Turning Dollars Into Actions
Chapter president shares secrets to fundraising and member communications.
Much of the College's power to advocate for the specialty depends on its state chapters' commitment to advocacy. After all, local issues in radiology are as equally important as those at the national level.
And for state chapters with 501 (c)(4) or (c)(6) federal tax-exempt status, raising money for specific initiatives — like supporting local candidates or donating to RADPAC® — can be an important way to contribute to the radiology community. President of Washington State Radiological Society (WSRS) Justin P. Smith, M.D., from Inland Imaging Associates P.S., in Spokane, Wash., utilizes these key points below to guide his chapter's efforts to raise money.
According to Smith, forming personal connections with state chapter members is essential to successful fundraising. "Always address members by name in e-mails," he explains, adding that this can be done easily through the mail merge feature in Microsoft Word. Furthermore, e-communications should be frequent enough to help members remember you but not so much that they become irritating. Smith created a weekly opt-in, nonpartisan Federal Health Care Advocacy e-newsletter for his chapter, which highlights many of the relevant concerns related to radiology. "Communication like this ensures that national issues play a role in the member's professional life," he adds.
Connect to Tangible Goals
Along with personalized messaging and communications, Smith says that connecting fundraising efforts to one concrete goal is helpful to encourage members to act. "Individuals need to understand what the state chapter and RADPAC are doing with their donations and dues," he explains. When it comes to garnering support for a dues increase in WSRS last year, Smith explained to members how those dollars would go directly toward hiring a part-time chapter lobbyist. "We wanted a professional lobbyist well-established in our state to advocate for us effectively." With new lobbying capabilities and member support, the WSRS joined forces with the Washington State Medical Association to fight the inclusion of a qui tam provision — in which the plaintiff (i.e., a radiologist or radiology practice) sues both on behalf of him or herself and the state — into SB 5978, Washington State's Medicaid False Claims Act. This collaboration is just one of many examples of how groups can advocate together with greater strength.
Working to fight SB 5978 would not have been possible without a kind of transparency that encourages donations. Smith believes it's critical to actually show members that you're getting face time with legislators. "I always get a photo [when speaking with decision makers]," he says. "Then, members can see for themselves. I don't want people to think their money is going into a pit that will be used to pay for light bulbs."
When specific legislation is involved, such as the decision-support bill, Smith adds that highlighting the urgency of the issue can aid fund raising. "It's great if you can e-mail or call a member and say, 'As you know, Congress is struggling to find funding for the repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). We need to make sure RADPAC ensures ACR members' voices are heard among key legislators,'" says Smith. "'Can we count on you to help preserve our profession? We have less than 10 days before the end of the session, and if the SGR fix is not solved, we may not have another chance this favorable.'"
In addition to highlighting an issue's urgency, Smith always follows up any donation with a personal thank-you letter or e-mail. "We want members to feel encouraged and to feel ownership in these organizations — within RADPAC as well as the WSRS," he says. "And showing them that we can be heard with their help and that we appreciate any support they can provide is critical to that sense of community."
To continue their efforts, Smith plans to spearhead the creation of a Washington State Political Action Committee for WSRS members sometime this year. In the meantime, he will continue to show members the value of their dues and donations using these simple tips.
By Alyssa Martino