5 Ways to Strengthen Your Organization’s Philanthropic Culture

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 In a philanthropic culture all gifts given for the common good are valued, and all givers respected and affirmed. The emphasis should be on engaging the whole person in the common good that comes from their involvement in your organization.*

#1   Embrace Philanthropy—What it is, and What it does

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. The practice of giving money and time to help others is the heart of philanthropy. The word philanthropy comes from the Late Latin word philanthropia, from the Greek philein (to love) and Anthropos (humanity), and was first known to be used as a term in the early 1600’s.

Voluntary Action for the Public Good is one pithy way to understand that philanthropy is not simply fundraising for worthy causes, and it’s not the same as effective stewardship. It’s these essential practices and more. The central motivation for philanthropic giving is for the common good: to help make people’s lives and circumstances better. And, it is voluntary behavior, not to be taken for granted by any charitable organization.

#2   Form a Philanthropy Team—everyone is essential.

From the receptionist to the Executive Director, everyone on staff is a part of the team that creates the culture of philanthropy reflected in your organization.

If the first person your donor or volunteer encounters in your organization does not understand the importance of philanthropy, you could lose the support you count on to flourish. All those who are in contact with people should be trained in the basics of donor relations and how your organization is funded. If you depend heavily on individual donations, your staff and key volunteers should be well versed and equipped with information about your giving programs.

#3   Philanthropy Begins with the Leadership—100% participation and no less.

origami money heartWhen you assume a leadership role in an organization—particularly board leadership—you must demonstrate your commitment to the financial health of the organization. Every member of the board and financial leadership must make an annual contribution within their means. Every year.

If the organization is not worthy of its leadership’s generosity and support, how can you expect others to give?

#4   Conveying your organization’s mission, vision and values to inspire generosity and loyalty in the hearts of your supporters.

The development of your organization’s philanthropic culture increases your level of sustainability for the long haul. Your strongest supporters will be those who are passionate and committed to what your organization does to make a positive difference in the world.

Ideally, the return on investment in your organization will be the real impact that occurs in people’s lives and communities. If your mission and efforts don’t make a difference or have a positive impact you cannot expect the level of support you want.

#5   Express appreciation with sincerity and enthusiasm

When the organization is accountable to its donors and honors the intentions of their gifts, authentic, caring community is nurtured. Generosity should be celebrated and appreciation should be expressed by leaders in ways appropriate to each donor. Philanthropic culture grows when love of humanity and voluntary action for the common good are exemplified and affirmed as a value and practice of those involved in your organization.

As your organization becomes known for its philanthropic participation and culture, this builds trust and confidence in your organization, as well as its mission and programs.

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Committed to helping great organizations flourish,

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Laurel Amabile, CFRE

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Related Resources

*Collins, Mary Ellen. Essential Assets. Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2015.  Association of Fundraising Professionals

Howlett, Susan. Boards on Fire! Word & Raby Publishing. 2010.  Boards on Fire

Payton, Robert L. Philanthropy: Voluntary Action for the Public Good.