includeeveryone 2014-Sep26

A Culture of Philanthropy

From your CEO down to the janitor,
your non-profit embraces your donors as central to your mission,
as central as your organization’s programs to change the world.

We believe that one of the most important aspects of creating a radical culture of philanthropy is that everyone – and I mean everyone in the organization – lives, breathes and evangelizes this culture to the outside world.
As we have already pointed out in an earlier post, leadership has to be on board, but the only way a real culture of philanthropy works at an organization is that everyone embraces it. Just like when companies try to get their employees to “live their brand” to the buying public, so too do non-profits need to live their culture of philanthropy as their mission.
Richard and I have seen too many non-profits that are dysfunctional because not everyone understands how a culture of philanthropy works and how donors are part of the mission. Program folks don’t understand why the fundraisers don’t get what they do, and fundraisers get frustrated with program not getting that it is donors that fund what they do. Then you throw finance into the mix with their rules and regulations, and you have a toxic mess.
So to help you build a true culture of philanthropy, here are some ideas to make sure ALL are embracing it and working together:

  1. Codify all of the principles of a culture of philanthropy in your employee handbook. I always believe that if you don’t have it in writing, it won’t happen. Helping employees, board members and stakeholders understand what the expectation is and how you behave as an organization is critical.
  2. Your hiring process must include the role of fundraising for every employee, letting them know what their role is. Any potential employee has to know up front what fundraising role they will play at your organization, and the employee should know that your mission includes donors. This way the employee is fully aware from the very beginning how donors are central to their work.
  3. Invite major donors to your staff meetings. Some of the most powerful staff meetings I’ve ever witnessed were ones that donors were invited to. They allowed donors to tell their story to staff, and it was powerful. Talk about inspiring!
  4. Take program (and other) staff on major donor visits. One of the best things you can do to help staff understand the importance of donors is to take them on a visit to one. There they will see first-hand the passion of the donor, and they can easily make the connection about how the donor’s gifts allow them to do their work. It’s amazing, and it builds empathy about the work that development staff does.
  5. Include major donors at organizational celebrations. Like staff meetings, inviting your donors to your celebrations allows your donors to see the passion of your organization’s staff. Donors love to fund people with passion. This will allow your donors to feel good about the investment they are making in your mission. If your donors are your mission, then letting them take part in your success will only increase their engagement with you.

Remember, everyone has to catch the spirit of building a culture of philanthropy in your organization, or it just won’t happen. The great thing is that all this doesn’t have to cost you a bunch of money. But it does take will and a persistence to keep at it. Only then will it become part of your organization’s DNA.


Series details:

  1. Getting Your Head and Heart Right
  2. Donors are your Mission
  3. Leadership Must Be On Board
  4. Telling Your Story
  5. Get Everyone Involved
  6. Expressing the Need

Also, see our free White Paper: Building a Culture of Philanthropy