Ten Behaviors: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

Ten Behaviors: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

The idea of creating a culture of philanthropy is hot right now, either a fad or a real commitment by nonprofits to envelop boards, staff, volunteers and constituency (visitors, members, clients, patients, volunteers, staff, committee members, board members, donors, legacy leavers, etc.) in deep recognition of the overall importance of philanthropy in the life of the organization. (See my earlier posting on the Culture of Philanthropy)

There are many websites talking about it, listing what to do in training, offering training, listing qualities to be achieved, selling packages, offering consulting and on and on.

We know it takes years, often, to change culture; many times, the change is incomplete, even nonfunctional, maybe just memorized words.

How do we know when we achieve elements of it, if not all of it? The answer needs to be behavioral, not just what you say, but what you do. The outcome is walking the talk.

The primary relationship of mission to philanthropy needs to be established in depth and all inured in this basic belief. Certainly, there needs to be complete and thorough understanding at all levels in the organization of the important reliance on charitable grants and giving for operational viability. Clearly a culture stressing the highest quality of constituency service must also exist. Finally, common sense should pervade the place.

Ten Behaviors

Then, how, when do we know when this culture of philanthropy, of positive constituency development, is taking hold? Following are ten essential behavioral elements, among many more behaviors, just a start, although a start in the right direction:

1. All (board, committees, volunteers, staff) acknowledge the fact that a specific percentage of all organization resources come from gifts, grants, volunteering and other goodwill, with all exhibiting thanks and appreciation for this generosity.

2. All ensuring that everyone coming in contact with his or her agency has an exceptional, positive experience.

3. All exhibiting a total constituent-centered service orientation and ensuring that constituent needs are met.

4. All taking action to build and deepen constituency relationships through encouragement of such things as community attendance, learning, enjoyment, repeat visits, enrollment, service, membership and other commitments to the organization.

5. All making one of their top three financial contributions to the organization each year, and participating as they are able in capital and planned giving efforts.

6. All helping to identify individuals and groups for the organization’s constituency.

7. All actively participating in the special events and bringing others to participate in these events.

8. All helping in follow-up activities and stewardship of funders, donors and volunteers.

9. Some contributing expertise in the writing of grant applications, others participating in site visits of funders and all continuously serving as an “ambassador” of the organization to the larger community.

10. Finally, at least some board, volunteers, and staff participating in active cultivation and solicitation of prospects.

These are measurable steps toward what will be a healthier organization getting it right and making significant contributions to the public good.

  1. Jim, I like your 10 measurable behaviors! I, too, am noticing the increased visibility for culture shifting. As I work with nonprofit boards & staff I find creating their own list of 3 – 5 measures, similar to your list, is something that will absolutely begin that shift.

    Changing a culture is really about our communication, isn’t it? What are we telling others and what are we telling ourselves? I’m a huge fan of having a Development Dashboard that measures both staff and board actions. Thanks for the post!

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