Our clients at the Haas Jr. Fund have been engaged in the work of “learning out loud as they explore strategies to open handsaddress the pervasive fundraising challenges across the nonprofit sector. Fundraising is critical to the success of every nonprofit, yet it’s often also one of the biggest challenges facing organizations.

Their research builds on their UnderDeveloped report, which identified problems – and begged the search for strategies to resolve them. So the Haas Jr. Fund convened the Resetting Development Workgroup to identify and highlight promising practices that can help organizations raise the resources for change.

The first of three reports from the research series is Beyond Fundraising: What Does It Mean To Build A Culture Of Philanthropy? by Cindy Gibson. Gibson is writer and consultant to foundations and nonprofits – and she was a development director herself, so she knows firsthand just how challenging it can be.

What is a Culture of Philanthropy?

“A culture of philanthropy,” says Gibson “is one in which everyone—board, staff and executive director—has a part to play in raising resources for the organization. It’s about relationships, not just money. Nonprofits with a culture of philanthropy see fundraising less as a transactional tactic and more as a way of operating—one that reflects the definition of philanthropy: A love of humankind and a voluntary joining of resources and action for the public good.”

Does Our Organization Need a Culture of Philanthropy?

The report cites forces driving nonprofits to reconsider traditional approaches to fundraising, from new modes of communication and engagement to growing competition for resources brought on by the sector’s growth. Proponents say a culture of philanthropy can help increase giving levels and donor retention; strengthen trust, cooperation and engagement among board and staff members; and align mission and program goals more seamlessly with revenue generation.

How Do We Build a Culture of Philanthropy?

According to Gibson, a “culture of philanthropy” is about much more than money – it takes more than one person, and it demands more leadership and connection throughout an organization. She sees four core elements to create a culture of philanthropy within a nonprofit organization:

  1. Shared responsibility for development. Fundraising isn’t just one person’s job or the job of one department or board committee. Everyone—staff, executive director, constituents, board and volunteers—shares responsibility for fund development.
  2. Integration and alignment with mission. Fund development is a valued and mission- aligned component of the organization’s overall work, rather than a standalone function.
  3. A focus on fundraising as engagement. Fund development is not separated from engagement. This reflects the fact that people are connecting with nonprofits via multiple channels (e.g., social media, volunteering, blogs, meet ups, petitions) and engaging with them in multiple ways (e.g., as donors, volunteers, board members, constituents).
  4. Strong donor relationships. Donors are seen as authentic partners in the work, not simply as targets or dollar signs. These organizations establish systems to build strong relationships and support donors’ connection to the work.

What are your thoughts? Share your perspective on the Haas Jr. Fund website, or join the conversation on Twitter to #ResetDevelopment And stay tuned for additional research to be released on April 12!

Post image courtesy of Unsplash user Jean Lakosnyk. 

hollyLightBox Collaborative’s founding partner Holly Minch is a veteran fundraiser and salutes all who do the hard work of raising resources for social change.