Part Two: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

In Part One we discussed how training and professional development, along with a comprehensive development plan that has buy-in from key stakeholders, can help alleviate some of the challenges facing the nonprofit community. Now, we’re discussing the all-important culture of philanthropy nonprofits must adopt to be successful fundraising organizations.

Too often, development directors and their teams work in a silo, cut off from the executive director and program staff. This is inefficient and unproductive as development is only truly successful when it is embraced as part of the integrated whole.

Think of it from the donor’s perspective: by giving a gift a donor is investing in the organization – its leadership, its mission, its vision. If there is a firewall between those elements and the development office, the donor experience will be very shallow. The donor will not feel connected to or involved with the organization.

So how do you, as a development director, help to create and nurture a culture of philanthropy within your organization? By educating, cultivating, involving and stewarding your co-workers with the same passion and vigor you bring to donors and prospects. Building relationships internally is how you build an internal culture of philanthropy.

Begin by asking for five minutes at staff or committee meetings. Introduce yourself and explain what philanthropy is and what it accomplishes for the organization. Keep your message short, on point and relevant. Include a brief introduction, three laser sharp points, and a memorable conclusion and call to action in your presentation.

Next, hone your listening skills by meeting with individual program staff to find out what their needs and challenges are, and how you can help them meet their challenges. The better you understand your co-workers and their unique opportunities and challenges, the better you will be able to relate to them and the more opportunities you will find for collaboration.

As you are developing strong relationships face-to-face, you may also begin to plan and institute some structured approaches to educating non-development staff on the value and importance of philanthropy to your organization. The following are ways you can educate your internal constituents, to keep philanthropy top of mind:

  • Create an employee giving program. An employee giving program provides opportunities for education on the role of philanthropy within the organization, creates a sense of ownership and involvement among staff as they become stakeholders, and provides stewardship opportunities.
  • Create opportunities for donors to honor staff members. As staff members are honored by patients, patrons, students, or clients, they become acutely aware of their personal impact on philanthropy and enjoy the good feeling of knowing their efforts are making a difference. As members of your staff are recognized by external constituents, be sure to steward them appropriately by recognizing their achievements, perhaps with a ceremony and tangible, public token such as a lapel pin. Similarly, the public recognition inherent in giving clubs and societies also helps to foster a culture of philanthropy.
  • Distribute a philanthropy newsletter. Monthly or quarterly, distribute a newsletter to staff that showcases the results of philanthropy and staff giving. Focus on how philanthropic giving to your organization positively impacts their jobs and work environments. Does it enable them to purchase new equipment? Hire additional staff? Provide professional development? Be sure to highlight the specific achievements of the employee giving program. Read our eight tips on creating an effective newsletter.

Yes, there are challenges in the development profession. Much is expected, and too often there is little organizational support and little to no useful infrastructure. We can meet these challenges head on. Begin by investing in your own professional development, crafting a thorough and realistic development plan, and fostering a culture of philanthropy at your organization.

Get started by downloading our free guide Role Playing Exercises for the Fundraising Process from BoardSource.  

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