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The phrase culture of philanthropy has become one of the hottest in the nonprofit world over the past few years. And today it’s not uncommon for a nonprofit leader or development director to talk about building one within their organization. However, what is uncommon is having the ability to collectively articulate what exactly that phrase means, how it looks, how it should be measured, and how those whom the organization serves may benefit from such a culture.

4 Essential Elements of a Culture of Philanthropy

Here are four key components that provide evidence of a strong culture of philanthropy within an organization:

  1. Demonstrated leadership at all organizational levels. Creating a culture of philanthropy begins at the top, but it doesn’t end there. The responsibility rests on the entire organization to maintain focus on the mission. To create a philanthropic culture requires leading, regardless of one’s position, and also following while living out the organization’s mission.
  2. Authentic storytelling and a commitment to conversation with all stakeholders. Everyone within the organization must speak the same language and tell the same story. All messages and communication channels must become integrated to increase interaction, involve others more meaningfully in the life of the organization, enhance a shared vision, and create viral advocates for the cause.
  3. Mission-driven systems, staffing, structure, and processes. A lot goes into cultivating a culture of philanthropy, but the three most important things are staffing and structure, systems and processes, and reward systems. The structure of your organizational chart and the team members filling those roles should reinforce your overall objectives, not undermine them. Your systems and processes should always focus on long-term societal needs and how best to engage others in helping meet those needs. Finally, 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.
  4. Shared values and a collective commitment to a common goal. Creating a culture of philanthropy requires that you determine your organization’s specific shared values and how to reinforce them through practice on a daily basis. These values represent a unique cultural philosophy, not a program.
Are You Ready to Create a Culture of Philanthropy within Your Organization?

As nonprofit leaders and catalysts for change, you have perhaps the best vantage point for viewing the entire organization. But in order to affect change and help create a philanthropic culture, you must have a good understanding of how to embed these elements within your organization.

Which of these elements is the strongest within your organization? Which needs the most improvement?