By Leyna Bernstein
Unless you have been on vacation without Wi-Fi for the past month, you’ve heard plenty about the new study on the difficulties of building a sustainable fundraising program. Entitled “UnderDeveloped: A National Survey of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising”, the study* (click here to download a copy) doesn’t break new ground, but is significant in that it puts hard data and credibility behind what many of us already know. The study’s findings show that nonprofit fundraising is often under-resourced, misunderstood, delegated solely to development staff, and poorly integrated into strategic and programmatic planning. (That slight breeze you feel is caused by all the heads nodding in agreement upon reading the study.)
In addition to allowing thousands of beleaguered fundraisers a moment of vindication, the study also contains a set of calls to action for our sector. One of the most significant of these is that accountability for fundraising results should be shared across the organization. The study supports the concept that organizations with a culture of philanthropy are the most effective at fundraising over the long-haul. In these organizations, fundraising isn’t something vague that “those people” in the development department do – it is embraced by everyone from the board to front-line staff.
So what does it take to create a culture of philanthropy? Having a culture of philanthropy means that fundraising is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization. Karen Osborne, President of a consulting firm in Mt. Kisco, NY says, “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.” Troy Arnold, Director of Development for the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco, says, “We often think of culture as something ‘squishy’ or qualitative, when in fact it is achieved through highly quantitative tasks. To build and sustain a culture of philanthropy takes a lot of planning, and the implementation of specific policies and practices.”
A good place to start if you want to build or strengthen your organization’s culture of philanthropy is with your board. Provide the study to each board member, and carve out an hour at a board meeting during which board members can talk about the study and their impressions of how its findings apply to your organization.
Here are other suggestions for building a culture of philanthropy in your organization:
• Performance Evaluations: Include development goals in annual performance evaluations for non-development staff;
• Finance and Development: Have your Director of Development sit on the board’s Finance Committee;
• Development Plan: Share the goals and strategies of your annual development plan with all staff;
• Board Accountability: Include an amount the board is responsible for raising in your development budget;
• Program Planning: Have members of your development staff participate in program planning activities so that your investors’ (donors and funders) voices are included in the process;
• 100% Board Giving: Ask that every member of your board consider your organization one of their top philanthropic priorities;
• Staff Giving: Conduct an annual campaign amongst your staff members, with your Executive Director and Director of Development leading the way.
• Stewardship: Steward your internal donors – ensure that your board and staff members know first-hand how much impact their financial gifts make.
What are your ideas for helping an organization build a culture of philanthropy?
*A joint project of CompassPoint and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
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