Culture of Philanthropy: Are You Ready?
More and more often, we hear this catchy phrase "culture of philanthropy" and how essential it is to high levels of nonprofit fundraising success. Having worked as a staffer for many years, I’m a firm believer. If you want to raise more money and retain more donors, start by looking at your collective mindset toward philanthropy—a culture shift doesn’t start with strategy. But what we also know is culture change doesn’t happen overnight. Readiness matters.
So how ready is your nonprofit board to jump on the culture of philanthropy train?
According to the Beyond Fundraising Report, culture of philanthropy has four core components:
- Shared responsibility for development
- Integration and alignment with the mission
- Focus on fundraising as engagement
- Strong donor relationships
Sounds nice, but what does it mean for your board?
Here's a simple quiz to get you thinking about what needs to happen with your board to move the needle toward a culture of philanthropy:
- Can every board member tell their own story of why they serve for your nonprofit? I mean really—not just because they think you’re nice—why? What compels them, and can they articulate it in a way that might be compelling to others?
- Do they interact with staff or clients, so they can understand real impact stories? In other words, are you regularly connecting their volunteer work with the mission?
- Has your board approved a plan that lifts philanthropy as a key organizational priority?
- Can every board member list at least three ways people can get connected to your organization that don’t involve being a donor first?
- Can every board member articulate your case for support? For that matter, can you?
- Is every board member doing something that results in money coming in? There are many ways to influence giving without being the person who “asks.”
- How are board members strengthening relationships with donors over the years after they have contributed?
- Who are the champions on your board who can influence others and keep shifting your culture in the right direction?
- Has your board intentionally allocated resources to support development (technology, people, marketing and more)?
- Does everyone understand that development isn’t a department or a committee function, but rather a strategy for accomplishing your mission?
- Are your board members proud of their own contributions? It’s tough, if not impossible, to be as successful as you can be if your volunteers are hanging their heads.
Fundraising isn’t about money—it’s about the mission. Once your board understands this, you’d be amazed how the barriers fall by the wayside! They will also come to realize it’s not about them. If they are uncertain or inexperienced, let’s change the conversation and help them get out of their own way, so they can board this train! It's leaving the station with or without them.
And it starts with you. Are you ready to take this on? Is your mission worth it?
Cindi Phallen works with nonprofit boards and executives to build healthy boards that raise more money and execute on their vision. She is an author, educator, speaker, president of Create Possibility and a former ED. Known for asking the tough questions, she is on a mission to change the mindset of nonprofit leaders, so they move from intention to execution and maximize their impact.
Her popular book, “The Impact Triangle: The 3 Essentials to Accelerate Your Nonprofit Enterprise,” is recommended as mandatory reading for executives and volunteers. Cindi teaches fundraising at the University of San Diego, serves on various boards and is a Viewpoint partner for Social Venture Partners.
Cindi spends her free time jogging on the beach, snowboarding or watching her beloved Philadelphia Eagles!