Need: Determining the community’s response to capital projects
Service: Pre-campaign planning
When the Mercy Health Foundation was considering capital improvements at Anderson Mercy Hospital, foundation leaders wanted to understand the community’s current appetite for supporting the endeavors.
Having worked with The Yunker Group on other projects, Mercy Health Foundation engaged the firm to conduct a comprehensive pre-campaign planning process. “We wanted to get in front of it and have a conversation with our community and our donors to understand realistically what we could give to the project,” said senior gift officer Tricia Mullins. The process yielded immediately actionable results — including “priceless” information about community perceptions that changed the way Mercy Health Foundation communicates to its supporters.
The Yunker Group spoke confidentially with a cross-section of current, former and prospective hospital donors. The depth of what they learned not only surprised foundation leaders, causing them to rethink the capital projects, but also transformed their understanding of their donors.“Everything in their report — even things that were hard to read because they might have been contrary to what we’d hoped — every bit of it was a gift,” said foundation president Jon Labbe. “It helped us make the case to our executives to say, ‘This is where philanthropy can be placed strategically. Also this is what we as a foundation have to do better for our donors.’ It guided immediate implementation of some strategies and ways we’re talking and reaching out to people.”
Jon and Tricia agreed that having an independent third party conduct research with their supporters provided information and insight they would not have obtained on their own. “These are people we spend a lot of time with,” Tricia said, “but this allowed them the opportunity to feel comfortable in sharing things they wouldn’t necessarily share with us.”
Specifically, The Yunker Group uncovered opportunities for the foundation to communicate more effectively about its supporters’ impact. “We learned we need to do better on a stewardship basis,” Tricia said. “We’ve put together an actual collateral piece that meets the needs of donors in communicating where their dollars have gone.”
“Knowing we had an independent third-party survey of the community allowed us to say, ‘We just don’t have the support right now.’ It’s a harsh reality, but it’s a reality,” Jon said. “It’s a data point that had to support a really tough decision. Doing it in this manner provided us a really high level of administrative support from our executives.”
Getting such candid community feedback — which Tricia deemed “priceless” — was the most valuable aspect of working with The Yunker Group, said Jon, who also praised the firm for its patience, timeliness and professionalism. Because of The Yunker Group’s work, Mercy Health Foundation is able to prioritize where to spend its fundraising energy and can have better conversations with its supporters going forward.
“That feedback piece for me was essential,” Jon said. “Having a third-party person provides more of a safe pace for transparency. It gave us an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to our donors. And it doesn’t put us in the position of being in a conversation and trying to quickly answer or defend. We could just listen.”