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Every nonprofit leader would agree that having a set of values is important for making decisions, interacting with donors, and implementing ideas that create change. However, what you may not realize is what kind of impact your values are making on the culture that’s being created within your organization.

Shared values, norms, and mutually agreed upon practices are perhaps the most critical components of a philanthropic organization. In fact, the shared values of your organization will directly impact your ability to develop a culture of philanthropy. As a leader, it’s important that you know not only what your organization’s shared values are, but also how they impact the culture you’re creating.

4 Shared Values That Cultivate a Culture of Philanthropy

Shared values are the articulated beliefs that provide the framework to guide actions and judgments within an organization. These values represent a unique cultural philosophy, not a program.

Creating a culture of philanthropy requires that you determine your organization’s specific shared values and how you can reinforce them through practice on a daily basis. Here are the four most common shared values that have helped nonprofit organizations create and cultivate a culture of philanthropy that runs throughout their organization:

  1. Ethical Behavior. In philanthropic organizations, there’s no room for even the appearance of unethical behavior. Boards should act as exemplary, invested stakeholders—not entitled shareholders. When working with donors, ethical behavior is required across the continuum of organizational activities. A culture of philanthropy cannot exist if a gift is solicited that is not in the donor’s best interest.
  2. Stewardship. This has become a common word in the vocabulary of many nonprofit leaders. Holding it as a value within your organization means resources are used in the most effective and efficient manner possible, and in a way that ensures you’ll get the greatest impact from donors’ philanthropic dollars. Being good stewards also means you’re stewarding the information and resources you have. For instance, donor intelligence and data analytics should be used to inform tactics and strategies.
  3. Fail-Forward Learning. Testing new techniques, technologies, or strategies should be encouraged and embraced amongst the staff. This sense of empowerment, autonomy, and self-direction helps individuals at all levels experiment, gain ownership in the process, and enjoy the satisfaction when progress is made.
  4. Collaboration and Shared Responsibility. To eliminate the “not my job” mentality among your staff, everyone needs
to understand the vital role they play in achieving the organization’s mission. A philanthropic organization is one in which all are prepared do whatever is required to meet its objectives.
How to Lead Your Stakeholders to Embrace These Values

A culture of philanthropy is not a program to be created, but it’s the acknowledgment of and adherence to a set of shared values.

What are some of your organization’s shared values? How have they made a difference in creating a culture of philanthropy?