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November and December represent a time of thanksgiving and the season of giving. These months also are the usual times for fund-raising drives, charity appeals, and year-end giving. This year, I'm certain, it will be no different. As visiting nurse agencies (VNAs) develop, refine, and send their special requests for support, and as donors consider their options of giving, we hope that new resources will emerge to cover the uncompensated care provided by many VNAs to patients who lack the means for basic healthcare.


The Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) also is ramping up its fund-raising efforts. Through grants, sponsorships, and creative group purchasing agreements, the VNAA strives to secure resources to support the nonprofit mission it shares with its member agencies. Having resources to develop professional continuing education programs for nurse practitioners and home healthcare providers is important to its ongoing efforts.


Additionally, funds need to be secured to support both advocacy and lobbying activities. In Washington, DC, health and healthcare debates are growing in intensity and complexity, and it is critical for the VNAA to be at the table to represent the interests of the nonprofit home healthcare provider. When it comes to fund-raising and philanthropy, it often can be difficult to secure resources for advocacy efforts. Lobbying is almost always off-limits. Therefore, it is important to have the right combination of fund-raising efforts in place to maximize reach, integrate activities, build synergies across efforts, and lead people, organizations, corporations, donors, and philanthropists to the cause and the issue.


What is the best means for accomplishing this task of raising funds? In direct appeals, is it direct mail, online, or phone appeals? How is the growing interest in cell phone solicitations and text messaging affecting giving? In fund-raising circles, a question often surfaces: Is direct mail dead? A simple response can be "no, but it is facing challenges." Direct mail solicitations still do better than telephone appeals and online requests, but not better than major events and major gifts.


Another way to increase exposure and raise awareness of your efforts is through the news media. News media attention tends to drive donations. One study found that an additional minute of nightly news coverage increased average daily donations by 13% (Brown & Minty, 2006). Likewise, a 700-word story in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal raises donations by approximately 18% of a daily average (Brown & Minty, 2006). As it often is said, you must "plan your work and work your plan." A comprehensive strategy that includes messaging, framing, individual appeal, storytelling, and news will support your fund-raising efforts.


But in all this, remember that the bottom line in presenting your appeal is keeping your message simple, consistent, and hopeful. It is my hope that in this season of giving, hearts will be moved to donate to the mission of VNAs across the country and to seek ways to support the VNAA as it supports, promotes, and advances the voice of nonprofit home healthcare. For more information, go to




Brown, P., & Minty, J. (2006, December 1). Media coverage and charitable giving after the 2004 tsunami. Series Report 855. William Davidson Institute, University of Michigan. Retrieved July 25, 2008 from [Context Link]