Building a movement with National Philanthropy Day

National Philanthropy Day (NPD) celebrates the charitable work that everyone does to make a difference and create impact in their communities.

Within the sector we’re well aware, as the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) puts it, that National Philanthropy Day is “a grassroots movement to increase public interest and awareness of the importance of philanthropy, as well as knowledge on giving, volunteering and engagement at the charitable level so people can practice effective philanthropy.”

But don’t we first need to develop a culture of philanthropy within our organizations?

I know it sounds odd to say that we lack a culture of philanthropy within the very same organizations that are at the heart of tackling society’s most difficult challenges, but we need to create an internal culture that will support philanthropy not just go through the mechanics of collecting money.

One misconception about fundraising is that it’s about getting to people’s wallets. Good fundraisers know that money is the last thing you talk to a donor about. Development officers need to get to know their audience and give them a reason to connect with the cause first and foremost.

What I’ve noticed in the two decades that I have been involved in the not-for-profit sector is that organizations spend far too much time and effort “talking” and not enough “listening”. That needs to change in order for organizations to be more successful in their fundraising campaigns.

Get people within your organization to stop talking about money and start building relationships through reaching out and listening. This is what creates engagement. If you create engagement, the money will follow.

AFP has a great article about giving which cover the 5 P’s for “what you want to achieve with your giving… Moving from a reactive donor to a pro-active philanthropist.” I propose to take those exact 5 P’s and ask that non-profits do the same:

Be passionate. Be proactive. Prepare. Plan. Go for maximum impact.

Read our related article on Team Work >

Another important cultural shift needs to happen at the Board level. Board members need to understand their role in philanthropy. Anyone who sits on a non-profit board and claims that fundraising is not their problem, has a problem! While most new boards are prepared to get their hands dirty and activate their networks for their cause, traditional boards play more of an advisory, high governance role with little to do with fundraising unless they are on a specific committee to do so. However, just as the employees of the organization need to understand their role in the money making machine, board members too need to see how all actions tie back to philanthropy. This can be remedied with a few board and staff training sessions.

Once the team and board members are on the same page, there is no limit to the success that awaits you!

Remember that changing perceptions and behaviours takes time. Be patient, be consistent and celebrate small victories along the way. It’s important to acknowledge donors, staff and volunteers alike, and these actions should be part of your development plan and your communications plan.

How culture takes shape within an organization


“As you grow, it becomes harder to communicate everything, to get consensus on every decision or to create a process and procedure for everything. A strong and clear culture can give everyone the proper framework to work within.” says Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta. He and I agree that culture is shaped mostly by how your leaders act, so make sure your leadership team embodies the type of organization you want to be.

You also have to be brave enough to recognize when a volunteer or employee is not the right fit (or no longer a good fit) with the organization. If they are not excited or inspired by the organization’s culture, you will not get the results you need from that person. Volunteer and employees are your greatest ambassadors, they must be 100% on board with the philanthropic culture you want to develop and it must be clearly communicated to all key stakeholders.

Culture is simply a shared set of attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes the institution or organization.

Take the time to dig deep and uncover what makes your non-profit unique. The results will guide your communication tools and benefit your fundraising efforts.

Phil offers a series of team building and strategic branding exercises that help guide you through the process of uncovering your organization’s DNA and competitive edge. Don’t be shy to reach out and find out more about how you can improve your culture of philanthropy!

National Philanthropy Day - Building a movement from within