Grateful Patient Program Transforms Gratitude into Giving

Case Study 19.27

The Wellstar Foundation Empowers Patients to Support Wellstar’s Mission

As one of Georgia’s largest and most integrated healthcare systems, Wellstar continues to grow its services, footprint, capabilities, and ability to meet evolving patient needs. Since 1985, the community has invested millions of dollars through the Wellstar Foundation, Wellstar’s fundraising arm. Philanthropic gifts to the Foundation enhance clinical excellence, transform healthcare, and improve access across four key areas: health equity, behavioral health, innovation, and workforce development. 

The Challenge

Grateful patient programs are crucial for healthcare fundraising—they provide a meaningful way for patients to give back and express their gratitude for the care, compassion, and medical excellence they received. An Advisory Board survey found that 1 in 6 patients or their family members sent a personal thank-you note, non-monetary gift, or monetary donation to their healthcare provider within the past three years, highlighting the potential for patient engagement.

The Foundation had a pool of over 50,000 patients but lacked a robust grateful patient program—none of those patients had been contacted to give. Overall, their donor acquisition efforts had dwindled. They wanted to build their donor pipeline by connecting with patients soon after hospital discharge and encouraging them to give in recognition of their exceptional care.

However, this would be the first time these patients heard from the Foundation, so communications needed to educate them first on the Foundation’s mission. Graphcom’s challenge was clear: develop and implement a fundraising strategy that engages patients, resonates with their personal experiences, and transforms their gratitude into gifts.


The Solution

We began by creating a comprehensive grateful patient program workflow including a series of emails and letters delivered over one month 30-60 days post-discharge. We tailored the message and direction of each deliverable for first-time donors already familiar with Wellstar (though not the Foundation) through their patient care experiences.

Appeal Letters

The campaign included a series of initial and follow-up appeal letters. We featured a powerful grateful patient story of a young mother whose life was saved by Wellstar after she experienced a stroke caused by severe blood clots. This compelling narrative highlighted her subsequent decision to give back to the hospital by raising funds through the Foundation.

We designed the letters with striking patient images, QR codes linking to a video of the grateful patient’s full story, a physical reply device with options to give online, and a supplied note of gratitude template to send to Wellstar team members.

Additionally, we emphasized the impact of giving through info stats and incorporated World-Class Caregiver branding, a Wellstar program encouraging donations on behalf of team members who provided exceptional care.


Wellstar grateful patient appeal letters

Email Series

We wrote, designed, and deployed four emails timed to maximize engagement. The first email featured an introduction from the Foundation President, framing the Foundation as an integral part of the patient care team and inviting patients to express their gratitude. The second email, sent one week later, shared a patient/Foundation team member’s story and a video explaining why she gives, emphasizing the cycle of gratitude.

The third email highlighted the positive impact of gratitude on Wellstar care teams and patient experiences, including a quote from a care team member. The final email focused on the benefits of philanthropy for patient care, featuring another patient testimonial and a final call to action to give.

Wellstar grateful patient appeal email

The Results

We recently launched this recurring monthly campaign targeting 1,000 patients via direct mail and email and 5,000 via email only. This thoughtful sequence informs patients and motivates them to contribute meaningfully. As patients donate, they seamlessly transition into the current donor communications workflow, receiving a tailored welcome package also crafted by Graphcom.

We will continue to track results monthly, but we’ve already seen promising potential. With Graphcom’s expert fundraising marketing support, the Wellstar Foundation will continue inspiring patients to become partners in philanthropy.

“Graphcom has been an incredible partner in growing our direct response strategies and audience outreach. We truly needed a partner who could strategically and creatively help us think through our goals, inform us on industry benchmarks, test and assess our efforts, and essentially elevate all of our content and communications approaches. We’re very satisfied!”

Erin Cannaday

Executive Director, Foundation Strategy & Communications, The Wellstar Foundation

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