ChangeIn the last 5 years there have been written hundreds of articles, blog posts, conference presentations, and retreats all centered on creating a culture of philanthropy. I wonder if it’s moving the needle?
Richard and I get emails every week from frustrated major gift officers or development directors who lament that their organization doesn’t have a leader or leadership that understands that donors are also part of the mission.
And… I would say they’re beyond frustrated. Many are at their wits’ end and feel so disempowered they feel that they have no alternative but to leave.
I get it. It’s one of the main reasons we see major gift officers leave organizations. Leadership doesn’t support philanthropy.
But if you’re planning to wait around for leaders to become enlightened about the need for a positive culture of philanthropy, you’ll be dead before that ever happens. I’m not trying to be fatalistic, but the reality is that there is (and probably has been in the last 20 years) a crisis of leadership in the non-profit sector.
So what do you do?
You can complain, get frustrated, and leave every two years for another organization you think has it better – which is not happening, because the resumes I see have you leaving those organizations too – or you can change yourself.
That’s really all you can do, right? Change you.
So if you believe your non-profit needs to have a culture of philanthropy and leadership isn’t leading, you be the change.
I mean, you have an idea in your head (and there’s certainly a lot of information about what a culture of philanthropy will look like), so do that.
What does “doing that” look like?

  1. Put the donors in your portfolio first. Create a revenue goal and a plan for them so you know exactly how to cultivate, steward, and solicit those donors throughout the year.
  2. Get to know every one of the people that work in finance and program. You rely on them to get you great information for your donor. Learn what they do. Have empathy for them and their work. Volunteer in their programs.
  3. Manage up to the Executive Director – manage her portfolio and give her everything she needs to cultivate, solicit, and steward her donors. Educate your CEO about the donors and let her see why it’s important to look at your donors as part of your mission.
  4. Hold your boss accountable to hold YOU accountable. Yep, that’s right – ask your boss to meet with you every week to review your portfolio. This is what happens in a non-profit that has a culture of philanthropy. If you’re not managed correctly you’ll lose focus. So ask to be managed.
  5. Create a monthly meeting with program and finance to update them on your portfolio. Make it a recurring meeting.
  6. Ask to present at every staff meeting and tell stories about your donors. Not just about the big gifts that came in, but why those donors gave.
  7. Bring donors in to talk to your staff about why they give. Encourage interaction with donors and staff.
  8. Take your colleagues out to lunch or happy hour after work. The real stuff happens outside of work. Start developing relationships with people. It allows barriers to be brought down and trust levels to go way up.

Okay, you get the idea here. You can only control one thing when it’s about changing the culture at your organization (and quite frankly with anything) and that is YOU. You control your attitude and your actions. If the organization isn’t going to have a culture of philanthropy, you can!
Be the change.
PS — And check out our free White Paper on a culture of philanthropy! (Tweet it!)