What is YOUR culture of Philanthropy?

Recently, I participated in a one-day retreat with 12 MGO’s.  It was an energy-filled day.  One of the questions posed by their manager was this: “What should a true culture of philanthropy look like at our organization?”

It was a great question, but it elicited some even greater answers.   I thought I would share with you some of the responses made by your major gift colleagues who are out in the field everyday.  Mind you, this wasn’t just about what a philanthropic culture looked like for the major gift program, but what it should look like for the whole development team AND the entire non-profit.

After you read this, I invite you to add to this list and join in on the conversation.

Here’s what they said:

  1. Come from a place of YES!—Within the non-profit organization, the fundraising department has to approach inquiry with a “Yes” attitude.  This means that if a donor wants to fund a specific project or has a request that is not part of the organization’s regular program, begin to figure it out with a “Yes” attitude instead of immediately thinking, “No, we can’t do it.” Not only does this create a donor-centered mindset, but also affects the way we work with our colleagues on the development team, and even throughout the entire organization.
  2. Empathy for the Donor—You need to understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of the donor.  Everyone in a non-profit needs to stop and take some time to understand who their donors are, what motivates them to give to your organization and how you can do a better job of meeting their needs.
  3. Willingness to listen—You need to listen to the donor, but you also need to listen to your colleagues, your program, accounting and management people.  If we listened more we would have a better understanding of each other and where we are coming from.
  4. Development needs to treat program folks as they would donors–Development complains a lot about how program folks don’t understand that they have to market the programs to donors, or there wouldn’t be programs.  But, perhaps some of that complaining is because we don’t do a good job communicating and involving program people in our thinking and activities.  We want all this good information from program, yet how often do we really thank them, keep them updated on what is happening with funding and involve them in what we’re doing?  If we treated program people like we’re supposed to treat our donors there would be much less tension and much more cooperation.
  5. Break down barriers within development—We create silos within our own development departments because of a lack of trust.  We often don’t see the value that each department has and how dependent we are on each other to be successful.  Major gifts needs direct-response fundraising, planned giving needs major gifts, and it goes on and on.  If development can’t get its act together, how do we expect the organization to embrace a culture of philanthropy that is inclusive and affirming?
  6. Everyone in organization embraces a culture of philanthropy—This cannot be done just with major gifts or development.  The whole organization needs to develop a culture that is open and inviting to philanthropy.  Obviously, this has to be embraced by leadership within the organization for it to be taken seriously, however, development needs to model this culture to allow others in the organization to accept it and act on it.
  7. Celebrate Success—In order to promote a culture that embraces philanthropy you have to be able to celebrate the success of teams and individuals who do great work on behalf of the organization.  Celebrating success helps everyone become aware of the importance of the way donors help sustain and improve the work that we do.

Okay, pretty cool list of what a great culture of philanthropy should look like within an organization…created by your colleagues!  Now, one thing Richard and I would add to this list…and we’d put it up at #1:  Have the understanding across the organization that what we are about is helping to change the world and making it a better place.  I know that seems so simple, yet Richard and I stress this because we see so many organizations that lose their way and forget why they even exist.

Take a look deep into your organization.  Is this what it looks like?  If not, what can be done to change it?

What else can you add to this list?  Richard and I would love to hear from you.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Development Directors, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits, Philanthopy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What is YOUR culture of Philanthropy?

  1. Dale Melton says:

    Ongoing and intentional Stewardship must be a high level priority and a priority that sustains the culture of philanthropy that is emerging or that you are creating. Each donor needs to feel as if her gift is transformational.

  2. Marianne Lynch, CFRE says:

    When we receive major funding at our organization, I remind everyone that good development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every person that interacts with the donor or serves our clients – from the receptionist to the delivery driver, made this gift happen. We celebrate it with a shout out to the whole crew and a very big thank you for a job well done.

  3. Rachel Muir says:

    We enaged everyone in celebrating incoming gifts. We had a bell we’d ring when gifts came in. If a particular staff member was a part of soliticing the gifts, they got to ring the bell. It was fun, celebratory and made everyone excited when they heard the ring. And no, no one ever tired of it!

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