What Can You Change?
You will be able to find hundreds of articles, blog posts, conference presentations and retreats all centered on creating a culture of philanthropy. I wonder if it’s moving the needle?
Richard and I get emails every week from frustrated major gift officers or development directors who lament that their organization does not have a leader or leadership that understands that donors are also part of the mission.
And… I would say it’s beyond just being frustrated. Many are at their wits end and feel so disempowered that they have no alternative but to leave.
I get it. It’s one of the main reasons we see major gift officers leave organizations: Leadership doesn’t support philanthropy.
But if you are planning on waiting around for leaders to become enlightened about the need for a positive culture of philanthropy, you’ll be dead before that ever happens. I’m not trying to be fatalistic; the reality is that there is and — probably has been in the last 20 years — a crisis of leadership in the nonprofit sector.
So, what do you do?
You can complain, get frustrated and leave every two years for another organization you think has it better. Or you can change yourself.
That’s really all you can do, right? Change you.
If you believe your nonprofit needs to have a culture of philanthropy, and leadership is not leading, you be the change.
I mean, you have an idea in your head (and there is certainly a lot of information about what a culture of philanthropy will look like), so do that.
What does “doing that” look like?
- Put the donors in your portfolio first. Create a revenue goal and a plan for them, so you know exactly how to cultivate, steward and solicit those donors throughout the year.
- Get to know everyone who works in finance and program whom you rely on to get you great information for your donor. Learn what they do. Have empathy for them and their work. Volunteer in their programs.
- Manage up to the executive director. Manage their portfolio and give them everything they need to cultivate, solicit and steward her donors. Educate the CEO about the donors, and let them see why it’s important to look at your donors as part of your mission.
- Hold your boss accountable to hold YOU accountable. Yep, that’s right. Ask your boss to meet with you every week to review your portfolio. This is what happens in a nonprofit that has a culture of philanthropy. If you’re not managed correctly, you will lose focus, so ask to be managed.
- Create a monthly meeting with finance and program to update them on your portfolio. Just make it a recurring meeting.
- Ask to present at every staff meeting, and tell stories about your donors. Not just about the big gifts that came in, but why those donors gave them.
- Bring donors in to talk to your staff about why they give. Encourage interaction with donors and staff.
- Take your colleagues out to lunch or happy hour after work. The real stuff happens outside of work. Start developing relationships with people. It allows barriers to be brought down and trust levels go way up.
OK, you get the idea here. You can only control one thing when it’s about changing the culture at your organization (and quite frankly with anything), and that is YOU. You control your attitude and your actions. If the organization is not going to have a culture of philanthropy, you can!
Be the change.
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.