Building a Culture of Philanthropy; A Six Part Series: #3—What is Leadership’s Role?

I was sitting in a conference room filled with MGO’s and development folks.  They were lamenting the fact that their president was extremely uncomfortable talking and meeting with donors.  They knew how important it was for their leader to interact with their good donors and wondered if they could ever obtain a large gift without her presence.

The donors, they said, wanted to hear from the president.  They wanted to hear the vision of the organization from the president’s lips and they wanted access to the leader.

Over the years, Richard and I can truthfully say we’ve been part of this scenario dozens of times in the conference rooms of non-profits all over this country.

It’s sad.

Here you have committed, passionate professionals, establishing relationships with donors everyday, yet you have leaders and/or board members in organizations who don’t want to have anything to do with donors.

Let me be absolutely clear.  If donors are part of your mission, (which we say they have to be if you really want a culture of philanthropy in your organization) then the leadership of your organization has to have a desire to be in relationship with donors and they have to be passionate about asking them for their involvement.

If they refuse to be, or simply cannot bring themselves (for whatever reason) to be in relationship with donors, they should be fired.

Think about it in the for-profit world.  Would a CEO of a company last if he or she didn’t care about customers or shareholders?  Are you kidding?  No way!  Yet, in the non-profit world we put up with it.

I guarantee you right now in non-profits all over this country folks are sitting around a table figuring out how to work around the fact that leadership is not on board with where the fundraising team is headed.  It’s so dysfunctional.

I hear from board members who say, “Well, he’s terrible at fundraising, but he’s so good at developing programs and being innovative in the field.”

I say, so what!  If you can’t inspire people to fund your innovations they will never get off the ground.

Folks, this all goes back to understanding who donors are in relationship to your organization.  If donors are part of your mission and leadership embraces this concept, then leadership is actively and passionately establishing relationships with donors.  They recognize that without donors, there is NO meeting of the need.  They also know that donors NEED your organization to fulfill THEIR need of wanting to change the world.

Without leadership understanding this, the organization falls into dysfunction and it becomes out of balance.  That’s when those meetings I was talking about start popping up on how to work around either a bad president or board.

Oh yes, let me make that clear too.  This is also about the board – not just the president, or executive director.

I want to put this as strongly as I can.  If you are on the board of a non-profit, you have to give of your resources.  I don’t care if it’s $10 or $10million.  You have to give.  Secondly, you have to embrace the concept along with the non-profit’s leadership team, that donors are crucial to the mission of the organization and YOU, as a board member, have to be an ambassador for that non-profit.

This means inviting your “sphere of influence” into a relationship with your organization.  If you cannot do this, you should not be on a board.  I don’t care how great you are in accounting, law or program.  If you cannot give and invite, then you don’t believe the organization is worthy of support.

So, here’s the deal.  A true culture of philanthropy has a leadership team and board who are passionate about donors.  This insures that no matter who goes in or out of the organization, this passion will never die.  The board will never allow a president to come in without that passion and a president will never recruit a board member who doesn’t have it.

Get it?  Good.  This is critical people. I know, because Richard and I hear from you all the time about how your president won’t go with you on a donor visit, or they “just had something come up” in their schedule so they don’t have to attend an event.

Non-profit leaders, are you listening?  Please, you have to get this.  Without your inspiration and passion for donors and the need, you make it so much harder for your team to be successful.  You have to LEAD on this, otherwise there is no culture of philanthropy in your organization.



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 Major Gift Officers, Marketing Plans, Non-Profits, Philanthopy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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