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Mayes Wilson & Associates

If your board builds a culture of philanthropy, fundraising will be easier

Julie Whelan Capell |

Building a culture of philanthropy is possibly the best way to increase your board’s fundraising success.  I’ve seen this principle at work many times.  Show me an organization where the board sees fundraising as strictly a staff responsibility, where board members only care about fund development as a line item on the income side of the financial statements, and I will show you an organization struggling to meet its fundraising goals.

Conversely, in organizations where fundraising targets are routinely met, where people are excited to be involved, it is usually because philanthropy is ensconced as an important value, discussed at all levels, and modeled by all board members through an annual personal gift.  That is what is meant by a culture of philanthropy.

The following foundations of a strong philanthropic culture come from Vivian Smith, CFRE, and I’ve added a couple of my own.

  1. Dedication to mission. Is board activity structured to focus on the organization’s mission? Can board and staff members state the mission?   When board and staff members are recruited, are they oriented on the mission and its meaning?
  2. A commitment to storytelling. It’s not enough for one person to write a case for support.  Program staff and volunteers should be involved in collecting anecdotes and stories that can be used to illustrate your organization’s mission and values.  Board members need to meet program staff and participants, hear the stories they tell, and be able to retell the stories in a compelling way.
  3. Shared leadership. The executive director and the board chair need to lead the charge in fundraising, but these responsibilities should be shared with the entire board. When recruiting and training new board members, their responsibility to make an annual personal financial gift and bring in new donors should be made crystal clear. If your organization has paid fund development staff, they should make sure that other key staff at all levels of the organization are involved in fundraising.
  4. Embrace your donors. People who donate to your organization are true believers, so look closely at your donor engagement activities. Do you only contact donors when you want something from them? A better way to show them you appreciate them is by inviting them to see your programs in action and meet key staff, Send them periodic updates on what’s happening at your organization, maybe even pull back the curtain a bit, let them see what happens behind the scenes. Make them an integral part of the philanthropic culture of your organization year-round.

If you work on these principles throughout 2020, I guarantee you will see improvements in your development results by the end of the year. Write us back if you need more ideas on how to get started creating a culture of philanthropy in your organization, we’re here to help!

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