The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) hosts nearly 300 meetings and webinars throughout the year, including the National Professional Development Conference for Institutional Advancement. This year, the annual meeting for Institutional Advancement was hosted in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and was in fact the largest AAMC gathering in the territory to date. The high attendance is a testament to the commitment of academic medical centers across the country towards harnessing philanthropic support to advance their institutional priorities.

CCS was pleased to attend the conference this year, joining many past and current clients such as Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Florida, University of Vermont Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, University of California at San Francisco, and many more.

The theme of the conference was Transform, an appropriate theme for philanthropy and best practices in development. Fundraisers have the opportunity to promote transformation in many ways— transformational philanthropy, a transformation of an institution, and in the case of academic medicine, a transformation of medical research and delivery into accessible treatments and care.

Transformation was ingrained throughout several days of learning sessions at the Conference for Institutional Advancement, as demonstrated in these three key takeaways:

  • Presidents, deans, faculty members and development leaders are equal partners in transformative philanthropy. It can take a village, or in this case, an entire medical campus, to secure transformational gifts. During the final workshop of the AAMC Conference, “What Executives Want: Exploring Expectations in the C-Suite”, three medical school deans offered their perspectives on relationships with development teams and the positive impact their coordinated work can have on their institutions. These leaders recognized that philanthropy is a major part of their role, and in fact some deans reported allocating at least 25 percent of their time to development. The presenters also shared preferred tactics on how development professionals can best partner with leadership. Development leaders must make the best use of their presidents’ and deans’ schedules: use your travel schedules to plan donor visits, position your deans and presidents to cultivate your top prospects, facilitate weekly prospect discussion, and keep your briefing materials lean and concise.
  • A transformation in thought process can bring new and improved fundraising results. This year, many AAMC sessions focused on evaluating programs and processes and asking the questions, “If I do this differently, will it have a better result? Do I have the right team in place to get the best result?” Development professionals from academic medical centers shared their experiences of transforming their thinking—from new alumni engagement approaches to advance their institutions priorities, to the major gift practice of blending planned and current-use gift strategies to optimize gift officers’ portfolios. A fresh approach leads to new results, and if you have the right team in place, you will experience better results. 
  • A philanthropic investment can transform a patient’s healing. We should never discount the power of philanthropy for a patient’s healing process. Development professionals and physicians offer the patient an opportunity to further heal through a gift, no matter the size. Grateful patient programs will continue to be a critical model for academic medical centers and hospitals to build a major gift pipeline and program. Once an institution has the fundamental elements in place—approaches to facilitate a positive patient experience, tools to gather and analyze patient data, physician engagement, defined metrics, and meaningful follow-up—they can expect to see growth in the number of their donors and annual fundraising dollars. Grateful patients are seeking opportunities to celebrate their recovery, honor their experience, or perhaps help others who are fighting the same illness or injury—and philanthropy matches patients with those opportunities.

The AAMC Professional Development Conference for Institutional Advancement continues to provide great opportunities for learning and sharing best practices in grateful patient and medical alumni fundraising, and tactics to help philanthropy transform your institution.

About the Author

Maeve Riley is an Executive Director with CCS Fundraising. She provides campaign and strategic counsel to healthcare and higher education institutions, specializing in alumni relations and giving, principal and major gift strategy, prospect management, and strategic planning. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Sociology from Santa Clara University and a Masters of Nonprofit Management from DePaul University.