Does your non-profit organization have a culture of philanthropy?

org cultureI love Monday mornings! I wake up, feed the dog and cat, grab a cup of coffee, sit down at my computer and open my email, and most Monday mornings involves watching “Movie Mondays for Fundraising Professionals“. This morning’s video was an interview with Andrea McManus who is the President of The Development Group, a Canadian resource development consulting firm. Within the first 15 seconds of the interview Andrea poses a great question about whether your organization has a “philanthropic culture” or “fundraising culture“.

When I’m conducting a resource development assessment for a client who doesn’t have a strong fundraising program in place, it isn’t uncommon for me to make an observation about the agency lacking a “culture of philanthropy“. When I watched Andrea’s interview this morning, it dawned on me that some of those clients might not have understood what I was driving at.

I love the distinction that Andrea draws in the video. I love even more that she takes the time to share with viewers the nine signs of a strong philanthropic culture.

Do you know what those nine signs are? Does your organization exhibit those nine signs?

OK, I have a confession to make. When I look for philanthropic culture, I use the less formal “smell test,” which is akin to sniffing what is in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator to determine whether or not it is still safe to eat leftovers. Essentially, I knew it when I saw it and experienced it. So, when Andrea said she was going to share her nine signs of a philanthropic culture with viewers this morning, I settled in and prepared to watch the entire 15 minute video.

I highly recommend that you take a moment to watch “9 Signs of a Strong Philanthropic Culture“.

To help whet your appetite, here are three of Andrea’s nine signs:

  1. Your board and agency leadership know how to spell “philanthropy” (While her tongue is planted firmly in her cheek, she makes a great point when talking about this sign.)
  2. Organizational leadership (both board and staff) understand the difference between philanthropy, development, and fundraising.
  3. When a donor calls the main phone line, the person answering the phone knows exactly what to do with that call. They know where to send those calls. They also recognize the importance of that person and treats them as such.

There are six other even more amazing signs. Aren’t you even a little curious? Click here to check-out Andrea’s interview and discover those six other signs.

I’m going to end today’s blog with the same question Andrea poses at the end of her video. What other things (aka signs) do you look for when assessing whether or not a non-profit agency possesses a philanthropic culture? Even more important, how are you trying to instill these things into your organizational culture? Please share one or two of those things in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Excellent piece!

    Bob Liming | Director of Development
    Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley
    1405 E Guadalupe Rd – Ste 4 Tempe, AZ 85283
    T: 480.820.3688 | F: 480.820.4093
    E-mail: |


    1. Bob . . . as always, I appreciate your readership and willingness to weigh-in from time-to-time. I hope all is well for you and your organization out there in the desert. I’ve been thinking about you a lot recently. Happy Halloween!

  2. Erik –
    excellent. I agree that we have WAY too many conversations about fundraising and hardly any about philanthropy. Have to be willing to be vulnerable and open up on a personal level – otherwise the donors are not going to open up and give. How did we get where we are today?
    -Laura Waller-Miller
    Office of Gift Planning – The Ohio State University

    1. Laura . . . Thanks for jumping into this discussion. Even though I am a graduate of the University of Illinois, I always welcome input from OSU folks (but Michigan folks might be another story . . . just kidding). 😉

      How did we get to where we are today? I dunno.

      Maybe some smart fundraising thought-leaders outsmarted themselves but over interpreting survey research and the pendulum went too far to the data-driven and outcomes data side of the equation. So, now all we do is bomb our donors with facts and figures thinking that we’re giving them what they want.

      Maybe it is the impact of technology. It has become soooooo easy to whip out a letter or email and ask for support. We human beings tend to do the easiest thing when faced with choices.

      Maybe it is the costs associated with solicitation of a donor. Face-to-face solicitation is very effective, but it isn’t the cheapest way to get a gift. Letters and email are cheap. Of course, I’d love to see ROI data on each solicitation method because I bet in-person asks are much cheaper than what people think esp. when one considers that face-to-face asks yield much bigger returns than mail or email.

      How did we get here? I’m not sure, but we need to turn this ship around and re-think how we do business. Have you seen the national data for donor turnover. What we’re doing is NOT sustainable as an industry.

      Thanks for weigh-in. I hope we’ll see more of you in the future.


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