The Playbook for a Community Charitable Pharmacy

Marketing and Community Outreach

Community outreach is a great way to reach to more patients within the community, county, or state. Partnerships with other healthcare facilities, whether clinics with hospitals, pharmacies with clinics, or other combinations can help to promote a charitable pharmacy allowing more patients to learn about the services available to them. Promoting the program through community outreach can help to spread the word, serve more patients, and generate a better return on investment. Healthcare doesn’t stop at the four walls of the hospital, clinic, or pharmacy; it extends into homes, schools, and neighborhoods.


When designing a map to reach the charitable pharmacy, points to consider:

  • Can your population read a map?
  • Do directions need to be in more than English?
  • Include driving and public transportation directions from a specific hospital or clinic if helpful
  • Include bus or public transportation routes and directions from stop to pharmacy
 Example from Saint Thomas Health:

Many communities have coalitions in place to address issues such as improving healthcare. Develop contacts and create a planning committee of key stakeholders from the community to develop a coordinated plan to serve the uninsured, including medication access. Connect with others to help meet the common goal of improving the community’s health.

Partner with community facilities with different types of services to a vulnerable population, sharing skills and/or resources. For example, some hospital sites fill prescriptions and deliver them to nearby safety-net clinic patients. See Appendices\Marketing\Partnerships Framework for working together.pdf.

  • Partner with other organizations within the community to help form a network of services to care for indigent patients. Think through the social determinants of health and how organizations in your community fill needs that you do not.
  • Potential partners may include: FQHCs, other safety-net providers, the Health Department, other hospitals, homeless shelters, thrift shops, food pantries, etc.
  • Decide what you want to accomplish with your outreach efforts and set a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) such as, “we will recruit 50 new patients this quarter.”
  • Partner with your organization’s communications team or community partners to help create internal and external marketing pieces to tell others about the program. Sites for marketing include:

Internal to a Healthcare System

  • Clinics and medical providers
  • Medical Office Building providers (physician practices)
  • Hospitalists and providers involved with discharges, ED providers
  • Hospital Associates – care management, financial counselors, ED staff, nursing, pharmacists, patient navigators, and any staff involved with discharging patients
External to a Healthcare System
  • Charitable care clinics/hospitals
  • Behavioral Health providers
  • Medical and Dental providers
  • Shelters & Recovery programs
  • Nursing homes and Assisting Living Facilities
  • Local pharmacies and pharmacy organizations
  • Health Department
  • Medical Mission at Home
Social and work settings
  • Churches and other places of worship
  • Community resource providers
    • Soup kitchens, food pantries, etc.
  • Thrift shops and grocery stores
  • Civic organizations
  • Kitchens of restaurants, landscaping businesses
  • Community groups – health and safety net organizations in the community or state

TIP: Where does the population served congregate, receive healthcare, work, make purchases? What media tools do they use? What languages do they use to converse? How can your marketing reach them?

Share your program with the local newspaper, television stations, community newsletters, and social networking sites to build awareness in the community about the program to allow for more low-income, uninsured patients to learn of the access opportunity available to them.

For example, a site that opened in September 2017 near a rural hospital filled 115 prescriptions within the first 30 days of opening due to successful marketing of the program through the local newspaper and other methods.

A feature story in the local newspaper or on the local radio or television news is very effective and is free! Research health care issues in your state or services area and relate the research to how your organization is making a difference.

Half of our referrals come from current patients or doctor’s offices

Communication Systems
  • Local newspaper ad and radio spots with Google tracking phone number to monitor success of advertisement
  • United Way’s Info-211 system
  • Community Newsletters and Church Bulletins
  • Open House and Ribbon Cutting – invite the media
  • Social Media
  • Internet Links
  • Posters placed in patient elevators at hospitals and clinics, on buses, at thrift shops
  • Brochures provided to clinics and placed in patient waiting areas in the hospital, soup kitchens, food pantries
  • Informational meetings with local clinics
  • Referrals at Medical Missions at Home(provide applications) if held in your community
  • Updated information with United Way’s Info-211 referral system
  • Include language(s) of the population being served
  • Customized brochures for some clinics with specific needs (behavioral health, cardiac, respiratory, diabetes, etc.)with transportation options in directions to pharmacy
  • Internet Links on other provider sites

See Marketing Appendix for examples of fliers, posters, etc.

