How to inspire a culture of philanthropy in your organization

publication date: Jul 11, 2018
author/source: Jennifer Wilson

Often as a fundraiser you can feel like the proverbial outsider in the family. Regardless of which sub-sector you work in, you are surrounded by people who are entrenched in the service delivery or product knowledge of your organization. It’s no surprise that working as a fundraiser you feel as if many people don’t understand what you do or the importance of it. You are seen as the sales person, the one who takes money from people, or worse yet, the one who asks for it.

Your colleagues in the organization feel closely aligned with the mission but might lack the insight into how fundraising contributes to it. Fundraising is perceived as a necessary evil. This can be deflating for people who are equally passionate about fund development and service delivery, even more so if you are someone who lives, eats, and breathes fundraising.

Five Steps to Create a Culture of Philanthropy…

1. Host fun and engaging sessions on fundraising for all staff. My favourite? Philanthropy Jeopardy…an exhilarating game that involves capacity-building questions, teams, and popping balloons in place of buzzers. Your fundraising department will be perceived as the creator of fun, and you’ll get feedback about the positive impact of the educational component. You can cover everything from charitable giving stats in Canada to your organization’s revenue streams and everything in between.

2. Embrace relationships with donors. Make them a part of your community. They’re not strangers with money; they are stakeholders who have a vested interest in your mission and success. Create opportunities for donors to interact with the people in your organization.

3. Encourage team building across departments. Host all staff meetings and team building workshops that promote getting to know one another and an understanding of how everyone contributes to the mission. When you celebrate the work of all departments, you align people towards a common goal by communicating the value of each role and increasing understanding of each team member’s work.

4. Share your enthusiasm! Hang a bell that fundraisers ring when a donation comes in. Everyone starts thinking about how funds sustain their work, they pay attention to when and how much is being raised and they participate in the celebration. Share warm fuzzy stories as well! Create a wipe board in the office to share donor stories with staff. Be sure to curate content that is outside of fundraising (service-user letters) too. This helps to make connections between mission and fund development.

5. Collaborate. Break out of departmental silos and work synergistically across all areas of the organization by establishing strategic points of connection. When work is cross functional it improves the impact of the organization, increases efficiency, and creates more success in maintaining influential relationships with donors and stakeholders. Truly collaborative non-profit cultures are rare because there’s an inherent polarity between service delivery and business development so start building those bridges.

A culture of philanthropy is an organization that at its core embodies an understanding of and appreciation for fundraising. This is not an easy thing to create, but it is so very necessary. It is vital for more than just bottom-line impact; it’s instrumental in inter-departmental collaboration, relationship building, donor stewardship, and partnerships.

Jennifer Wilson is a Toronto-based non-profit consultant with 15 years experience helping organizations increase their impact. She specializes in stakeholder engagement, fund development, project management, communications, and strategic growth.

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