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A lot of factors contribute to creating a culture of philanthropy within your organization. However, few things are more important than your staffing, structure, processes, and reward systems. While storytelling and leadership are also critical, these four elements in particular are the building blocks that will hold it all in place.

How to Build a Culture of Philanthropy in Your Nonprofit

If you desire for your nonprofit to operate with a culture of philanthropy instead of simply creating a culture of charity, here are some steps you can take:

Step 1: Examine your current organizational structure. Is it mechanistic and militaristic, or is it organic and flat? Is it encouraging autonomy, decentralized decision making, teamwork, and collaboration? We often assume our structure is promoting a culture of philanthropy when it’s actually promoting a culture of charity.

Step 2: Assess your job descriptions. Do your currently filled positions and their respective job descriptions accurately reflect your intended outcomes? In other words, do the roles delegated to staff reinforce your organizational objectives, or do they undermine them?

Step 3: Establish processes that focus on long-term success. Systems within a culture of charity tend to focus on fundraising transactions, while a culture of philanthropy focuses on transformational events resulting in philanthropic investments. A culture of philanthropy is designed to actively pursue philanthropic investments, not just passive gifts.

Step 4: Create systems that connect your donors to real needs. A culture of charity focuses on short-term, fiscal-year based organizational needs. A culture of philanthropy focuses on long-term societal needs and how best to engage others in helping your organization meet those needs.

Step 5: Develop a rewards system based on long-term, mission-driven achievements. Creating a culture of philanthropy requires that we shift our reward systems so they encourage the desired behavior, while also reinforcing the need for individual ownership, creativity, and commitment to the work being done. The reward systems must be created to reward behavior that is effective for the organization long term and, most importantly, advances the organizational mission.

Are Your Current Processes and Systems Building a Culture of Philanthropy?

How we organize ourselves says a great deal about who we are and what’s important to us. If your current systems and processes are helping you build a culture of philanthropy within your organization, great! But if not, here’s a resource that will help you get started.

It’s common for fundraising practitioners to talk about building a culture of philanthropy within their organizations. What’s less common, however, is finding an organization that actually understands how to build it.

Have you taken the time to implement any of these five steps in your efforts to build a philanthropic culture? What are some of the challenges you’re working to overcome?