Involving Board Members in a Culture of Philanthropy

Last week's post covered the ways that organizations are developing a culture of philanthropy that allows everyone to share responsibility for fundraising and relationship building. Easier said than done! This week, let's focus on how board members can be encouraged to not only participate in, but actually lead and champion a culture of philanthropy in their organizations. Without board members' wholehearted support, the effort to develop a philanthropic culture will be solely the staff's responsibility, which is not a formula for success.

To integrate board members more fully in these efforts, make fundraising discussions a part of every board meeting. Encourage board members to tell their own stories about why and how they are connected to the mission. Provide training for members to help them hone their fundraising skills. Allow them the opportunity to learn about programs and services so they can talk about them outside of board meetings. Connect them with the recipients of your programs and services so they can see your impact for themselves.

With support and encouragement, you can help your board members become active and enthusiastic fundraisers. Learn more by downloading Beyond Fundraising: What Does It Mean To Build A Culture Of Philanthropy? , a report published by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Please be in touch with me to learn how I can help you and your organization attain your goals!

What's Your Story?

"Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell."  ~Seth Godin My clients often ask me about how they can become more effective fundraisers. There's so much competition out there, they say. We aren't reaching enough people, they say.

Here's what I ask them: What's your story? What sets you and your organization apart from others?  What can you tell potential donors about your community or your cause that will enable them to care about it the way you do?

Telling your story changes how you present yourself to the public and your potential supporters. It's not about the number of people you serve; it's about how those people are impacted. It's not about the amount of money you need to raise; it's about how your donors can benefit by making an investment in your organization. This is philanthropy, not fundraising.

The stories you tell should be about real people, and they should be just long enough to create a feeling in the listener- a feeling that leads to their engagement and participation. We all have a story to tell- yours can be the one that inspires others to think, to speak, to act, or to give. Go out and tell your story!

I'd love to help you tell your story. Please reach me at



Thank You Very Much

In early December, I sent out a small gift to my current, past and (hopefully) future clients, along with a "Season's Greetings" card.  I was surprised as the weeks went by and I did not receive more than a couple of messages of thanks from the recipients.  Actually, I was shocked. But when I told some of my colleagues about my experience, they weren't surprised at all. It seems there is an epidemic of ingratitude going around. Over the holiday break, I reflected on this trend and its ramifications for organizations sending out their year-end appeals.  This has become an expected part of end-of-year activities for both donors and organizations. But I'm wondering what happens now- in January- when all the donations have been received and tallied. How many of these organizations are going to turn around and express their gratitude? How will they articulate their thanks? It should be the most important part of the fundraising strategy, but if this "culture of ingratitude" is as established as it appears, what does this mean for fundraising?

Let's change the culture. Let's begin the year with an "attitude of gratitude" and let's encourage this attitude to spread through our professional and personal lives. Let's not miss an opportunity to thank someone for a kindness, a gift, or an expression of support. Let's make sure that our family, friends, mentors, and especially donors feel appreciated.

Thank you very much!

Let's work together in 2016. Please be in touch at


Generosity Transformed

Early on in my career, when I described what I did in my various jobs, people would often say, “Oh, so you’re a fundraiser.”  I would vehemently deny this (not that there’s anything wrong with fundraising!) because it just wasn’t the way I saw myself.  I didn’t actually ASK people for money- oh, no- but it was my responsibility to plan and execute a program, and it was necessary to have the funding for the program as well….so I went out and “found” the money.  How did I do this without asking? The answer is: I created relationships.  I went out and met with people.  I schmoozed.  I drank a lot of coffee.  I spent time getting to know them and together we figured out how they could best participate in supporting the organizations and programs I was working with.  Many of these relationships have lasted 20 years or more, and have traveled with me through my career, sustaining me and my work.

In their new book, The Generosity Network, Jennifer McCrea and Jeffrey Walker showcase this perspective in transformational fundraising.  By operating with the assumption that people want to make a difference, you can tap into their lives, listen to their stories, and channel them towards the worthwhile causes that they want to support, by creating connections.

What’s the best way to facilitate these kinds of connections?  How can you open up the process and allow the generosity inherent in people to flow?  A few suggestions from McCrea and Walker:

  • Ask the right questions: Get into a deeper, more meaningful conversation by asking questions that enable the other person to tell you about who they are, how they think, and what their values are.  Ask a lot of “why” questions to keep the conversation flowing.
  • Leave your ego behind: The conversation should not be about you and your organization.  And if you are meeting with a BIG NAME or celebrity, know that you can hold your own with them and that your story is as important as theirs in developing a relationship.
  • Be awake and aware:  I hesitate to use the term “mindfulness” but that is indeed what McCrea and Walker use in the book.  What this means is be open to all of the possibilities and new experiences that meeting new people presents to you.  Don’t have any preconceived notions or set yourself up for failure (or success).  Just let it happen and allow the relationship to take hold and grow.

This can have far-reaching effects on your organization, helping you to access the right board members, reach your target audience and, yes, improve your bottom line.

Good luck on your journey!