Telling and tailoring your story to reach the goal

August 25, 2014

Standing out in a large and growing crowd is hard work.

By Ryan Sullivan

Times are tough and need abounds. A recession, high unemployment, lower incomes, and a housing market crash have made charitable giving a challenge for many. If you’re charged with raising funds for your charity to provide an indispensable community service, the pressure has never been greater. Results depend on developing and sending the right message through the right channels.

The Background

Bay Regional Medical Center (now McLaren-Bay Region) and the Bay Medical Foundation, Bay City, Mich., knew they’d be asking a lot from the community when they conceived their capital campaign to raise $7 million to build the Bay Regional Cancer Center.

The new facility will consolidate the center’s existing oncology program and will connect to the already standing Jeppesen Radiation Oncology Center and the Center for Rehabilitation. One roof will cover nearly all the professional services devoted to cancer patient care, making the patient’s experience as fast, efficient, and stress-free as possible.

Together with other statewide facilities, it will be a vital part of the Great Lakes Cancer Institute, an organization that provides world-class cancer care through more than 400 providers, along with cutting-edge cancer research and access to clinical trials around the nation.

The Problem

The hospital had already secured $5 million when the Bay Medical Foundation stepped up to bridge the gap, with support to be solicited directly from the community. But with so many worthy and, in some sense, competing capital campaigns in the region, how could they set theirs apart from the rest?

Bay Regional Medical is part of one of the state’s premier medical networks, McLaren Health Care. McLaren Health Care is a fully integrated health network, including nine hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers, freestanding dialysis centers, and a regional network of cancer centers and providers. Covering a 32-county market with 3.5 million lives, McLaren’s size is strength. But Bay Regional Medical Center wanted the community to understand how building its own local cancer center would have a unique effect on the lives of family, friends, and neighbors right in their own backyard.

The Solution

They settled on a straightforward strategy to “soft launch” their campaign: a custom publication that introduced the campaign to the community by telling the stories of the remarkable people—patients and caregivers—who will battle cancer together in the new facility.

The magazine-brochure format allows doctors, nurses, and patients to use their own words to speak with authenticity about their work on the frontlines of cancer. The resulting stories are emotionally compelling, and they motivate would-be donors through a feeling of connection to individuals and community instead of faceless institutions. The publication’s high-quality artwork also uses detailed architectural drawings to help the readers envision this new local asset, while photographs of staff and patients bring their stories to life the way only a camera can. The resulting custom publication accompanied Bay Regional Medical Center’s regular quarterly direct mail newsletter, Well Aware.

“Research shows that our target audience still wants to receive information like this directly through the mail,” says Kurt Miller, director of marketing and public relations at McLaren-Bay Region, “so it made sense to launch this way because we already communicate with the community through our direct mail newsletter. Choosing the magazine-brochure format allowed us maximum flexibility to control the content, image, and artistry we needed to explain the need to the community in a personal way.”

The Results

Already 15,000 households have received the Cancer Center brochure in their home mailboxes and learned how they can give to create a state-of-the-art cancer-fighting facility in their community. It seems to be working: of the $2 million pledged by the foundation, well over $500,000 dollars have already been raised. Another mailing of 17,000 to 18,000 pieces will post soon. Facility groundbreaking is expected this spring.

Standing out in a large and growing crowd is hard work. Bay Regional Medical Center used the special power of print and custom editorial content to tell its unique and compelling story. The result is a community stepping forward to fund a new cancer center that could one day save the lives of their own families and neighbors.