 What to include in materials:
 Direct to Patients:
  • Definitions:
    • Name of charitable pharmacy and purpose
    • Population served (uninsured, underinsured, income requirements, location restrictions, other)
  • Eligibility requirements and what to bring to initial visit
  • Pharmacy location(s), directions, hours of service (closed for lunch, holidays?)
  • Contact information: phone, fax, email, social media, website
  • Translation if population does not read English
  • Services: interpreter services provided, no appointment necessary, or call for an appointment, fees for Safety-Net meds
Direct to Providers:
  • Above patient information plus:
  • Formulary information:
    • What is available
    • What is not available (control meds, birth control, immunizations, etc.)
    • Meds that are specific for that type of practice
    • How to access formulary (on website, faxed to provider)
  • How providers can help: direct donations, enroll for insulin samples to donate to pharmacy
  • Check with individual state regulations regarding types of donations your pharmacy can receive and from whom. (See: Appendices\Regulatory\Board of Pharmacy state regulations 1.2017.xlsx)

Example: How Can Your Practice Help?

  1. We need practices that are willing to enroll to receive free insulin samples to donate to our charitable pharmacy – insulin is one medicines that is in great demand.
  2. Donate to the HOPE Dispensary. Many of the medications we dispense, particularly those for behavioral health, are not available except through purchase. Costs of generics continue to rise and many have been removed from the $4 programs. A gift of $100 provides approximately $600 worth of medication to patients.

HOPE Dispensary of Greater Bridgeport

access to pharmacy - public transit
access to pharmacy - driving directions
Saint Thomas Health’s Best Practices and Lessons Learned from their Dispensary of Hope program, Jennifer Belue, Social Worker Ashley Bennett, Outpatient Pharmacy Manager David Neu, Executive Director of Pharmacy April 27, 2017
Internet Accessibility

For many of the uninsured/underinsured, their phone is their only computer. Being internet linked to other resources patients use makes a charitable pharmacy easier to find.

Internet links to a charitable pharmacy could include:

  • Local hospitals
  • Clinics and FQHCs
  • Department of Health
  • Safety Net providers: food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, recovery centers, social service providers (diapers, behavioral health, others), thrift shops, and entities who serve immigrants
Track the impact of marketing

When possible, develop a metric to measure the impact of the marketing tool.

  • Google tracking phone number or visitors to website
  • Monthly metrics(number of Rx, new patients, patient encounters, etc.) prior to and after advertising
  • Referral sources for new patients
    • From a specific location or provider
    • Where did you hear about pharmacy?
    • Helps measure the effectiveness of marketing and partnerships with other stakeholders or partner safety-net organizations in community

Allows monitoring if re-education needs to occur to a particular referral site (internal or external). See Results-Based Accountability “How Well did we do it?”

Marketing your charitable pharmacy is simply informing your potential and current donors or key stakeholders about their investment or potential investment in your organization. Encourage your philanthropic team to see themselves as partners working for the same goal of serving the uninsured and improving health outcomes as opposed to just donors of funds. When developing your plan, share outcome measurements that reflect your mission (See: Results-Based Accountability). Include a timeline and set financial goals which include income and expenses. What is your total budget and what are your marketing and fundraising goals? Ozanam Charitable pharmacy, serving for more than 20 years, offers 15 steps that will get you on the path to marketing ideas and approaches that could make a significant difference in reaching the goals of your organization.

