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!

Get Some Culture in Your Organization

Is fundraising everyone's job at your organization? Many believe that ought to be the case. They're calling this a "culture of philanthropy," and although it's not a new term, it's just starting to gain traction within the nonprofit community. In a culture of philanthropy, everyone- staff, board, CEO, constituents, volunteers- has a role in fundraising. It's about relationships, donor cultivation and retention,  and it's mission-driven from start to finish.

There are four core concepts that define a culture of philanthropy which can be used by organizations as a way to gauge whether or not they are moving toward meeting the definition:

Shared responsibility for development: Fundraising is not solely the responsibility of the CEO, development director or board members. Everyone across and within the organization works together to create a finely-tuned fundraising machine.

Integration of mission into all development activities: Looking at fundraising as a means to achieving programmatic success and maximizing impact, rather than as simply raising money to be allocated across the organization.

Focusing on fundraising as relationship-building: Communicating via multiple channels and creating connections at multiple touchpoints is integral to successful resource development.

Strong donor engagement: Paying attention to what donors want, and recognizing that they often have more than money to contribute. Being transparent and demonstrating impact are crucial to cultivating and retaining those who support your efforts.

Want to learn more about how you can instill some culture into your organization? You can find me at


When Autumn Darkness Falls

When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.      ~Jens Stoltenberg


How to Live a Happier Life

"If you think money can't buy happiness, try giving some away and see what happens." -Michael Norton Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton studies the relationship between money and happiness, and he has some interesting observations about it:

The individuals he studies do not report being happier after spending money on themselves, but they do report significantly higher levels of happiness when they spend money on others.

We can translate this phenomenon among individuals to corporate philanthropy as well.  Employees who have a role in determining where their company's philanthropic dollars are directed report higher levels of satisfaction with their work,  and are more loyal to the company.

In addition, when shoppers are given the ability to direct donations through their in-store actions, it creates  stronger consumer loyalty and can drive repeat business.

Bottom line: corporate philanthropy programs that engage employees in decision-making and allow for something other than a lump-sum donation to an organization or two can be successful not only in spreading the wealth, but in spreading the happiness.

Keep giving and keep smiling!


Dare to be Like Donna

"I truly believe that philanthropy and commerce can work together." - Donna Karan Donna Karan's decision to leave the helm of her eponymous company- a company she nurtured and built over 30+ years- bodes well for philanthropy.  Her Urban Zen line and Foundation were created to facilitate her deep commitment to helping people in need both locally and globally. The Foundation has already had significant impact on Haiti's recovery from the 2010 earthquake, on incorporating integrative therapies to change healthcare in the U.S., and in empowering children.

Through her commitment, Donna has demonstrated that the connection between business and philanthropy can be seamless (pun intended). Doing good can lead to doing well, and vice versa.

Perhaps her new focus will be on expanding her efforts and impact even further.  How great would that be?


Am I a Great Consultant?

How am I Doing? There are many positive aspects to being a consultant: having diverse and interesting work, getting to know a variety of people, and balancing my time so I can make a 5pm yoga class are just a few.  But one of the downsides is that I don’t always get feedback on how well I am doing in my job of helping organizations grow and succeed in their missions.

What makes a great consultant?  I used my network of colleagues and clients to answer this question, and came up with this Top 10 List:

  1. Be as good at delivering bad news as good news. There’s inevitably going to be a time when you have to state a harsh truth to your clients. A great consultant is able to do this with honesty and sensitivity.
  2. Be able to turn your experiences into examples. A great consultant has theoretical and practical knowledge,      and can communicate both.
  3. Be able to use  your skills in a variety of ways. What works for one client may not work for another. A great      consultant uses their skill set to come up with practical and innovative strategies that work.
  4. Be able to simplify and explain a problem.  A great consultant can provide understanding and insight into a problem by using examples, graphics or metaphor.
  5. Be able to provide more than one solution to a problem.  A great consultant can provide multiple problem-solving possibilities, and can be relied upon to think creatively.
  6. Be self-confident.  A great consultant projects a sense of confidence in their abilities and knowledge.
  7. Be a good listener. A great consultant asks enough questions to get the full story from their client before offering      a response.
  8. Be a team player. A great consultant leaves their own personal goals at the door, and focuses only on their clients’ goals.
  9. Be your client’s most trusted asset. A great consultant develops strong relationships with their clients. Tell them the truth, using sensitivity and empathy, and work hard at ensuring they know you have their back.
  10.  Make it about them, not you.  A great consultant always puts their clients at the center of everything they do. You’re going to help your clients succeed. But you need to be humble and remember that the client is always the star.

What other attributes make for a great consultant? Email me your thoughts!

Innovation: Find Your Own Path

"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"  Ralph Waldo Emerson Many of the organizations I work with are small and, to some degree, struggling to grow.  Their efforts to fundraise, gain visibility, and expand their reach often stretch them to exhaustion.  In that environment, it's often difficult to contemplate innovation, but that's exactly what they need to do.  Pushing themselves to do something different- create a new program, introduce themselves to a whole new constituent group,  raise money in a creative way- is challenging but can lead to a whole new world of results.

One of my clients has decided not to do the "same old, same old" type of program development and instead is moving toward embracing their social entrepreurial side by creating a new app.  The process of bringing the app to fruition has introduced them to new people (including venture capitalists with funding!) and expanded their visibility in an entirely new way.  Their efforts are bringing new enthusiasm to the Board, who are embracing the project and working toward its implementation. brave enough to innovate, and see if you can forge a new path for your organization!


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!