Non-Profits Need a Culture of Philanthropy for Success

I’ve held many titles in my years as a professional fundraiser including major gift officer, director of development, associate vice president, and consultant.  I’ve raised money for start-up non-profits, for large complex organizations, for institutions of higher learning and for social service agencies.

Those struggling to find the right mix of talent and structure to effectively raise more money have not asked themselves this question, “Do we have an organizational culture that is conducive to raising money?”  Securing funding from private sources does not happen by chance.  It takes planning.  It is intentional.  It involves more than just those hired specifically to raise money.

What is a Culture of Philanthropy?

In UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, culture of philanthropy is defined as a set of organizational values and practices that support and nurture development within a nonprofit organization.

In an organization with a culture of philanthropy:

  1. Most employees across all departments act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building.
  2. Every employee can articulate a case for giving.
  3. Fund development is viewed as a mission-aligned program.
  4. Organizational systems are established to support donors – a donor-centric, not staff-centric focus.
  5. The head of the organization is committed and involved in fundraising.

If your organization routinely practices these tenets, it embraces a culture of philanthropy.   If you do not see your organization meeting its fundraising goals or you experience significant turnover in the development office, it is likely the components that comprise a strong culture of philanthropy do not exist or are out of alignment.

Take a moment to reflect on the statements below and how they may or may not relate to your situation.  These are examples of activities in non-profits that struggle with moving toward an organizational culture of philanthropy.

  • The fundraising team at my organization is always putting out fires. 
  • There is always a scramble to meet deadlines. 
  • There is a frenetic pace at the end of the fiscal year to close gifts and meet goals, but there is relatively little activity during the rest of the fiscal year. 
  • There is no development/fundraising plan.
  • There aren’t roles for fundraising for the Board members, other volunteers or program staff.  Usually the only staff involved in fundraising outside of the development department is the Executive Director.
  • Board members do not want to go on cultivation or solicitation calls.
  • Board members will not meet the Board giving expectations.
  • Events and direct mail appeals take precedent over individual and planned giving.
  • Significant contributions to the organization do not receive special and personalized acknowledgement.

Click on the link below to read the full report UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.