Getting Staff Buy-In for a Culture of Philanthropy
Almost every good business book over the past two decades has at least one chapter devoted to company culture and making sure you have staff buy-in to the overall vision of the company. Makes complete sense, right? Everyone needs to be moving in the same direction together as one team to create a great company.
Then, why is this so difficult for nonprofits?
I mean, we talk a good game. Spend any time on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and every nonprofit development team and the consultants that serve them is talking about being donor-centered, how they have a culture of philanthropy, and everyone understands the role of the donor in the nonprofit.
But in reality, this is not the case. Nonprofit leaders are still asking major gift officers to increase their revenue by a set percentage of growth, development is sending generic marketing and fundraising communication pieces out to major donors, there is no system to report on impact, it takes weeks to send out a thank you letter, and the board doesn’t look like anything that makes up the community that the nonprofit is serving.
This is just a few things we see that shows us the nonprofit doesn’t have a culture of philanthropy, but a big one is what I mentioned before … nonprofits are doing a poor job of creating a culture of philanthropy because they are not inviting the entire organization to help create that culture. In other words, not everyone is on the bus.
And I think you can agree that if we’re not all on the bus, you are not going to have a culture of philanthropy at your organization. So, how do you get there.
- Take the time to educate your entire organization about the role of a donor in your organization. Take them through the entire lifecycle of a donor from acquisition to a planned gift. Show the staff the ROI of each stage of the pipeline so they understand how this works. Help them understand that donors want to know the impact of their gifts. Most folks outside of development don’t know any of this. They are left in the dark and consider fundraising to be a necessary evil. Just getting your staff to understand this basic stuff will be an awakening for them.
- Bring in donors to talk about why they support your organization. For most staff who don’t work in development, this will be an eye opener and it will be highly emotional. Hearing from the donor, will create empathy which can be turned into understanding and finally action when you need help from non-development staff to do your work.
- Celebrate gifts with everyone. Most nonprofit staff never knows when a big gift comes in or when a particular donor strategy worked. If you want to create a culture where all staff understands the role of a donor, you must communicate awesome gifts. And tell donor stories!
- Leave room for communication. Make sure everyone has a voice in the process and act on what the team shares as you work to shift the culture.
Also, understand this. Culture change doesn’t happen overnight. Just like developing a major gift program you won’t see results immediately. Know that nonprofit staff are skeptical of fundraising, and they don’t get it. I mean, how much do you know what finance does?
Showing compassion and implementing change over time, you will gain the trust of your staff and the change you want to see now, will eventually happen. So, don’t get frustrated when you don’t see change happen right away. It will come, but you must keep working at it every day. The result will be astounding, and everyone will be on the bus.
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.