5 Things Nonprofit Senior Housing Providers Can Learn from For-Profits

In some ways, not-for-profit senior living providers and for-profit senior living providers couldn’t be more different. In other ways, they should likely try to be more similar.

In fact, not-for-profit senior living providers have plenty to learn from their for-profit counterparts, according to experts who spoke at the LeadingAge Illinois 2017 Meeting and Exposition in Chicago on April 27.

Here are five tricks of the trade for-profit providers have been doing for years that not-for-profits would do well to try:

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1. Always collect all payments owed, on time.

Not-for-profits sometimes can be passive when it comes to demanding all residents pay their bills on time. This can no longer stand, Jason Lundy, a Chicago-based attorney with Polsinelli, said during the LeadingAge presentation.

“It is not a feasible business model for you to not collect,” Lundy said.

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Not-for-profit providers may feel that it goes against their “mission” to demand payments that aren’t coming in, or feel as though they’re being greedy when they should be charitable. But that’s not the case. 

“Letting that stuff slide is not generosity,” Lundy explained. “Letting that stuff slide puts your entire organization in jeopardy.”

Letting some payments slide is not fair to those residents who do pay all of their bills on time, he added.

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“Thinking of that as charity is an inaccurate label,” he concluded. “That is a business practice that is unjust.”

2. Reinvest in your building.

Not-for-profit senior living providers should make sure they’re keeping their buildings in tip-top shape, according to Brian Robinson, senior vice president in the national healthcare banking division at MB Financial Bank. That way, not-for-profits can compete with shiny new for-profit buildings popping up in their communities.

“You have to spend money to make money,” Robinson said during the LeadingAge presentation. “Passive doesn’t work anymore…in this day and age. The competition is fierce.”

3. Refine your marketing strategy.

Not-for-profit senior living providers should decide, once and for all, which type of residents they’re targeting—their acuity level, payor source, and otherwise. Once that’s determined, not-for-profits have to aggressively market themselves as solutions for those types of residents, Lundy suggested.

“Don’t think that those patients are just going to come in because you put your logo out there,” Lundy said. “You’ve got to be very focused with your marketing. Ask for what you want.”

In the past, not-for-profit providers haven’t been aggressive enough, Lundy said. They’ve been too confident that their name and reputation alone will bring in residents—and that’s not the case.

“You can’t just go on what you think is your reputation in the community. You have to get out there and tell people how good you are,” Lundy said.

Not-for-profits should also remember that anybody who works with them is part of their marketing team, including referring physicians. Providers should tell their referring physicians to advocate in the community on their behalf, Lundy said.

4. Improve your staffing levels.

When a for-profit senior living community takes over a not-for-profit, there are often cuts made to the nursing staff, Robinson said. This move saves providers a great deal of money—and not-for-profits should consider following suit, as long as nursing staff cuts won’t impact the quality of care they deliver.

“See if you can consolidate two roles into one, three roles into two,” Robinson said.

5. Switch vendors, if necessary.

Not-for-profit senior living providers don’t have to keep using the same vendors for their linens, cleaning supplies and food out of loyalty, Robinson said. For-profits don’t—and for-profits save money.

Senior living vendors can act a lot like cable and Internet providers, Robinson explained. For instance, occasionally he notices that his AT&T bill has crept up, so he confronts AT&T about it and they lower his monthly bill. 

Not-for-profit providers should do this with their vendors; if their vendors fail to lower the price, providers should look elsewhere.

“Sticking with a poor-performance vendor is not good stewardship of your resources,” Robinson explained. “You shouldn’t be afraid or paranoid to fight for what is yours, or what you should be charged.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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