How to Foster a Culture of Philanthropy

by | Oct 12, 2020 | Board, Development Office

What do we mean when we say, “culture of philanthropy?” And how can we build our organization’s “culture of philanthropy?”

Your culture of philanthropy is your organization’s values and attitudes about philanthropy and fundraising, and the activities that flow from them. How does fundraising rank in your organization compared to program activities? Do your board members and staff see fundraising as an equal and important part of your organization, or as a difficult task that no one enjoys?

Philanthropy links staff, board members, donors, clients, volunteers, and people in need. Through their gifts of time and money, donors and volunteers join with you in helping solve community problems and make a positive impact. Nonprofits who successfully build and nurture these relationships and this “culture of philanthropy” are more likely to succeed in fundraising, program goals, and community impact. It’s not enough to have great programs.

Characteristics of a Philanthropic Culture:

  • The role of philanthropy in helping you achieve your mission is well understood. There is widespread understanding that achieving your vision relies on securing significant philanthropic support.
  • Consistent, strong support for fundraising is clear and evident. The CEO or Executive Director dedicates significant time to raising funds, meets regularly with donors, sets an example, and rallies others to support the fundraising function.
  • Accountability is evident at all levels. Sound governance, wise use of resources, strong accounting and accountability practices, and commitment to openness and transparency exist at all levels of the organization.
  • Development is a core function. Leadership & staff understand that fundraising is central to their organization’s ability to achieve its vision. Staff and board members are responsible for enhancing and strengthening relationships with donors and boosting the development function.
  • Donors and clients or beneficiaries have an opportunity to interact and communicate. Successful organizations make time and space for donors. They link donors with those who benefit from their donations. They give beneficiaries the chance to thank donors personally and share personal and organizational goals for the future.
  • Donors are valued as people, not just as providers of financial support. Donors are true partners in the function of the nonprofit. Staff includes donors in celebrations of success and discussions about the future.
  • Philanthropic success is celebrated at all levels, and by all organizational stakeholders. Celebrating successful fundraising and the difference that philanthropy has made to the organization and its clients is key to fostering good relationships. Annual reports, e-newsletters, personal videos, and personal conversations with donors help promote philanthropy’s role in making a crucial difference for the organization.

What can you do to promote a stronger culture of philanthropy?

  • Each board member should understand and promote the culture of philanthropy.
  • Each board member should give an annual contribution to the best of their ability and serve as an ambassador for the organization in the community.
  • Each board member should cultivate relationships on behalf of and in support of the organization.
  • Each board member should help identify and cultivate potential donors and volunteers.
  • Each board member should participate in some fundraising task each year.
  • Each staff member should understand and promote the culture of philanthropy.
  • Each staff member should get an opportunity to give a charitable gift in support of the organization.
  • Each staff member should serve as an ambassador for the organization in the community.
  • Each staff member should cultivate relationships on behalf of and in support of the organization, and share stories of program success with the development department.
  • Each staff member should support grant applications and development activities related to their program.
  • Each CEO, Executive Director, and Chief Development Officer should give an annual contribution.

Foster a stronger culture of philanthropy within your nonprofit organization.