Culture of Philanthropy: How Are You Building Nonprofit Goodwill?
Your organization is a goodwill factory. Or it’s not.
Your organization has a culture of philanthropy. Or it doesn’t.
Without goodwill and a culture of philanthropy, you’re not going to achieve anywhere near as much as you could. Or should.
Before we go further, some definitions are in order.
First, let’s look at the definition of goodwill:
A: “A kindly feeling of approval and support: benevolent interest or concern people of goodwill”
B: “The favor or advantage that a business has acquired especially through its brands and its good reputation”
Next, let’s look at the definition of philanthropy:
“Goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare”
Do you see the relationship?
Very Few Nonprofits Have a Goal to 'Build Goodwill and a Culture of Philanthropy'
If you want to be sustainable over the long haul, you must incorporate this dual-pronged goal into your values and planning.
The values part is critical, because if you don’t have goodwill internally (in how you treat your colleagues) you’re unlikely to have goodwill externally (in how others perceive you).
Your internal experience is likely your customers’ and donors’ external experience; it rubs off. Unhappy, frustrated people don’t emit positive vibes. Negative feelings are contagious.
In today’s connected, networked marketplace, success is all about the constituent experience. If it’s not a positive one, you’re sunk.
How Goodwill Is Won and Lost
In the toxic antidote to goodwill, Seth Godin says:
“Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow.
It only takes a moment to destroy.
Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it’s gone.”
What fundraiser hasn’t faced the heartbreak of a rude receptionist destroying all their hard work of building a relationship with their donor? Or a program officer who thought, “It’s not my job to provide donor service,” sending the major gift officer’s efforts into a tailspin?
The real breakdown of “goodwill” happens when a human being, perhaps tired after a long day, or the victim of bureaucracy, makes the decision not to care. Not to express empathy. Not to put themselves in another’s shoes. It’s all completely understandable. But it serves no one.
Failure of Goodwill Is a Failure of Humanity
This is where we see how goodwill and philanthropy are inextricably linked.
When you fail to care about helping someone else, including a co-worker, you deny yourself your own humanity. You isolate yourself.
Not only does this destroy hope for any good word of mouth, it also provides a bad experience for someone else. This costs you.
While you may think you’re protecting yourself by saving time and energy, in the long run, you’re painting yourself into a corner. You lose the benefit of the doubt. And trust, the most important component of loyalty becomes a scarce commodity.
The Job of Philanthropy Is to Demonstrate Love of Humankind
Fundraising is merely service to philanthropy.
You can’t succeed with fundraising absent a values-based culture of philanthropy. And you begin to demonstrate your values at home. To walk your talk.You must be the living, breathing embodiment of the values you espouse, or you lose credibility. Without credibility, there is no goodwill.
What’s the experience of your staff? Your volunteers? Your community colleagues? Your donors? Do they feel they can count on you to be there for them when needed?
Always, always think: “How can I help you?” Whoever that “you” may be.
Helping goes beyond what you might think. Helping is the embodiment of an attitude of service. Whether it stems from true caring or simply doing the right thing. Seth Godin reminds us:
“It turns out that, while people like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be seen and to be cared about.”
He then asks:
“What did you do when you had a chance to connect and to care?”
Maybe It’s Time to Seriously Assess Your Culture
Sustainable philanthropy takes a village. It’s a communal endeavor. Not just from the outside/in, but from the inside/out.
Rather than asking only what your supporters can do for you, what about asking what you can do for them? Heck, while you’re at it, what about asking what you can do for other staff on your team? Your entire team, not just your department.
Want to know what it takes to destroy your nonprofit’s reputation as a force of goodness in the world?
- One rude receptionist.
- One program staffer who doesn’t return phone calls promptly.
- One colleague who says, “That’s not my job.”
- One fundraiser who neglects to debrief their CEO after he/she meets with major donors, thereby failing to capture important information that might inform a subsequent proposal that really floats that donor’s boat.
- One co-worker who insists, “That’s not my priority.”
Is your organization filled with “people of goodwill”?
When given the chance, does everyone in your organization connect and care?
Your culture of philanthropy, or lack thereof, may just be your organization’s most definitive asset.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.