Do you often time feel unsupported in your fundraising work?
Does all of the program staff look at you with blank stares on their faces when you report your success?
Do your board members have high expectations for you to bring in the money?
Are your donors treated as merely donation ATM machines?
If so, then your organization lacks a culture of philanthropy.
Without a strong culture of philanthropy your fundraising efforts can only go so far, raising only so much. In fact, it has been found that culture strongly impacts the effectiveness of fund development.
Culture is the unwritten rules, beliefs, attitudes, customs and behaviors of an organization.
It is a strong emphasis on donor-centeredness and relationship building. In this culture, people cherish giving and treat their donors with respect and dignity. In the organization, each person understands how their particular job serves the development function and they act as strong ambassadors in doing so.
If your organization doesn’t understand what it is that you do or why you do what you do, then you have significant challenges on your fundraising road ahead.
Here are some important indicators that demonstrate a strong culture:
- Everyone understands the need to raise money and is willing to do what is necessary to support the effort, regardless of their role in the organization.
- Everyone behaves as the organization’s ambassador- helping to identify new friends and partnerships whenever possible.
- Everyone can articulate a case for giving and how a gift will be used.
- Organizational processes are donor-centric – they are set up for the ease and comfort of donors, not staff.
- Visitors are welcomed in to program sites; dialogue in encouraged.
- The front desk personnel are welcoming – and have received adequate training to handle all inquires about involvement in the organization.
- Everyone can answer basic questions about the finances of the organization.
- The Executive Director sees him/herself as the “face of the agency”
- The Executive Director is 100% committed and personally involved in fund raising.
- Recipients of service are viewed as experts in how the organization carries out its mission and are invited to share their stories whenever possible.
- The Executive Director, Board of Directors (and others directly involved in
- soliciting contributions) make a financial contribution at least annually.
And if you lack a culture, here is what your organization might just look and feel like:
- Fundraising may be crisis-driven or reactive: chasing money, rather than following a predetermined plan.
- Development activities are viewed as costs rather than investments, resulting in a development effort that is unfunded or inadequately staffed.
- The responsibility for fundraising is assumed by one or a few people (most often development personnel or Executive Director) and there are few roles for the
- Board of Directors, other volunteers, donors or program staff.
- Discreet activities such as special events or direct mail campaigns are emphasized, rather than a comprehensive strategy that taps multiple channels for giving.
- If major gifts occur, they are usually unsolicited: no one is charged with making the ask and few face-to-face meetings occur for the purpose of cultivation.
- Donors feel “at arms length”- their involvement is primarily viewed in terms of contributions. They are rarely sought out to advise or assist in the development effort.
- Donors who make large contributions or gifts of “personal significance” are treated no differently than casual or occasional donors.
- Programs or work groups may create their own fund raising activities, sometimes withholding information from the rest of the organization, or working against stated development goals.
If you lack a strong culture of philanthropy, it is time to take action. Cultural shifts don’t happen overnight. Training, education, and facilitated conversations will begin to create this needed cultural shift. Don’t delay as a major cultural shift such as this takes time. This is on fundraising task that cannot be delayed, if you want to raise money and meet your goals.