If social media has empowered nonprofits to share stories with current and prospective donors, virtual reality represents a natural progression: bringing those stakeholders along for an immersive experience.
At the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, a first-of-its-kind VR patient room is doing exactly that.
“Riley is an incredible place,” said Mark Bradley, founder and president of creative agency Bradley and Montgomery. “The minute you step through the doors, you really feel how they are bringing hope and care to sick kids and families. We wanted to capture this feeling and use virtual reality to extend the Riley experience outside the physical walls of the hospital. VR gives us the opportunity to bring the hospital to the community in ways that were simply not possible before.”
The virtual room will enable people to experience what it’s like to be a patient or a parent staying at Riley and highlight the high-level of care provided by the hospital, without stepping foot inside. The room will be featured at select fundraising events, as part of Riley’s ongoing Be The Hope Now capital campaign.
“Including a VR experience at Riley Hospital for Children opens the virtual doors to donors to see where their money is being used and further illuminates areas that are still in need of funding,” said Meghan Miller, Chief Operating Officer of Riley Children’s Foundation. “We are grateful to be the first hospital in Indiana to offer this unique VR experience to show donors and potential donors all of the good work happening at Riley.”
A spokesperson for Bradley & Montgomery cited research from Stanford University, which found increased levels of empathy among study participants who learned about homelessness through virtual reality, against a control group with a similarly patterned two-dimensional experience.
“The opportunities for VR are boundless, especially in the nonprofit space,” said Bradley. “VR has a unique ability to let people experience things they wouldn’t be able to in real life and that experience can build strong emotional bonds – something hard to do with traditional marketing. These emotional connections increase awareness and advocacy which compels people to action whether that’s volunteering for the organization, spreading the word about it or donating directly to the cause.”
The VR experience has proven beneficial both from a donor perspective and a prospective patient perspective.
“Virtual reality allows the patient to experience a hospital room, invite members of his community to get a glimpse into his reality, or share this experience with a family member,” said Mel Sexton, Child Life Special Events and Child Life Zone Supervisor at Riley. “VR creates an avenue to understand the unique demands on patients and their families and provides another cutting-edge tool in preparation for the hospital experience.”
The team at Riley emphasized the benefits of VR to all involved in an intake.
“A visit to a children’s hospital can be stressful on patients and their family,”said Paul R. Haut, MD, Chief Operating Officer of Riley Children’s Health. “This program leveraging VR is a great addition to our ability to support our patients, families and visitors in preparation for their visit to Riley. They can walk in with a better understanding of what they can expect and focus on the important things due to a reduction in unnecessary anxiety.”
Riley Children’s Foundation is the fundraising arm of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and the founding organization that opened Riley Hospital in 1924. Riley Hospital is the only comprehensive children’s research hospital in the state of Indiana.