Are You Ready for a Culture of Philanthropy?

Adopting a “culture of philanthropy”—an organization-wide ethos that views fund development as mission-critical and expects everyone to play some role in its success—is a big step: for many nonprofits, it represents a completely novel mode of thinking and operating.  In this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy, Cindy Gibson (author of a new Haas, Jr. Fund report that explores the meaning and components of a culture of philanthropy) offers eight questions to help nonprofits decide whether they’re ready to take the plunge. 

One key tenet of a culture of philanthropy is that fundraising should not be an isolated task owned exclusively by development staff; so it makes sense that many of Gibson’s questions assess various organization members’ commitment to the new approach.  Without informed and supportive executives, board members, staff, volunteers, and donors, efforts to transform an organization’s culture can be hard to sustain.  

A second crucial ingredient is clarity.  Nonprofits should make sure everyone understands and can articulate their mission, and philanthropy’s role in advancing it; they should also develop a concrete, long-term vision of what a fully-realized culture of philanthropy might look like in their organization, how it should be nurtured and sustained, and how to measure progress toward achieving it.

Gibson’s report is part of an ongoing project of the Haas, Jr. Fund exploring the challenges faced by nonprofit fundraisers.  Read her full Chronicle of Philanthropy piece here.