Thursday, February 12, 2015

Want to achieve fundraising success? Inspire a culture of philanthropy.

Working in development can be challenging. You’re constantly building relationships with donors. You’re always finding new ways to make strangers care about your organization. You have to ask people to give you their money. (That last part alone would make most people go running for the hills!) And when you’re solely responsible for meeting your organization’s fundraising goals, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

It’s no surprise, then, that turnover rates in our field are so high. Research tells us that the average fundraiser leaves after only 16 months on the job, and a study done in 2013 found that 40% of development directors surveyed were considering leaving the fundraising field altogether. 

Fundraising isn’t easy. But is your organization making your job more difficult than it needs to be?

I asked a group of high-performing development officers and consultants to tell me the secret of organizations that achieve fundraising success. The resounding answer?

Organizations need to have an internal culture of philanthropy if they want be successful at raising money.

In organizations with a culture of philanthropy, everyone understands the importance of fundraising and everyone plays a role in development.

In a culture of philanthropy, everyone – from the janitor to the chair of the board – is a fundraising ambassador.

So, how can you inspire a culture of philanthropy in your organization?

1. Make your own gifts.  

“The leadership of the organization has to lead by example. They must invest in the organization,” said another fundraising professional. Inspire a culture of philanthropy in your organization by making your own gift to campaigns and by encouraging staff and board members to do the same. 

2. Dedicate a portion of all meetings to fundraising. 

During your meetings, tell stories about the impact that giving has made, both on donors as well as the people that the gifts help directly. This will make the notion of fundraising more “real” (as opposed to bottom line numbers and dollar signs) to people who don’t work in the development department. It will also make people in all departments understand how crucial fundraising is to the overall health of the organization.  

3. Educate your board about fundraising.  

Does your board feel that they have a role in the fundraising process? Do they understand what fundraising really is? “If the board isn’t engaged and they don’t see that one of their essential roles as board members is leading, demonstrating, and supporting the culture of philanthropy, then the development staff’s jobs are going to be really hard,” said one fundraising professional. Your board needs to understand that they play a part in your organization’s fundraising, and they have to understand what fundraising is. “Whether it’s educating the board about how to ask for a major gift or making sure the board is educated about giving statistics, that kind of knowledge empowers the board to be more articulate about fundraising,” explained one development consultant.  

4. Train your staff to be ambassadors for your organization.  

What is it about your organization that inspires people to give? What makes your organization special? Your staff needs to know what these things are and how to talk about them. Being an ambassador for your organization doesn’t mean that your staff has to ask for money, but they should be able to identify moments when it’s appropriate to point people in the direction of the development office. It could also be as simple as staff members keeping copies of your organization’s development brochure visible in their offices for clients to see. 

Interested in learning more about inspiring a culture of philanthropy at your workplace? Contact Andrea today.

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