How Leaders are Essential to Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

By Laurie Herrick, GIFT Director & Mentor, JCamp 180

A review of Veritus Group's blog series: Creating a Radical Culture of Philanthropy

One of the premier consulting firms in fundraising in the US is The Veritus Group, Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifel's organization based out of Philadelphia. Recently, they posted a 6-blog series on Creating a Radical Culture of Philanthropy.  We strongly recommend checking out the entire series - and we suggest that you sign up for their blog, for that matter. 

The difference between fundraising activities and a culture of philanthropy is significant.  The first thing to ask: Is your camp building a culture of philanthropy? What about a radical culture of philanthropy? What exactly do those things mean? The Veritus Group perspective raises the bar for not-for-profit organizations…it awakens the possibility of a deep partnership between donors and your camp's mission.

According to The Veritus Group, creating a culture of philanthropy has to do with:

  • Getting your head and heart in the right place
  • Standing for donors being an integral part of your camp's mission
  • Having leadership on board
  • Telling your story effectively
  • Getting everyone involved
  • Expressing the need of your organization

Having Leadership on Board

Let's look at having leadership on board, the topic of Part 3 of the series.

Are you either a staff or lay leader of your organization? Are you passionate about philanthropy and donors? What do you and your peers say about fundraising? Does your language reinforce support for development? Or does it seem disparaging? Are you the person on your staff or board that encourages development, or keeps quiet and lets the others do it? A camp that has most, or ideally all of its leaders passionate about philanthropy and donors has the best chance of realizing fundraising success.

Do you actively give and get others to give financially to your camp? Do you find yourself constantly talking to others about your passion for camp? Do you ask people to participate in giving time and money to the organization? A camp that has numerous cheerleaders spreading the good news of your camp in the community will certainly have more abundant financial and other resources. When those cheerleaders not only "talk up" camp, but take actions in their giving of money and time, abundance flows.

Does the executive leadership reach out to donors with the challenges and concerns of your organization? Leaders who embrace a culture of philanthropy see the value in partnering with donors to make your shared vision (a vibrant healthy camp) a reality. This concept of 'partnering' is very important. People want to help. Identifying and really knowing the particular interests, passions and skills of your donors will lead to partnerships where they step up to help you in myriad unimaginable ways.

Does your entire board of directors or camp committee give financially to your camp? This body should be trained in fundraising and understand the value in having donors be central to the mission of camp. Your board/camp committee members should all give as generously as they can. And development should be an important part of every board meeting. There is no substitute for this. If your camp does not do this currently, but you decide to take it on…it could lead to a significant breakthrough in fundraising for your camp.

Lastly, when it comes time to hire a new staff leader or bring on a new board member, the job description should indicate that half of their time will be devoted to donors and philanthropy. No one should be hired who does not have a propensity to take part in camp's development efforts. While we understand at JCamp 180 that it isn't always easy to find board members or staff leaders with this skill set, you can always start with someone who has a willingness to engage and learn about philanthropy - then provide them the necessary training to have everyone on the same page.

Creating a Culture of Philanthropy does not happen overnight. It happens with small steps over time. This article is focused on leadership's role in creating a culture of philanthropy. Use your JCamp 180 Mentor to identify where you are on track for creating a culture of philanthropy and where you are not. Then take action. And remember, as Will Rogers said, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there!"


If you are interested in development - or, if you are ready to take on the next level of leadership in creating a culture of philanthropy - I strongly recommend signing up for The Veritus Group blog, winner of the 2014 Fundraising Industry Blog of the Year Award.