Effective fundraising for a children’s hospital through direct marketing channels requires all the standard best practices―whether addressing long-time donors or targeted prospects:

  • Compelling and emotional copy
  • A clear call to action
  • Positioning donors as problem-solvers

However, unlike a cause-oriented/advocacy organization or a visitor-based institution―and even unlike an adult hospital―an appeal for support of sick or injured children crosses cultural, political, educational and socio-economic boundaries.

The primary children’s hospital donor can be profiled as a woman between the ages of 63 and 67. Her reason for giving is probably as individual as she is. Still, there are certain conventions to keep top of mind when speaking to her:

  • Honesty. No hybrid stories or make-believe patients. Your prospect wants to connect with a sick kid—not to your institution. Your job is to create a real and direct connection between the two, and that requires a real patient with real caregivers who can be quoted using their own words.


  • Define her role. And how important she is in helping maintain this child’s childhood. Forget pride points and research breakthroughs, or save them for the back of the reply, and focus on her and how much this sick or injured child needs her.


  • Respect her intelligence. Good direct mail may not use standard prose, but it does understand its reader. There are no bad guys here—no insurance companies refusing to pay, no irresponsible parents. Don’t shift the focus off the child. The child needs her and that must come through loud and clear.


  • Value her time in life. She’s been through a few things in her life and she may or may not have much disposable income, but she needs to help. Now may be the first time in her life she’s in a position to do so. Tell her that every gift makes a difference―not just because it does, but because she needs to hear it.


  • Consider her age.  It’s a good bet that she uses reading glasses. Make the font large enough for her to read!

For those of us involved in raising money for children’s hospitals, there’s no other cause that comes close. All others are noble and necessary. But when you sit at your desk, read through copy and fight back tears, you know why you come to work every day. And you want her to feel that way too.