Third in a Five-Part Series: It’s Not Rocket Science

“Culture is just not one aspect of the game… it is the game.”
—Lou Gerstner, IBM’s Turnaround CEO from the 90’s

Change your non-profit's culture.A complaint that Richard and I often hear from major gift fundraisers like you, is that you don’t have any power to change the culture at your organization.
However, if you see yourself as a leader, you have no choice but to foster culture change. We have seen it over and over that when major gift fundraisers like you take ownership of creating a culture of philanthropy in your organization, change begins to happen.
Richard and I believe that major gifts will only thrive when the organization adopts a culture of philanthropy and major gifts. This means that the entire organization understands that donors are as central to the mission as the thing you do every day to meet the needs of a hurting world.
Additionally, that culture supports the infrastructure necessary to help a major gift program work. Too many non-profit leaders think that just hiring a major gift officer is the answer to bringing in a bunch of net revenue. But there has to be a support system around the major gift officer (and eventually the major gift team) for it to thrive.
These two important areas require your leadership. If you were planning on waiting for your non-profit’s executive director or board of directors to take that lead, you’ll grow old waiting around.
Here is what you can do right now as a major gift leader to affect change in your culture today:

  1. At monthly staff meetings, report on how the major gift program is doing, and tell stories about your donors and why they give to your organization. You have no idea the power those stories have on staff who have “nothing” to do with fundraising.
  2. Take program staff with you on donor visits — Your program folks will see first-hand the direct link between donors have and how their programs are funded. This may sound very basic to you, but there is usually a disconnect between program staff and understanding where the funding comes from, to keep their projects going.
  3. Invite donors to your staff meetings, and ask them to tell their story about why they support your organization and why it’s changed THEIR lives. This will have a profound effect on your staff as they, for the first time, realize that the donor’s life gets changed by giving.
  4. Get to really know your program and finance staff — they all need to be your friends. Have empathy for their work. Show them you care about what they do. In return, you will see them help you be successful.
  5. Talk to your executive, finance and program teams about your portfolio and the goals you are trying to achieve. Be proactive in sharing results with them. Seek their guidance. When you bring your work into the light of day, you’ll be amazed how supportive others will be about your donors.
  6. Be consistent — keep doing the five things above, over and over again. It’s not a one-time deal. Creating a culture of philanthropy requires doing these little steps over and over and over again.

This is what a leader does. This is what you will have to do if you wish to see a culture change in your organization. And, as the IBM CEO said, “It’s everything.”
Read all the posts in this series: