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Aug 30

Tips For Building a Stronger Culture of Philanthropy

Developing a strong, consistent culture of philanthropy is something that few organizations do well.  Unfortunately, it’s critical to your long-term fundraising success.  It’s critical to your ability to retain high level development staff.  It’s critical to securing ongoing support from many foundations, corporations and savvy donors. 

What’s that all mean?  That’s simple.  It means you can’t afford not to cultivate a culture of philanthropy in your organization.

Here’s an article from Funding Change Training & Consulting with some great and simple tips for establishing and growing a culture of philanthropy in your organization.

5 Ways to Improve Your Culture of Fundraising

Here are some ideas to get you started…

1. Redefine What Fundraising Is

Unfortunately, we often hear the word fundraising and immediately jump to the part where we ask someone for money, even though that’s only a very small part of the job.

Undoing this is critical.

Start by taking a step back and expanding your view of what fundraising is really all about: building a broad network of like-minded people who will give you time, money, advice, power in numbers, moral support in good times and bad, and access to an even larger network.
 
 
2. Talk about What Is Hard about Fundraising

Fundraising is scary for virtually everyone at first. There is no getting around that.

It’s also incredibly rewarding. But that doesn’t come until later for most of us.

U.S. culture is full of taboos about money. That’s why it’s so important to talk with anyone new to fundraising about the societal taboos around money. These are very real. Discuss where they come from. And talk about how these ideas and experiences compare with those of people in your group who are from outside the U.S.

Talk about people’s first associations and earliest memories of money and share yours. Talk about how they feel about asking someone for money. Depending on the culture of your organization, you’ll have to think about how personal you want to get with this conversation. Obviously, you want to respect people’s limits and boundaries, as well as your own.
 
 
3. Start with Less Scary Fundraising Work, and Demystify Who Donors Are
 
It can be reassuring to see all the different ways people can help raise money without actually having to make “the ask.”

This isn’t to say that you won’t grow into that part of fundraising. But it’s helpful to get your feet wet doing other things first — calling donors to thank them for giving, accompanying a seasoned fundraiser on a donor visit, giving tours, or leading an open house.

By having direct contact with donors, you will start to see them as the real people they are.

4. Make Fundraising Part of Leadership Development

Leadership development is a core program for many grassroots organizations. When people get involved, they might learn about volunteer recruitment, public speaking, or how to write a press release.

But, fundraising rarely makes this list. That has to change. 

By not including fundraising and organizational finances as part of our leadership development curriculum, we are colluding with the same system that makes money a societal taboo not to be discussed.
 
Show volunteers your budget and financial statements and help them understand how to read them. Tell them where you get the money to pay for all the work your organization does and all the time that goes into raising that money.
 
And, talk to them about how they can help. But not just by selling raffle tickets and organizing a yard sale.

Ask if your volunteers would be willing to come along when you meet with supporters and talk about the impact the organization has had on them as a volunteer. Ask them to write “thank you” notes to donors or call new contributors who just gave their first gift.

For supporters, there’s nothing more powerful than hearing firsthand from people who are personally affected by your organization’s work, and how their donations have made a difference.

 
5. Offer Different Ways to be Involved in Fundraising
 
Everyone has different talents. Match people up with the fundraising strategies that play to their strengths.

If someone is a great writer, they may be able to help write direct mail appeals, newsletter articles, or grant proposals. A born party planner could take the lead on house parties or grassroots events for the organization.

And always, always think about ways to connect staff and volunteers to individual donor work.

What’s in it for me? (aka: The benefits of doing it this way)
These practices won’t all work exactly as outlined for every organization. And transitioning to this model can be a long process. But, you have to start somewhere and the benefits are enormous.
 
Succeed in creating a culture of fundraising at your organization and you’ll have:

  • More collaboration at all levels of your organization
  • More resources dedicated to fundraising
  • More money for your program work
  • Stronger relationships with your donors
  • More volunteers as donors
  • More donors as volunteers
And that’s just the beginning…
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