Building a Culture of Philanthropy
Fundraising is ultimately about building relationships. A culture of philanthropy is merely that — an attitude that embraces relationship building. Once everyone realizes that fundraising is, in many respects, everybody's job, your organization is on the path to sustainable funding. Shift your focus from money to building lasting relationships, and the money will follow.
How do you know that your organization has embraced a culture of philanthropy?
- Everyone understands the need to raise money and is willing to do what it takes to support the effort, regardless of his or her role in the organization.
- Everyone represents the organization — and everyone helps identify potential new friends.
- Everyone can articulate a case for giving and how a gift will be used.
- All of your internal processes are donor-centric.
- You welcome donor visits to your offices and program sites.
- Everyone takes turns welcoming at the front desk and phoning donors.
- Your executive director sees him/herself as the face of the agency.
- The executive director is 100 percent committed and personally involved in fundraising.
- Your organization's clients and donors are viewed as experts in how the organization carries out its mission and are regularly invited to share their stories.
- 100 percent of your board members contribute financially.
What are some signs that your organization hasn't embraced a culture of philanthropy?
- Your fundraising is constantly in nickel-and-dime crisis mode.
- Your development staff is paying for its own training and books.
- The responsibility for fundraising is assumed by one or a few people (usually the development director or your executive director).
- You rely on activities such as special events or direct-mail campaigns, rather than focusing on a comprehensive strategy embracing multiple streams of income.
- When major gifts or bequests do occur, they're surprises. There's no one in charge of making asks, and staff is rarely, if ever, out of the office meeting donors face to face.
- You've never surveyed your donors.
- You know that when the founder leaves next month she's taking half of the donors with her.
Where does your organization stand? Remember, as the development director (or executive director), you are primarily responsible for building a culture of philanthropy. Don't ask for permission to lead. Take the reins, and be prepared to lead your organization's staff, board and, yes, even your executive director.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.