Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

Are you tired of doing all the heavy lifting of raising money alone? Are too few philanthropic hands-on-deck at your nonprofit? If one of your main income strategies is to raise funds from individual donors (you have other options) then getting help creating relationships with potential donors is critical. It reduces your burden and, what is more important, accelerates your success. Many nonprofit want to create a culture of philanthropy. Too often these words have no precise meaning. They sound nice. They sound desirable. Unfortunately by failing to identify specifics about this desired culture it remains a wish. To help you clarify a goal in area, this article identifies a set of mindsets and actions that demonstrate the growth of a culture of philanthropy in nonprofits.

Characteristics of a Culture of Philanthropy

A culture of philanthropy exists when everyone involved in a nonprofit organization, especially board, staff, and volunteers, understands the importance of philanthropy to the mission and acts to promote it.

1. Income Knowledge. In a culture of philanthropy, people (board, staff, and volunteers) associated with your organization know how you derive your income. They know why individual donations are critical. Amongst your other funding streams, they understand the importance of donations now and in your future. In this culture, supporters realize how philanthropy impacts your nonprofit. Supporters know that donations are a priority and they must be earned to do your mission.

2. A Mindset with Actions. A refrain in a hymn by Avery and March begins, “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together!” In a culture of philanthropy the refrain is, “I am a philanthropist. You are a philanthropist. We are philanthropist together!” along with “I am responsible. You are responsible. We are responsible together!” In this culture, refrains like these play on in the minds of your supporters. Support of donations is part of everyone’s job description, volunteer or paid. Additionally, everyone gives, not matter if the gifts is five dollars or one million. On a deep level, they understand the need for everyone to participate. In answer to the question, who is in charge of getting individual donations? Everyone answers, “We all are.” Who gives? “We all do.”

3. Ugh Removed. What do unethical used car salesman, unscrupulous telephone solicitors, dishonest roofers, and nonprofits with a culture of philanthropy have in common? Very little, unless your supporters believe that obtaining money for your nonprofit involves slight of hand, double dealing, and false promises. In a culture of philanthropy, the Ugh Factor is deleted.

4. An Opportunity for Incredible Value. Nature abhors a vacuum. In a culture of philanthropy the Ugh Factor is replaced with the belief that your nonprofit offers donors incredible returns on their investment. Everyone works to ensure this is true. In this culture, supporters understand they can invite others to change lives by being philanthropists. Supporters offer partnerships with amazing value and they know it.

5. Key Messages in Use. In their everyday lives, a volunteer helps by mentioning tickets for special events and their favorite program. A staff member mentions a grant application and the need for a roof. The development director talks about the upcoming annual appeal’s plea for operations support. While these comments are supportive, they are inconsistent and unclear about how everyone can help with donations. What do you want people to know about you and how you are funded? What do you want people to say? In a culture of philanthropy, everyone knows and uses the same key message adapted, as needed, for specific conversations, such as, “We are Center Legal Services. We provide legal aid and justice for all because of donations from people like you.”

6. Active Use of Donors Motivations. Why on earth do people give to you? In a culture of philanthropy, your supporters know the top three component of your mission that motivate the majority of your donors. For example, a CEO identified these three donor motivators: 1) moved by the art, 2) moved by children’s education in the art, and 3) seen as a community good. When supporters understand the most common points of donor connections, they can tailors their communications around them.

7. Highways Open. Can staff and board members provide you dozens of quality new names per year? Yes, if this is a key focus and not just one of 637 other “priorities.” In a culture of philanthropy, actions that support philanthropy, such as providing names, take precedent over urgent needs. In this culture, donor relationships are not just, “another thing I’m asked to do.” In a culture of philanthropy obtaining donations is one of the top two priorities for everyone every year. (The other priority concerns mission maximization.)

8. Affirmed for What They Control. In a culture of philanthropy, affirmation and rewards are for actions taken that support donations, regardless of their short-term success. Moreover, these rewards are for actions under supporters’ control. A culture of philanthropy recognizes that much of the process of obtaining donations is under the control of the donor. In this culture, supporters are affirmed for staying the course of reaching out, suggesting ways to fine-tune, and actions that create engagement, etc., even when the rewards fail to appear on the near horizon.

If your strategy is to make individual donations a key pillar in obtaining income, make this year the one where you begin to transform the culture of your nonprofit to include philanthropy. This article listed a number of characteristic and mindsets commonly found in a culture of philanthropy. Your nonprofit may need other mindsets or actions. Great. Use and adapt the above list. Start by determining what the words a culture of philanthropy mean in your nonprofit.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

For solutions delivered to your inbox sign up for Karen’s CEO Solutions.