Faculty Leadership Council

Daniel D. Otto, CFRE
Senior Consultant

Faculty or physician engagement is a crucial part of an academic medical center's development program and sends a powerful signal to the general faculty and the broader donor community about the necessity and value of the organization's development objectives. The relationship between faculty and their patients and how that relationship could translate into a philanthropic investment in the medical center is one of the most valuable partnerships a Foundation can foster.

Faculty who understand the importance of the Foundation and philanthropy to their organizations can bridge the relationship between their patients, organizational leadership and the Foundation. They can act as internal advocates with their peers to build consensus around institutional priorities, even if those priorities don't have a direct impact on their clinical or research areas.

In our experience with medical center clients across the country, we have seen how faculty engagement (or the lack of it) is the weak link of too many development programs. We have seen how positive effect a strong record of faculty or physician engagement can have on a medical center development program. In 2014, 80% of gifts to non-profit health care organizations came from individuals (72% individuals, 8% bequests). One could argue the majority of those gave because of a life changing or life saving experience, hence becoming grateful patients.

Faculty engagement is about establishing trust-based relationships; similar to the way a major gift officer would manage a prospect portfolio. These relationships take time to build. There are several ways to engage your faculty. The approach described below will focus on a longer-term strategy for engaging your faculty through the establishment of a Faculty Leadership Council.

Build Through Leadership

Leadership is key to successful faculty engagement and grateful patient fundraising. Without the commitment of the Dean, CEO and/or faculty leaders, you're less likely to have broad-based faculty support.

How do you develop this leadership? The same way you develop community leadership - by involving potential leaders in the medical center in meaningful ways. This is the best accomplished by genuinely asking the key stakeholders opinions of and participation in the medical center's and Foundation's mission, objectives, and methods.

As it is said, leaders come few and far between and generally do not travel in packs. Focus your efforts on the few faculty members who have the respect of their colleagues. Involve them at a high level in strategic planning for both the medical center and the Foundation. Their interest and commitment will help build faculty support.

One particularly effective way to develop faculty leaders is to create a Faculty Advisory Council to the Dean, CEO or President of the Foundation. The Dean or CEO appoints faculty to a leadership council to provide advice and support to the Dean, CEO, Foundation Board and President of the Foundation regarding the future of the organization. Advice and support from the council may relate to interactions with the community, strategic direction of the Medical Center, implementation of specific objectives, faculty concerns, financial management, public sector advocacy and fundraising.

This technique has been successful in a number of hospitals and academic medical centers we have worked with and has resulted in both greater faculty and physician interest and involvement in philanthropy, and investment in the medical centers' overall goals and objectives.


Purpose of the Faculty/Physician Leadership Council is to:

  • Help craft a case for support that is consistent with the vision of the Dean and CEO and encompasses a broad range of fundraising priorities.
  • In partnership with the Foundation, sponsor fundraising education opportunities for faculty and staff.
  • Help identify and build collaborative teams of clinicians and researchers in ways that will create more attractive fundraising opportunities.
  • Provide support to those individuals who have specific fundraising needs that fit within the priorities of Medical Center and/or Health Sciences.
  • Seek opportunities to more aggressively pursue faculty - industry links.
  • Create a Strategic Plan for the Medical Center and/or Health Sciences Development


The Dean, CEO of the Medical Center and Foundation President identify and recruit faculty Co-Chairs to lead the council. These appointments are critical and will build momentum towards successful future recruitment of other faculty. Similar to how you would identify leadership volunteers to your Foundation Board, you should establish criteria for your Co-Chair recruitment. This should include; individuals who are well respected among their peers, reside within a service line that has potential grateful patients, represent two separate service lines, are generally supportive of the Foundation and administration.

The Dean, CEO and Co-Chairs will nominate members for appointment The Council should be comprised of independent representatives from the various clinical service lines or research areas.

Members, The Faculty Leadership Council shall represent the interests of its constituencies; namely, employees, medical staff, patients and the communities served by the Medical Center. The Council will provide advice and assistance with a variety of Medical Center activities as requested by the Dean and CEO. Topics for Council engagement will typically include:

  • Development, implementation, and maintenance of sound relationships with key members of local communities, community organizations and the general public, as well as employees, patients, physicians, visitors and neighbors;
  • identification and fulfillment of the Medical Center's community obligations and advocacy for the Medical Center in the public sector;
  • strategic planning, including competitive strategy and market positioning;
  • the continued financial viability of the Medical Center;
  • review of selected programs and business plans;
  • assistance with fund-raising activities for the Medical Center;
  • counsel with regard to leadership issues within the Medical Center;
  • the appointment of new Council members and ongoing support for new and continuing members; and,
  • annual review of its own performance, including establishment of criteria to be used by individual members to review their own performance.

The Dean and CEO should delegate oversight of the Council's activities to the President of the Foundation. The Council should report to the Foundation President directly, either as a body or through its Co-Chairs. To carry out its responsibilities, the Council should organize itself into standing or ad hoc committees, subject to the approval of the Dean and CEO. The Council should establish bylaws or operating guidelines consistent with the purpose of the Council and shall periodically review such bylaws or guidelines to ensure that they meet the changing needs of the Council as it seeks to fulfill its duties. Council bylaws or guidelines and any revisions thereto shall be submitted to the Dean and CEO for approval.

The Council shall maintain official minutes of its activities and those of its committees, if any. These minutes and other reports shall be forwarded to the Dean and CEO with a summary as often as necessary but at least annually.

Council Members must abide by all applicable Medical Center Conflict of Interest Code Policies.

Council members and officers are further charged with protecting the confidentiality of any information, whether patient, employee, financial or management related, that they may obtain in connection with their duties herein or otherwise and shall execute the Medical Center's standard confidentiality acknowledgment form.

Measuring Success

In my experience, when you try and bridge relationships between faculty, administration and the Foundation in a highly political environment you run the risk of getting distracted by personal agendas. This is typical, so plan for it. You will find that the first several meetings will be about concerns, potential finger pointing and reading emails during discussions and presentation. Don't let this discourage you. When the agendas are strategically planned in an attempt to engage the entire group over several months if not years, you will see the positive results. Those results will include more grateful patient referrals to the Foundation, Faculty who have ownership and pride in institutional priorities and a higher level of awareness of the Foundation, it's role in the organization and the importance of partnering with faculty to lead philanthropy.