Why Fundraising Culture Matters

Think back to your first day on the job.  You woke up with feelings of anticipation, excitement and a healthy dose of trepidation. You were hired to take your charity to the next-level of fundraising: the interview process was intense, there were so many questions around your skills, your knowledge, your experience and of course the quiet and sometimes never asked question on ‘fit’. Everyone (including you) wondered: Will you be the catalyst to take them to the lofty heights of successful fundraising?

Well, that day was probably quite some time ago and you have proven on numerous occasions the value that you and your team have brought to the organization.  New donors are contributing to your mission; your team has worked miracles with probably very little or no investment, and yet you find yourself regularly being asked to validate why it is essential to invest in your division.  With so many pressing demands facing most charities, development offices are often seen to compete with programming.  It is all completely understandable: the heart of all charities is mission. After all, mission is why the charity exists. This makes it hard to argue the long-term benefit of investment into fundraising versus providing program funds for immediate access to the marginalized population that you currently serve.

Mission-driven organizations so often and rightly focus on the external outcomes of their programming, continually asking these questions: are our clients being served? are we student-centred in our programming and decision making? are we accountable to our donors? and are we on track with our strategic priorities? You get the drift.  What I don’t hear very often is this question: does our internal culture reflect and promote philanthropy?

No one questions the mission and will do everything they can to realize that mission. But why don’t we talk about investing in a culture of philanthropy within our organization? Why do we find it embarrassing to talk about philanthropy and why is it often an awkward conversation around the Board table?

A lot of people who work in charities see fundraising as an external activity, one that does not impact them in the day-to-day operations. For them, it is a distant concept and one that is not personalized or actualized.  Fundraising is seen to be done by others; we have a department that manages that and it does not touch me. This is an unfortunate but extremely prevalent reality at many charities.

I see this as an opportunity to take ownership and craft the blueprint that will position and validate fundraising with all internal stakeholders. When fundraising matters, success in future fundraising activities is possible and all participants are closer to achieving mission. You are probably asking the question: how do we get from here to there? and how do I build a culture of philanthropy in my organization?

The answer is quite simple: conduct a fundraising culture audit! I recommend hiring us at Global Philanthropic Canada: clients have shown exceptional results after investing in this work. It is universally true that by putting in place steps to create the culture of philanthropy within your charity, you are well on your way to maximizing all resources and effectively delivering (and hopefully exceeding) fundraising goals.  With a culture of philanthropy in place, the development team is more connected with all divisions, allowing for the emergence of unique and customized approaches to the fundraising process.  In a culture of philanthropy, all internal stakeholders are aligned with mission and they become vested partners in the fundraising process. As a result, goals are realized more quickly, opportunities for partnerships emerge in a wholesome and constructive manner and efficiencies are made.  More importantly, when fundraising is demystified within the organization, the strength of the charity’s brand is more than doubled.  It sounds so simple, and it is: by building a culture of philanthropy within your organization, you are positioning yourselves for current and future success.

Conducting a fundraising culture audit identifies key and insightful opportunities and strengths on which to build. It also clarifies the transparent and strategic steps that need to be taken to build a strong culture of philanthropy that creates brand ambassadors who genuinely live their mission and see fundraising as an integral and essential activity. Through the eyes of the CEO, a fundraising culture audit empowers the CEO to have meaningful conversations with all Board Members, removing the awkwardness that these leaders so often experience. An fundraising culture audit completely demystifies fundraising and by doing so, it allows your charity to get on with the business of raising money to achieve mission.

Now to get back to that interview! I am confident that when you sat around that table, you never thought to ask leadership: what is your fundraising culture?  Because if you had, you would not be facing an uphill battle to seek investment in your division.  It is so important to put your own house in order before you ask others to invest in your organization.  A healthy and vibrant fundraising culture in your charity empowers you to achieve and surpass goals and expectations.  More importantly, it creates an environment that makes you want to get up every day and bring your best game to the workplace. This is when you truly have ‘fit’.

If you are ready to discuss a fundraising culture audit, please do not hesitate to contact me or any team member at Global Philanthropic Canada. We know how critical a vibrant, healthy fundraising culture is to your success in providing the financial sustainability your charity needs.  We bring to the table a portfolio of skills, experience and knowledge with an unquestioning commitment to providing value to you and your leadership in all areas of fundraising.  Let us help you design the blueprint for your success.