Finances

Practice Philanthropies: Enhance Connection to Your Community

David I. Geffen, OD, FAAO

SYNOPSIS

Supporting philanthropies is a great way for your practice to give back, and it connects you to your patients and the community.

ACTION POINTS

ALLOCATE MONEY & TIME. A large practice should considergiving$10,000 per year.Doctorscan serve on charity boards, requiring20-25 hours per month.

GET STAFF INVOLVED. Have practice participatein events such as charity walks.

PUBLICIZE PARTICIPATION. Promote participation with in-office signs, in-practice newsletter and on practice social media pages.

Supporting charities is a great way to give back to your community and the world.It also is an effectiveway to enhance your connection to patients. Your patient base already respects you as a doctor and provider of products and services, but they can respect you even more with your support for philanthropies. That higher esteem can result in a more recognized brand in your communityand can generate patient referrals. My practice always has a few charities it is supporting. Here is how and why we do this.

Money & Time Required

My practice donates over $10,000 a year in dollars and services, or about 0.4 percent of gross collections, and each of the doctors are giving thousands to their personally chosen philanthropies. We feel strongly as a group that it is our duty to give back to our community. The partners in the practice have a strong community connection and spend a great deal of their personal time serving non-profit organizations.

In return, we get the gratification of knowing we are helping many who would not be able to have good sight, a meal or clothes. I have never looked to the boards I serve on as a direct practice builder, and I do not recommend a doctor to do it for that reason. However, I gain many patients and receive many referrals from the organizations I work with.

I serve on the boards of three major charities and spend about 20-25 hours a month on charitable events. The other doctors in the practice serve on fewer boards, but still spend a fair amount of personal time doing this much needed work.

Think Local

We participate in dozens of local charities. Each of our doctors serves on their own special interest area charity boards. I have been very active serving as president for one organization and the campaign chair on another. We donate to many of the local charities both our time, as well as money and services. We will donate sunglasses or prescription eyewear, as well as surgical services. We also do company-wide charity events.

We try to get our staff to participate in the Walk to Stop Diabetes on behalf of the American Diabetes Association every year. We also do a day of care and share around Thanksgiving where we donate surgical procedures for those in need. We get our staff to donate their time, along with community doctors and our own doctors. Many of our patients solicit us for their charity events and we handle these on a case-by-case basis with a yearly budget in mind.

When we are unable to support a particular charity, we tell our patients we have a philanthropy budget, and we love to give back to the community, but we are over our budget.

Pick Non-Controversial Charities

We look for causes which are not political (as not to offend any patients) but those with widespread appeal. We have the staff vote on one charity to support each year. We look for those that serve the greatest need and tend to center around health care.

Ask Patients If They Would Like to Support Cause

I am a supporter of Optometry Giving Sight. My staff help solicit patients to give to this wonderful cause. We never want to be pushy or salesmen-like with patients, especially when it comes to supporting a charity. The approach we take is to educate patients about our support for Optometry Giving Sight and let them know that they can make a donation by contacting the charity directly, or through our office.

Publicize Support of Cause

We have signage for Optometry Giving Sight at our front desk. We show what we are doing in the community in our newsletters and on Facebook. Social media is the best way to give exposure to this type of philanthropy.

Give to Charities With Proven Track Record

We try to give to charities that are well known and established. Fraudulent activity has tarnished the reputation of some charities, but we must continue helping those who are less fortunate than we are.

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David I. Geffen, OD, FAAO, is a partner of Gordon-Weiss-Schanzlin Vision Institute in La Jolla, Calif. To contact: dig2020@aol.com

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