Does Your Organization Have a Culture of Philanthropy?

by Danielle Irving

Attending a class several years ago, the professor asked each of us how many fundraisers were in our respective nonprofit organizations. I was a one person shop at Duke Catholic Center at that time so I answered “one." Answers varied from one to ten as we went around the room. The professor then said that the correct answer to the number of fundraisers in the organization was actually the total number of employees who worked there.

We all looked quizzically at one another.

Then she explained the importance of building a “Culture of Philanthropy” in our nonprofits. This means that every single person who works for our mission can explain it and its importance with passion. And share how philanthropic dollars advance that mission and impact in society. From the CEO to the janitor; from the development team to the marketing department; and everyone in between. Every single person had the responsibility (and privilege) of sharing the good news about the organization to others and inviting them to invest in the mission.

In her article “Building a Culture of Philanthropy in Your Organization”, Simone Joyeaux, ACFRE puts it this way “Everyone is an ambassador for philanthropy and fund development. If the quality of the program is not good enough, it doesn’t matter what the fund raiser does. If board members don’t talk enough about the organization with their friends and colleagues, it doesn’t matter how hard the executive director tries to raise funds. If the receptionist isn’t sufficiently helpful, the best direct mail solicitation will not be as effective as it can be. This is the culture of philanthropy. An attitude. An understanding. A behavior. After the culture of philanthropy is firmly established, fund development is more effective.”

Not only must everyone in the organization be well versed in the mission and impact, it’s also important for them to be donors themselves. It’s the age-old question: If those who are working for an organization don’t believe in it enough to support it, why should anyone else?

In her article “Creating a Culture of Philanthropy”, Pamela Grow describes it like this: ‘A culture of philanthropy is a product of organizational values, practices and communication patterns that create an environment where an organization’s entire community – from donors, to clients, to staff, to partners– has ample opportunities to engage with the mission in authentic and meaningful ways.”.

And this doesn’t have to be dull or drudgery! It’s something to enjoy and a wonderful legacy to leave when it’s time to move on. Pamela Grow says, “A successful fundraising program is built around a culture of philanthropy – and that means that everyone in your organization has a role to play.  But this isn’t a “have to” or an obligation.  Quite the contrary, building a culture of philanthropy can and should be fun, and inspirational!”

My challenge to you today is to assess if your organization truly has this Culture of Philanthropy.

Have fun with it! Inspire those you work with to truly understand the importance of the work you are doing each day and empower them to invest in that mission and feel passionately enough to shout from the rooftops about the good work being done!

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