THE BAD NEWS for medical societies is that long-standing general (not event-specific) support seems to be on the decline in the current regulatory environment. The good news is that pharmaceutical companies are shifting their attention to CME meetings. But obtaining commercial support for any initiative, including meetings, is an increasingly complicated process.

“On a scale of one to 10, the difficulty of obtaining funding is now a 10!” says Colleen Hennessey, coordinator of specialty society relations for the Massachusetts Medical Society, Waltham, Mass.

Her colleague, Ginny Dulong, administrator for special society relations, MMS, adds: “Medical meeting planners are in a difficult position. How do we meet the fund raising needs of our societies without compromising the separation between marketing and content generation?”

Put Yourself in Pharma's Shoes

The new red tape surrounding modern regulations of CME makes it critical for medical meeting planners to know exactly what they are prepared to offer in exchange for funding before the first communication ever takes place. Think beyond the actual annual meetings. Put yourself in the shoes of the pharmaceutical marketer who wants to create brand recognition: What can you offer without compromising your image? Can you create a section of your Web site clearly marked as recognition for corporate support, with a link to the funder's Web page? What about including a letter in one of your mailings from the supporting company's clinical director, talking about why the company supports the society?

Don't assume that your members won't understand the new realities of fund-seeking. Ask them if they would mind receiving a one-time mailing or e-mail if they know that it will generate additional funding for the society. You might be surprised at the response.

Next, take the time to create a compelling presentation. A professionally created fund-raising kit can create a fantastic first impression. Include in your kit the following:

  • The quality of your membership, even if you are a small society (how many published authors among you, innovators in medicine or surgery, leaders at universities, advisors on various boards, etc.). Showcase that your members are influential leaders — and that you provide one of the few options grantors have to reach those elusive contacts.

  • Opportunities for corporate logo and/or name exposure, such as Web sites, mailings, a booth at the annual meeting, the opportunity to hold a press conference during your annual meeting, any use of your mailing list, the opportunity to have a grantor's clinical director meet with your board, etc. Include anything — and everything — you are willing to provide.

  • Impact data: How many people attend your events each year? Try to gather qualitative data about the impact your meetings have on clinical practice. Small meetings with big impact attract more funds than large meetings with no impact. Highlight the quality of your program in easy-to-read charts and graphs.

  • The rules! Here is your chance to draw a strict line between finance and content. Make it clear where the boundaries are.

  • Administrative details: Include tax ID numbers, nonprofit credentials, etc. in this space to avoid too much back and forth later.

The time invested in creating a fund-raising kit is worth it if it catches the attention of the people who hold the purse strings.

Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group, a global medical communications consulting agency in Newton, Mass. Contact her at For more of her columns, visit