A few weeks ago, I wrote about challenges facing development departments when an organization does not embrace their work or overall fundraising. This is when a majority people in the organization are not in involved in any level of fundraising because they don’t understand the power of philanthropy and or view fundraising as something daunting and unpleasant. When an organization accepts, understands, and embraces a culture of philanthropy the ability of the development department to engage more donors in better ways increases significantly, and the whole institution benefits from increased donor investment.
I mentioned five steps on the path to breaking down silos and creating bridges for your colleagues to cross into the realm of philanthropy and embrace fundraising. Here are the five as a refresher.
For this article, I'm going to cover the first step: Demonstrate the impact and wonder of philanthropy
This is looking at fundraising in a donor-centric way, through the lens of impact and outcomes created, and the joyful experience of giving. Highlighting philanthropy regarding dollars raised, donor participation, or purely numeric is important. However, your fellow colleagues, development, and non-development, might be more inspired to hear the direct impact of donors’ gifts from your great work.
As you probably know, the impact and outcomes are often best told through a story. These stories are often woven throughout an organization, on the website, in marketing materials, and in presentations. However, lost when conveyed internally through fundraising when the hard numbers take over — the amount of money raised, the number of donors, and the biggest gifts.
How do you convey the power of philanthropy internally to the audiences within your organization?
- Talk about the impact of giving on your mission often and always: team meetings, newsletters, regular emails, and gift announcements. How that one gift or the several shaped the organization and the mission was fulfilled.
- Dispel negative perceptions of fundraising and highlight the positive feeling philanthropy evokes from the donor and recipient, and that everyone can and should be involved in philanthropy. Fundraising is not a transactional process, nor is it a contact sport of picking pockets and shaking people down.
- Script organizational leadership to speak in these terms instead of purely numeric, and please keep them away from saying those phrases such as “we twisted their arms” or “we went after them.” More like, your amazing work (the entire staff) inspired thousands to join us in realizing our vision in making a difference in the lives of
- Invite donors to speak to your organization about their giving, the emotional connection they have with your organization, that they have joined something special, and the joy giving has brought to their lives.
- Ask a staff member to speak about how philanthropy has reshaped her/his program or department. How they enjoyed the philanthropic process — connecting on a deeper level with the donor and experiencing that donor’s fulfillment.
- Share the credit for every gift. As a fundraising professional make it your mission to share the credit with non-development staff that helped with the ask or took part in engaging with the donor.
These are just some of the way in which you can talk about philanthropy with your organization, and I invite you to comment on other ideas that you feel would be effective.
No matter what steps you would like to take in building a culture of philanthropy just keep in mind to make it entertaining, inspiring and heartfelt. It’s a special moment when others start to understand the power of philanthropy. It will also make fundraising at your organization a lot more productive and enjoyable.