More than 70 percent of independent eyecare practices are actively participating in charitable activities, according to research released through the Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund. However, the survey also reveals that there are barriers to increasing the amount of outreach being done, as well as opportunities to improve how programs are utilized and communicated.
“As an industry that provides such a valuable public service, we have the ability to really make an impact on people’s lives with our outreach efforts,” says Mary O’Hara, regional giving officer and associate marketing manager, trade communications, Transitions Optical, Inc. “Whether it’s providing free vision services, educating in the community or participating in larger optical industry charity events, there are plenty of ways for interested eyecare professionals to help.”
Education and Patient Communications: Missed Opportunities
The majority of the survey respondents (60 percent) provide eyewear to patients through their charitable efforts. The second most common service provided is eye exams (55 percent), followed by vision screenings (41 percent). However, only 25 percent of those who are participating in charitable outreach reported that they provide education as part of their programs.
“Every interaction with a patient provides an opportunity to educate on the importance of protecting vision,” says O’Hara. “Especially during vision screenings, which result in a historically low rate of follow-up care.”
Another area that was identified in the survey as not reaching its potential is patient communications. A study in 2010 found that 86 percent of consumers believe it’s important that companies stand for something other than profitability. Yet only 46 of the practices who participated in the survey are talking about their charitable endeavors to patients. In-office display materials and direct patient communications (newsletters, social media, etc.) were also revealed as being underutilized for this purpose.
Charitable Outreach Challenges
According to the research, respondents who are currently participating in charitable outreach programs are targeting underprivileged populations (58 percent), general populations (50 percent), kids (43 percent), national/regional vision charities (32 percent), blind/low-vision populations (23 percent), seniors (16 percent) and multicultural groups (11 percent). While the survey indicates that the majority of practices are engaged in some level of charitable outreach, respondents revealed some challenges.
Primary reasons why eyecare practices are not doing more non-profit work are lack of time (47 percent) and budget (42 percent). In fact, 30 percent said that they would increase the amount of charitable work they participate in if they could receive additional funding. Additional volunteer support (17 percent), education materials (17 percent) and interest from audiences they wish to support (11 percent) would also encourage more interest.
How the Healthy Sight for Life Fund Can Help
The Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund is a resource for industry professionals who are looking to enhance, expand or initiate a charitable program in their practices. Since 2008, the Fund has provided educational resources and financial support to optical industry professionals who are aligned with its mission of helping preserve healthy sight for a lifetime. Grants exceeding $1 million have been awarded for efforts including school vision screenings, public awareness campaigns, outreach through sports and recreation activities, low- or no-cost treatment for people with eye disease and programs to provide comprehensive vision care, vision wear and education to those in need.
While much of the work of the fund is done in partnership with non-profit organizations in the U.S., Canada and globally, a portion of the available grants are reserved for eyecare practices and laboratories that have charitable programs. To apply for a grant, professionals should submit a request form, located under the Healthy Sight Grants tab of www.healthysightforlife.org.