen their relationships with donors and share their message with a much larger network of potential supporters.

Vendors are an untapped resource. Many hospitals understandably have mixed feelings about asking vendors for money, but what asking for an introduction to a potential cause marketing partner? Vendors have opened doors for me to other companies and even ones within their own. While my hospital's relationship with Staples several years back was B-to-B--they were my hospital's office products supplier--our lead account manager introduced me to the Staples retail marketing team and we struck a cause marketing deal, from which we raised over $200,00o. In short, hospital vendors are a great place to start networking for a cause marketing partner.

Hospitals have good events to leverage. If you read my blog you know that I leverage the events my team organize to incentive cause marketing partners. Do a cause marketing program, hit your goal, you get an extra sponsorship here, a foursome at this golf tournament, etc. I haven't talked to a hospital yet that didn't have good events to help ensure their cause marketing success.

Hospitals have a large, educated workforce. Like events, a hospital's workforce can be a huge asset to a partnership. We have 6,000 employees at BMC and we frequently let corporate partners access to them as part of our partnership. Not many nonprofits have this asset in their corner.

Hospitals can be more nimble with messaging. While a lot of hospitals are solely focused on healthcare, many more offer special services that give partners options for cause marketing campaigns. For example, at my hospital we've done campaigns hungry children because we have a food pantry. We've done campaigns to help kids with non-medical items like coats, eyeglasses and prescriptions because we have the Kids Fund. We've done campaigns to help kids with HIV because we have the SPARK Center. Having more than one thing on the menu means we have more to offer partners that may have interests beyond healthcare.

Hospitals can afford to invest cause marketing. I've met hospitals with small development teams and hospitals with large staffs that raise tens of millions of dollars. But what they have in common is no cause marketing team (notice that I said team, not person!). I'm often surprised when people ask me how my hospital, a safety-net hospital at that, could have a cause marketing team.

I remind people that while we're not the biggest hospital in Boston, or the most well known, we're still a billion dollar organization. If we can't do it, who can?

While your hospital may not be as big as mine, I suspect you're better and more capable than you think. And you now have eight good reasons to try cause marketing.

So, what's the hold up? The doctor has spoken!

Cause marketing for hospitals will be just one of the topics covered by Maureen Carlson, Philips McCarty and me at Hospital Corporate Development Summit at the Cause Marketing Forum's annual Conference in Chicago on June 2, 2010.