Case Study: RWJBarnabas Health

Kevin D. Hendricks
Case Study: RWJBarnabas Health

We talked with Stacy Buono, the associate vice president of annual giving and donor relations at RWJBarnabas Health, about what they do, how they use Rally, and adapting to change.

“We are the largest provider of charity care in New Jersey. As a nonprofit healthcare system, no one gets turned away.” -Stacy Buono

What They Do: A system of 12 hospitals and lots of outpatient facilities throughout New Jersey.

3 million: Patients treated each year.

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RWJBarnabas Health is a hospital system serving patients, but they’ve also created an outpatient healthcare structure that’s going out into communities and helping people stay healthy. It’s grown considerably since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not just waiting for a patient to get to the hospital and they’re sick and treating them, we are doing a lot in the communities in New Jersey to keep people healthy,” Buono said.

Partner: A recent partnership with Rutgers University has created the largest academic healthcare system in New Jersey.

Adapting to Change

Like many nonprofits, RWJBarnabas Health has had to pivot to take advantage of technology and reach the next generation of donors.

  • Multiple channels: “It’s always tough. You have to continuously update what you’re doing,” Buono said. “We’re doing our best keeping up with the technology and making sure that if we are blasting out a patient’s story, it’s going out through direct mail and also through emails to our donors and patients and through a text message that links to a video.”
  • Reaching younger donors: “Adding online giving and texting to the arsenal allows us to reach a broader base of donors,” Buono said. “The younger generation may not be reading their mail, but they do respond to text and email asks. Incorporating texting into our annual giving strategy allows us to send out the same philanthropic message through multiple channels at the same time, boosting our response rate.”

How Did You Start Using Rally?

RWJBarnabas Health started using Rally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They didn’t have a text-to-donate option and knew they needed one.

  • The need: “People wanted to give to the hospitals at that point,” Buono said. They were flooded with pizza and food for nurses—super generous, but not very practical or helpful. “We definitely wanted to be able to funnel that generosity into something that was needed.” 
  • The catalyst: “COVID happened and everyone wanted to do this now. So that was definitely our motivation for getting things started with Rally—having this quick and easy keyword we could blast out and get donations from a community of people who really wanted to help. And it worked. It worked so well that after the first year we basically talked each of the hospitals into starting their own Rally Corp contract because they wanted their own keyword.”

How Are You Using Rally?

“We’re trying to keep them informed of all the changes happening at the hospitals via text because everyone’s got their phone in their hand all the time,” Buono said.

  • Giving: Sending updates and info to donors, plus direct asks especially during timely moments like Doctors Day and Nurses Week.
  • Fun: “If we have a cool video of the new helipad at one of the hospitals, we blast that link out via text message to all our donor lists,” Buono said. 
  • Updates: The CEO shared a state of the nation for the system via video and they sent that out in a text message.
  • Events: Reminders and day-of instructions, text-to-donate on signage at each hold during a golf outing, and last-minute text alerts, like a canceled golf tournament due to rain. One division used it during a banquet to raise money: “While they had a captive audience, a speaker encouraged them to help feed others by texting a $50 gift to provide Turkey vouchers for the food pantry,” Buono said.
  • Employees: Fall is employee campaign season, so they’re using texting to reach out to their team.

Best Feature

Ease of use: “The best feature I know is not one of the new features, it’s really just the ease of using the Rally system,” Buono said. “Being able to very easily and quickly send messaging out to our internal teams of doctors and nurses and our donors is just really great for us.”

Why Rally?

Customer service: “I can say 100%, everyone that uses the platform would agree that the customer service is the best part,” Buono said. “If we’re having trouble getting data into the platform, if we’re having trouble, no matter what it is, their response has been immediate.”

Easy: As they adapt new technology, ease of use is a big deal. “Rally Corp made that super easy for me to navigate because I’m able to explain it pretty easily to everyone who needs to use the system because it’s super easy to use,” Buono said.

Integration: “Rally was a recommendation from Classy and they work hand in hand together,” Buono said. “So a lot of times when I’m sending out a text, I’m linking to a Classy page that we’ve created. It flows together, which is nice.”

Why Do You Do the Work?

“What motivates me as a journalist by trade is the patient stories," Buono said. "I get to hear the good stuff. I get to interview the mom of the two-year-olds in the children’s hospital whose life was saved by some crazy treatment that they do at Robert Wood Johnson that they don’t do anywhere else. I’m hearing the stories of people in traumatic accidents who live to tell about it. That’s my favorite part—hearing how the different facilities and different missions are saving people’s lives.”

Download: How RWJBarabas Health Adapted to Change

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Case Study: How RWJBarnabas Health Adapted to Change
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