  1. Research similar non-profit organizations and learn from successes.
  2. Understand your mission and develop a clear and concise mission message.
  3. Define who are you wanting to reach with your message or mission. What is your target audience? (hospitals, independent pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, etc.)
  4. Develop a strategy and create a plan to determine the desired outcome of your marketing efforts. Examples – based on your fiscal year develop a 12-month calendar of marketing goals and projected outcomes.
  5. Once you have determined your message and marketing plan develop brochures and other marketing materials that describe the benefits, services, donation opportunities and values that represent your organization.
  6. Develop a social media marketing strategy. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook can provide an avenue for reaching a large number of people interested in your organization – and do it in an inexpensive way. Manage your social media marketing plan by developing the number of post per week on your chosen platform or platforms. Tool such as Hootsuite can help you manage all your social media accounts from one central website.
  7. Create and maintain a professional internet marketing presence by developing a website that moves your message forward and represents who you are as a charitable pharmacy. You can use your website as a portal for sharing important information such as the history of your organization, breaking news items, monthly newsletters, upcoming events and as a way to create a sense of community. Use your Facebook platform to drive your potential donors to your website. Use your website to increase online donations. Some examples of donation platforms include Just Give, Donate Now, and Paypal. Remember, all platforms have an administrative fee. Research the giving platform that works for you.
  8. Develop and maintain a current and prospective donor database. Use your databases for special mailings, follow-up phone calls, event invitations, to develop alliances, for research profiling and market segmentation. There are many donor platforms to use such as Frontstream, Donor Perfect and Donorquest. Research the donor software that will work for you. These donor management databases can be expensive. Develop an account with Techsoup to find reduced or free donor management tools.
  9. Use e newsletters and quarterly printed newsletters to showcase the objectives of your organization as well as successes. Insert a donation envelope in each printed newsletter and a Donate Now on each e-newsletter. You’ll also want to showcase patients, volunteers, board members, staff, students, programs and specials projects.
  10. Develop and implement at least four direct appeals to your current donor base by creating a mailer that tells your story. This would be a good time to write about one of you patients and how your mission has assisted them. Have at least one acquisition mailer to acquire new donors in your donor base. You may have to purchase a mailing list for this direct ask. Research proven mailing houses for accurate mailing list based on your needs.
  11. Create an e-fundraising like GoFundme, Amazon Smiles and platform. You can use these platforms to raise money from e-commerce.
  12. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate with other nonprofits, government, media, corporations, academia and community leaders. This step alone will develop your circle of support.
  13. Write grants for programs and general operations. Research community foundations, corporate giving, United Way, government contracts and grant research organizations like Grant Station. Grant Station is a national research grant opportunity tool. There is a fee to join Grant Station and it varies. Check Techsoup for annual discounts on Grant Station. Another great resource to look at is the Foundation Center which maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants (See: National Resources). Develop a timeline and set realistic goals.
  14. Develop at least one primary fundraising event and a secondary. Fundraising event are great sources of unrestricted income. Grants are restricted in many cases. Develop a fundraiser that will work in your community. Do something different and set a budget for projected expenses and income. Some development pros like to develop detailed timelines that list not only big picture goals, but also all of the small goals that go into making that big goal a reality. For example, instead of just listing that we’re having an event, also list entertainment needs, when venue decisions need to be made, when sponsors will be solicited, when invitations will go out, etc.
  15. Develop a major gift plan. The definition of what constitutes a major gift differs from organization to organization. A small nonprofit might deem a major gift as anything over $1,000 while a large, established organization might call $50,000 a major gift. Outside of planned giving, major gifts are the largest donations that a nonprofit receives. Major gifts include donations from stocks, real estate, and wills. Often this donation is stimulated by a board member or friend of the organization. It may also include donations from trust and foundations. It takes time to cultivate this type of gift.

Wyoming Medication Donation Program uses the MailChimp e-newsletter service. It is easy to use and free. 🙂 It is used for specific communication with our reclamation donation and dispensing sites as well as general communication like a newsletter or special notice. Our Wyoming Department of Health yearly invites each program to do a Health Stat report to division leadership providing program mission, description, budget, ROI, outcomes, efficiencies, etc. Periodically, the report may be accompanied by a presentation. The report is a useful document when educating legislators and others to explain the program and demonstrate the outcomes. This process enabled program expansion funding for 2018. (See Appendices\Metrics\Dashboards & Reports\WMDP Performance_Template.doc)

A newsletter can be directed to referral sources, donors and potential donors, partners in the community and beyond. When preparing a newsletter determine the audiences then “speak their language”. Languages include Heart, Financial, Healthcare Outcomes and Plumbing or improvement in processes (See: Speaking the Language as you Market your Fund Development Need). Newsletters may be printed and mailed or distributed via or email. Some resources for developing a newsletter are listed in Resources and examples are in Appendices\Marketing\Fliers and Newsletters.

Items may include:

  • New: new staff, new outreach, new partners, new milestones, new outcome measures
  • “In the News”: recognitions, publications, awards, articles
  • Ways to help: donation button, volunteer button, website button
  • Events and fundraisers
  • Thank you: sponsors, donors, partners, volunteers, students
  • Photos: get a media release signature
  • Financial Statement (usually annually): include “How your dollars help,” return on investment (Example: Every $1 donated provides $6 in medication)
  • Sponsors and Board Members
  • Pharmacy contact information

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