Change Starts With You
When you woke up this morning, were you excited about starting the day and working with donors? Do you have a sense of purpose and mission? Are you fulfilled and have passion for what you do? Do you have many moments of joy? Are you given praise from your colleagues and manager for the great work you are doing?
I recently asked these same questions to 35 major-gift officers (MGOs) from a very prestigious university.
I also asked them these questions: Does everyone at your institution view donors as part of the mission? Do program, finance, alumni relations, admissions and development all work together? Does annual fund, planned giving and major gifts work together? Do you all know your mission and vision? Do donors trust you? Does leadership support build relationships with donors?
How would you answer these questions?
The university I spoke to is preparing for a massive campaign. In their preparation, they are asking themselves what it will take to have a true culture of philanthropy where donors and alumni are first and where everyone sees their role as an ambassador of the university—from the president down to the maintenance crew.
Typically when Richard and I talk to MGOs about building a culture of philanthropy at their organization, there is a lot of finger pointing from the staff at management. I get that. It’s easier to look outside yourself to see what is wrong with a situation then to look inward.
It’s uncomfortable to self-reflect.
In my presentation, I asked each MGO to think about how they need to be the change they wanted to see. Don’t look outside yourself and think it will happen. Look at yourself. And, in seeking change and reflecting that back to their donors, colleagues and leadership, change would start to happen.
We wrote a white paper on “Creating a Culture of Philanthropy.” If you go to our website, you can download it for free. There are six steps that Richard and I feel you need to take to help build it a culture of philanthropy:
- Get your head and heart right. Look inward to make sure that being a MGO is really what you want to do as a career.
- Make donors part of your mission. Make sure your work is all about the care of donors.
- Get your leaders on board. Work on creating the culture. It will catch fire and leaders will join you. We’ve seen it happen.
- Tell your story. Understand your organization’s story, know your donor’s story and bring them together.
- Get everyone involved. Plan to make sure everyone is aware of donors and that fundraising is everyone’s job.
- Talk boldly about need. Understand the need and don't be afraid to talk about it and present the need in a way that your donors will want to take action.
Then you have to start putting this into practice and have the persistence and patience to stay with it. Turning a culture around takes years. Don’t think this ship will turn on a dime.
What was great to see at this university was a genuine willingness and desire to work on turning it around and sticking with it. The passion and energy from these development professionals really inspired me. They all wanted to make something happen. Richard and I love it when we see that kind of commitment.
My bet is that you do too.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.