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Building a Culture of Philanthropy

Resource Center - Foundation

(Feb. 1, 2011) Everyone at your organization has a role to play in fundraising. However, likely not everyone knows that. A culture of philanthropy and stewardship can be more than a daydream, but it won't happen on its own.

Picture this: Every member of your staff donates generously, and happily, to your organization. Your program staff makes every effort to report on mission progress and the impact of gifts. Your chief financial officer understands the value of long-term investment into donors, and your board members give joyfully and prompt others to do the same. Although changing an organization's culture is not easy, working towards these goals will reap great rewards.

Fundraising consultant and trainer Karen Osborne, president of The Osborne Group, Inc., explains that creating a culture of philanthropy does not involve only the fundraiser, but it may have to start with you. The good news? Anyone, in any position, can effect change at an organization.

"Fundraisers are not the only people responsible for philanthropy," Osborne says. "Program staff, marketing and communications staff, everyone has something to add. There are so many ways relationships can be built."

The stumbling block may be that your own internal constituents have not been shown meaningful stewardship. It is common that organizations have not shown staff and board members the same stewardship as other donors, Osborne says. This makes it hard to instill the proper culture.

It's a refrain that is heard too often by donors, and unfortunately also by staff, boards, and volunteers: "Nobody told me if what I gave actually made a difference." If they've never experienced wonderful stewardship, been told how my money was spent and the impact it had, how can you expect them to be good at it? You've got to lead by example.

The start of a new culture in your organization is when people see firsthand the value and rewards of philanthropy.

Changing the Culture

Instilling a culture where everyone is focused on the mission, vision and values of the organization--and where everyone is working toward fostering the organization's relationships with constituents--does not mean that everyone makes solicitations. Stewardship, after all, goes well beyond the ask. In fact, Osborne says, if everyone is participating in fundraising in a meaningful way, asking is the easiest part.

"Creating a culture of philanthropy and stewardship is not about creating an organization of solicitors--but rather creating a group of people who believe in the power of philanthropy and the organization's mission, and who embrace their role in that work," Osborne says.

In the end, staff, boards, volunteers and constituents of your organization need not take on the role of fundraiser. However, fundraising works infinitely better with their involvement and buy-in.

Creating a culture of philanthropy at your organization takes time. Your organization may be well on its way, or just getting started. But likely there is some aspect that can be improved. You'll need to envision what that would look like at your organization. Then you can map out a strategy to get there.

Karen Osborne will present a two-part workshop at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Chicago called "Creating a Culture of Philanthropy and Stewardship - A Sure Path to Big Gifts!" taking place Tuesday, March 22. Participants will find out how to map strategies to achieve a new organizational culture of philanthropy. Click here to find out what the AFP conference has to offer.



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