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Three Keys to Combating Nonprofit Fundraising Challenges: Part Two

The following is a guest post and second in a series by Sally Boucher, CFRE, Director of Research for WealthEngine and manager of WealthEngine Institute, a knowledge center that provides fundraising practitioners research, education, networking and analysis of fundraising strategy.

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Part Two: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

In Part One I discussed how training and professional development, along with a comprehensive development plan that has buy-in from key stakeholders, can help alleviate some of the challenges facing the nonprofit community. In Part Two, I tackle the all important culture of philanthropy nonprofits must adopt to be successful fundraising organizations.

Too often, development directors and their teams work in a silo, cut off from the executive director and program staff. This is inefficient, unproductive and downright sad, as development is only truly successful when it is embraced as part of the integrated whole. Think of it from the donor’s perspective: she is, with her gift, investing in the organization – its leadership, its mission, its vision. If there is a firewall between those elements and the development office, the donor experience will be very shallow. She will not feel connected to or involved with the organization. So how do you, as a development director, help to create and nurture a culture of philanthropy within your organization? By educating, cultivating, involving and stewarding your co-workers with the same passion and vigor you bring to donors and prospects. Building relationships internally is how you build an internal culture of philanthropy.

Begin by asking for five minutes at staff or committee meetings. Introduce yourself; explain what philanthropy is and what it accomplishes for the organization. Because you want to keep your message short, on point and relevant, hone your five minute presentation including a brief introduction, three laser sharp points, and a memorable conclusion and call to action. Presentation and communication skills are among the most important for development personnel (only superseded by listening skills), so if yours are lacking, consider one of these recent publications: The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever, How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World's Most Inspiring Presentations by Jeremey Donovan, or one of the many others available to enhance communication.

Next, hone your listening skills by meeting with individual program staff to find out what their needs and challenges are, and how you can help them meet their challenges. The better you understand your co-workers and their unique opportunities and challenges, the better you will be able to relate to them and the more opportunities you will find for synergy and collaboration.

As you are developing strong relationships face to face, you may also begin to plan and institute some structured approaches to educating non-development staff on the value and importance of philanthropy to your organization. Following are ways you can educate your internal constituents, to keep philanthropy top of mind:

  • Create an employee giving program. An employee giving program provides opportunities for education on the role of philanthropy within the organization, creates a sense of ownership and involvement among staff as they become stakeholders, and provides stewardship opportunities. An excellent presentation on employee giving entitled Employee Engagement: Employee Giving Programs was created through a partnership between the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and TCC Group.
  • Create opportunities for donors to honor staff members. As staff members are honored by patients, patrons, students, or clients, they become acutely aware of their personal impact on philanthropy and enjoy the good feeling of knowing their efforts are making a difference. As members of your program staff are recognized by external constituents, be sure to steward them appropriately by recognizing their achievements, perhaps with a ceremony and tangible, public token such as a lapel pin. Similarly, the public recognition inherent in giving clubs and societies also helps to foster a culture of philanthropy.
  • Distribute a Philanthropy Newsletter. Monthly or quarterly, distribute an electronic newsletter to staff that showcases the results of philanthropy and staff giving. Really hone in on how philanthropic giving to your organization positively impacts their jobs and work environments. Does it enable them to purchase new equipment? Hire additional staff? Provide professional development? And be sure to highlight the specific achievements of the employee giving program. For eight tips on creating an effective newsletter, whether for your internal or external constituents, see our interview with Tom Ahern.

Yes, there are challenges in the development profession. Much is expected, and too often there is little organizational support and little to no useful infrastructure. But we can and must meet these challenges head on, because the consequence of doing nothing is to face the slow degradation of the capacity of the nonprofit sector for social good.

Let the solution begin with you by investing in your own professional development, crafting a thorough and realistic development plan, and fostering a culture of philanthropy at your organization. I hope the resources of WealthEngine Institute and the other organizations and publications mentioned herein will provide you guidance, support and camaraderie along the way.

Sally Boucher Sally Boucher

Sally Boucher, CFRE is Director of Research for WealthEngine, located in Bethesda, Maryland. She is the primary author of several publications, including Best Practices for Prospect Research in Higher Education Fundraising, Growing Individual Gifts: An Analytic Approach to Data-Driven Success and Fundraising’s Social Revolution: How Social Media is Changing Nonprofit Culture and Practice. Sally has provided fundraising and nonprofit management consulting services to non-profit organizations including disaster relief, faith-based and arts organizations. She often shares her knowledge via webinars and at various speaking engagements and conferences with AFP, CASE, APRA, and AHP.

Topics: Fundraising