Chat with Viviana Ramirez about Prospect Management & Research in Health Care Institutions
Written by Rodney Young | Prospect Data Project Coordinator, DePaul University
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Viviana Ramirez, Director of Prospect Management at Rush University Medical Center. Viviana will be one of the presenters at the upcoming APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop on Friday June 6, 2014 (click HERE to register). Viviana has over 15 years of experience in Data Records Management, Prospect Research and Prospect Management, and has been instrumental in developing a robust, progressive Prospect Management system at Rush. We had a great conversation talking about the unique challenges and opportunities in Prospect Management in the health care industry. Here's an excerpt from our discussion - enjoy!
Rodney: Tell me about some of the differences in the environment at a health care organization that contrast with a college or university fundraising office.
Don't forget to register for the APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop on Friday June 6, 2014! Click HERE to register!
Viviana: Well, since we are also an academic medical institution, we still do alumni fundraising. Scholarships are still a big initiative, too. However, with grateful patient fundraising, it's tougher. An alum has a connection to the institution; but a patient has an experience... and that experience can be good or it can be bad. Furthermore, we are not supposed to know about that experience because of HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Those regulations can create restrictions concerning what we can or cannot say, or what we are allowed to know about a patient's experience.
We utilize our physicians; our fundraisers are partnering with key physicians so they can obtain relevant information. We work with a physician as a partner to help with that qualification process.
Rodney: Wow, very interesting! What do you enjoy about working in health care that's different than in higher education?
Viviana: Unlike fundraisers, I don't get to sit in on meetings where there are physicians talking about cutting edge research...there are some really mind-blowing things going on in health care today. There are such great stories; for me, I sit and look at the hospital across the street and thinking, "Right now, there are miracles going on over there. Right now, somebody's life is being saved." Whenever you have "one of those days", you can still say "I work at a pretty cool place." The compelling stories are what make it worthwhile.
Rodney: Tell me a little about the relationship between your Prospect Management & Research team and the fundraising staff.
Viviana: Well, it's based on the state of a fundraiser's portfolio. If their portfolios are properly updated, they don't hear too much from us.
Rodney: What if their portfolios are not looking the right way?
Viviana: We have more meetings to determine what strategies are being utilized, what haven't we looked at, and consider what other sources we should look at to improve the portfolio.
Rodney: What's difficult when it comes to fundraiser relationships?
Viviana: It’s very similar to other institutions. When you're doing the work to add names to someone's portfolio, and they're not moving on them, that’s always the challenge!
HIPPA is the other challenge. Just because we see patient information doesn't mean we're privileged to it. We have to be mindful of the information we put into our centralized database so we are not violating HIPPA regulations.
Rodney: Is Rush currently in a campaign?
Viviana: Not now, but we are in year 4 of a 5-year strategic plan. At the end of our campaign, we needed goals, so we developed a 5-year plan. The goal is to be an office that can regularly raise $40 million per year.
Rodney: What is the "post campaign" environment like for you guys?
Viviana: It's interesting because we're getting close to the end of stewarding gifts that went towards the last campaign. I think it's toughest on the fundraisers. There is a transition that occurs because their pitch for raising dollars goes away. So now they have to rethink how to engage and excite donors when we're no longer working towards a campaign. There are different initiatives, but some areas don't have an initiative.
Rodney: So you're getting people ready for the next campaign as well, right?
Viviana: Yes, we're thinking about our donors, especially the ones who give at a major gift level annually. You also want to look for those people as they will be key in the next campaign.
Rodney: What are some other post-campaign initiatives your team is working on?
Viviana: Data collection is very important. One of our initiatives is to develop a standard way for development officers to rate prospects beyond the wealth screenings and what research is doing. As we start to build these gift tables, we want to make sure that there is some level of "truth", and people feel confident that those ratings make sense.
Rodney: When it comes to tools for analytics, is that something your organization has not invested in yet?
Viviana: After some investigation, I have decided to go with Tableau. What I like about it is that there are different levels in which you can use it. I am also interested in the other services that Tableau provides which allow other people in our office to use it; we really need that collaborative piece. We have a couple of people in annual giving that are data heavy; they need a tool where they can segment and look at trends to forecast.
Rodney: On a closing note, if there are people who are in higher education who want to transition into healthcare Prospect Research & Management, what would you suggest to them?
Viviana: Learn about HIPPA regulations, that's very important. Also learn about "grateful patient" strategies--there are so many out there. Also, the world of research is changing; when I went to the APRA conference, I paid attention every time they talked about analytics. Fundraisers and executives are always expecting somebody to do data analytics; that is business intelligence work. It requires a certain amount of database skills. You have to go beyond the Excel spreadsheet and learn how data tables relate to each other. Don't be afraid of Microsoft Access...make the leap!
Rodney: Yes, I totally agree! It was a huge leap for me!
Viviana: Also, for researchers, learn how to write great, concise briefs for when your executive people go on visits. Know what THEY need to know; figure out what types of information is most helpful for each development officer. Every fundraiser has their own way of connecting.
Rodney: Well, thank you so much Viviana, for this great information! I look forward to your presentation at the upcoming APRA-IL Basic Skills Workshop.