Covid-19,  Healthcare Fundraising,  International

Bill Littlejohn, Sharp HealthCare Foundation response to C19, part 1

A HUGE thank you to Bill Littlejohn, CEO and Senior VP, Sharp HealthCare Foundation, San Diego, California, USA, for sharing what he posted on the AHP Huddle including the Update from the Foundations document – very powerful and educational! I love the clarity and transparency everything is being communicated with — it sure sets the bar high. This is fundraising excellence in practice. Wish other organizations would do this. I’m certain their donors appreciate this open communication immensely. So much to be learned from both pieces…. and from Bill (check out his insights here). I am so impressed with his openness to sharing his knowledge with colleagues.

From Bill:

Many of you have posted comments and questions regarding responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is great. We need to continue to communicate our experiences and challenges.  In addition we have seen many offers of advice or strategies or activities to consider.  With us now being on day 10 of the National 15 Days to Flatten the Curve, I thought I would share our 10  approaches to the philanthropy program at Sharp in response to the crisis.  I begin with a note that I am very fortunate to be at a health system that has a fully-aligned philanthropy program and operates from a 5-year strategic and financial plan.  We act tactically, but think and plan strategically. 

1.      Work Environment:

California and San Diego went to quarantine/work at home/no gatherings March 13.  As hospitals and health care systems are considered part of the federal critical infrastructure sector, it is expected that all employees continue to report to work; however, Sharp endeavored to increase the number of those who can work from home.  In consultation with our HR leadership, our Foundations were one of the first entities to create an office/remote work environment.

·         Our Foundations are “open” and operational; however many of our team members are working from home (with access to RENEXT in the Cloud, network files through Citrix and email through the OWA network).  Our mainline telephone numbers have been set up to provide information on making contributions and leaving messages;  the messages are be checked on a regular basis.  Gift processing and acknowledgement is continuing but not on a daily basis (2-3 times a week depending on volume).  All committee or group meetings have been postponed, cancelled or being conducted as conference calls. 

  • We suspended all inpatient Friend of the Foundation (FOF) or prospect visits; however we now communicate with patient care staff regarding FOFs that are in the hospital; so that donor stewardship can take place if appropriate.
  • We are suspending in-person Guardian Angel presentations; all GA recognitions and notifications are now through the mail and email (this was a very important of element of our e-philanthropy strategy, being able to provide all Guardian Angel recognitions electronically in a timely manner; while the mail and in-person recognitions take place. 

·         As we are limiting personal interaction in the coming weeks, we have recommended staff focus on other Foundation activities as appropriate:

·         Update RENXT dashboards and queries and reports

·         Portfolio review

·         Clean up files and directories

·         Writing – review and update acknowledgment letters; Web content; case statements and proposal templates; stewardship reports

·         Keep in touch with Board Directors, committee members, donors, allies. 

2.      Donor (and ally) Electronic Communication and Stewardship:

Beginning March 16, we converted our monthly e-newsletter (Philanthropy Notes) to a weekly update from me to go to all of our donors and Board members, etc. with email addresses (approximately 15,000).  This is both emailed and posted on our giving page (  We are using this platform as a communication and stewardship for our donors, including providing appropriate and helpful links to Sharp’s and San Diego County’s C19 resources.  We had a 45 percent open rate for the first email on March 16. 

3.      Foundation Boards of Directors:

Two of our three Foundation Boards had meetings scheduled for  March 24.  After first considering to structure as Skype or Zoom meetings, due to the sheer logistics, we cancelled them and provided a full Board report (see attachment) and included our regular documentation (consent agenda approval will take place in May).  I am providing regular updates to the Boards; we realize that many Board Directors are in a similar situation (kids at home, working remotely, etc.).  Rather than trying to schedule large group teleconference meetings, the staff is being proactive in providing information to the Boards.

4.      Sharp Employees:

No active solicitation of employee just stewardship and staying connected as colleagues.  See attached communication.

5.      Special Events:

Sharp Foundations had five major fundraising events scheduled for April and May.  On March 16, we agreed to postpone all five events and our events teams worked to secure new dates between June 22 and September 2, with one event (golf) postponed to 2021.  For all events that are postponed or cancelled, we will be offering donors/sponsors to apply their donation to the new date, provide a refund or convert their participation to an outright donation.  We are fortunate that we distribute our events over the entire year and that our event sponsorship is coordinated across the system (with many corporate sponsors supporting two or more events (we have more than three dozen of these Distinguished Corporate Partners, with great relationships).  We have not yet had any request for refunds.

6.      COVID-19 Fund:

As many organizations have or are in the process of; we have created a COVID-19 fund for our three Foundations/system:

The Foundations of Sharp HealthCare have established the Sharp COVID-19 Fund, which will receive donations to each of our Foundations and make emergency grants and distributions to Sharp departments and hospitals that are on the frontlines of responding to our nation’s most serious health crisis.  The Sharp COVID-19 Fund, under the direction of the Sharp Highly Infectious Disease Committee (HID), will make grants to Sharp departments and entities for medical equipment and supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators, tents, as well as training and other professional resources to support the direct care of both COVID-19 patients as well as others in our community.

7.      Coordination with Sharp Supply Chain Services on Donation of PPE

In response to the need for additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at  our hospitals and clinics, as well as community offers of assistance, Sharp launched an effort to collect drive-up donations of PPE and other supplies this week.  The Foundations are helping with the effort in providing Gift-In-Kind donation forms for receipting and recording and also promoting the effort to our donors.

8.      Doctors Day:

We’ve pivoted our messages on Doctors’ Day in our current round of emails and communication, focusing on the importance of Sharp and all of our caregivers in time of crisis. We’ve have more than 1,500 gifts for Doctor’s Day including several hundred in the past two weeks.

9.      Development Officer Roles:

Beginning Monday, March 16, we refocused both annual and major gift officer roles to stewardship and communication.  All were tasked with connecting with donors (both phone and email) with updates, information and providing links to Sharp C19 information.  See attached Major Gift Team roles.

For the AG officers; the requirement for working at home are as follows:

·         AG Team Huddle Conference Call-Mandatory

·         Weekly 1:1-Phone Call (Need to schedule)

·         Weekly Work Plan with Deliverables (See Sample Attached. Can be adapted)

·         Forward Calls & Check Voicemail (During Business Hours)

·         Be available during regular business hours via phone and email (Discuss with supervisor)

·         Development Officers:

o   Work on cleaning-up your portfolios, prioritizing your prospects/opportunities, scheduling future calls, and developing strategies for each opportunity.

o   Continue thank you calls. Log all actions in RE. Reports will be pulled on a weekly basis to track activity.

o   Take the opportunity to engage your donors and steward them. We have a unique opportunity to provide valuable information (see attached) as a health care provider. Log all actions.

o   We can discuss other projects you may have as part of your work plan.

10.  Leadership Role:

As the senior officer of philanthropy, it has been my responsibility to ensure that the philanthropy program continues to operate, engages and communicates with leadership, and provide the resources and teams members to both reassure them in their roles and enable them to continue to be productive.  In 35 years of work; the current environment is something I have never experienced, yet realize the combined experiences – and lessons learned from errors made – have been the best guidance.  As I have indicated in my communication, I am honored and humbled to be the steward of a create community asset, so my responsibility is to focus on that most important responsibility.

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