How to Cultivate a Culture of Philanthropy at Your Nonprofit

A culture of philanthropy means your entire organization views and values fundraising as a critical pillar of its overall mission.  

One benefit small nonprofits often have on their side is the ease of communication.  With fewer people on the team, it is (or at least should be) easier to maintain a unified vision and commitment to your organization’s cause.  At the grassroots level, everyone is chipping in to help with fundraising and attract support.

But as any community, business, or nonprofit grows and requires a larger group of people to help run the day-to-day operations, maintaining a unified focus becomes more difficult.  As your mission expands, so too do commitments of time, resources, and attention.  Unfortunately, the importance surrounding the development the funds to maintain and grow that mission can sometimes take a back seat.

Growing a Culture of Philanthropy

Culture begins internally with leadership, and eventually projects outwardly to grateful patients and other supporters.  According to Michele Brock, CFRE, here are some characteristics of a healthy culture of philanthropy:

  •  Board members should have “giving” and “role of asking” incorporated into job descriptions. They also should be made aware of these responsibilities in orientation sessions. Regular board training sessions on fundraising are beneficial to keep members up-to-date. One-hundred percent giving by the board (meaning all board members contribute donations at a particular dollar threshold) is crucial for all members to witness and encourage by example to actively participate in fundraising.
  •  Executive teams, which actively engage and make sure fund development is understood and respected as a program, model the culture of philanthropy in the workplace. This includes providing the development office the staff and budget needed to build a strong philanthropic culture. As leaders of the organization, it also means being fundraisers themselves. As with the board, 100 percent giving by the executive team is very important to show staff that they believe and support the mission of the organization.
  •  New staff and volunteer orientation sessions should include a segment where their role in fundraising is explained as well. This could be as simple as letting them know how the department they’re in has been affected by donations and for them not to ignore comments from families who say they want to thank the organization in a meaningful way. Let them know how to direct inquiries like this to the development office.

It Begins With You

At its heart, a culture of philanthropy is not simply asking staff and stakeholders for money. It means involving them in the overall fundraising process of identifying prospects and building relationships with them.  

A culture of philanthropy starts with asking stakeholders to help, identifying ways they can, and showing them the results of their positive actions.

What are some ways your organization supports a culture of philanthropy?  Let us know in the comments below.


About the author: Ryan McCarvill is iWave’s Content Manager.  He joined the iWave team in 2016. Ryan enjoys meeting and learning from nonprofit professionals, researching trends in the nonprofit community, and offering strategies for development teams to use iWave’s solutions to meet and exceed their fundraising goals.    

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