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  • Writer's pictureFrances Roen

The Most Powerful Work You'll Do

… Isn’t Fundraising

The most powerful work you can do is helping to build a culture of philanthropy. 

We know. We said it. Culture of philanthropy. Ewww.

For many of us, the words culture of philanthropy” have a really negative connotation. And, rightly so. It’s long been misconstrued as fundraising specific and misrepresented by the fundraising sector as “building an organization of solicitors”. Even in its best light, it’s a term that is hard to define, harder to embrace, and nearly impossible to know how to create.

So, if we’ve gotten it wrong for so long…what does it mean, really? 

Let's start by breaking down the words themselves.

Culture: the values, expectations, and practices that guide a community's actions.

Philanthropy: a spirit of goodwill towards others, expressed through active efforts to help.

Understanding these definitions sheds light on what a culture of philanthropy truly entails and why it's worth pursuing.

In essence, a culture of philanthropy is an environment where everyone is genuinely engaged and motivated by a desire to help others.

But what does this look like in real life?

While it requires genuine effort, building a culture of philanthropy isn't as complicated as it may seem.

Below are the THREE basic steps:

Step 1: Ensure that everyone in your community, from leaders to volunteers, feels valued and has opportunities to contribute.

Step 2: Collaboratively establish practices, values, and expectations rooted in generosity and consideration.

Step 3: Actively engage in efforts to support others.

Okay, that sounds easy but I’ve got a lot on my plate!

We get it. And, this work MUST be a priority. It’s okay to take small steps forward. Try implementing one or more of these things over the course of the next month:

Listen and Learn: Attend different department meetings, have coffee with colleagues, and listen to their experiences and needs.

Show Up and Pitch In: Offer assistance where needed, whether it's finishing a project or lending a hand at an event. 

Be Vulnerable and Authentic: Share your experiences, admit mistakes, and ask for help when needed.

Be Honest and Dependable: Foster open communication, involve others in decision-making, and follow through on commitments.

Show Appreciation: Acknowledge and celebrate achievements, no matter how small, to build morale and goodwill. 

Remember, building a culture of philanthropy takes time and effort, but it can propel your mission forward in powerful ways AND make a powerful difference in your life, the lives of your colleagues, and those you serve!

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