Building a Culture of Philanthropy: Hear it From the Experts

Sponsored by Blackbaud Institute


The word philanthropy is derived from the Greek meaning “love of humanity”. It’s a perfect definition for the sector and the people who power it. But there’s another important word that isn’t as commonly used in the sector: synergy, from the Greek meaning “working together”.

It’s a concept that’s easier said than done. Within competing priorities across departments, organizations can be susceptible to inheriting an “us vs them” mentality. Whether it’s the programs versus fundraising or marketing versus finance, this discord is a detriment to every organization’s main goal: furthering your mission.

How can an organization combat this tendency?

Enter: A Culture of Philanthropy

Underdeveloped defines a culture of philanthropy as a set of organizational values and practices that support and nurture development within a nonprofit organization. But it’s not enough to understand the definition and it’s always helpful to see how others in the sector tackle these issues.

For 5 years Blackbaud has brought together experts in the nonprofit sector to share their advice on a wide variety of topics through their npEXPERTS series. In this year’s edition, npEXPERTS Fundraising Matters: Building a Culture of Philanthropy, 10 experts share their unique perspectives to help you create a culture of philanthropy—one in which executives, board members, accountants, marketers, and everyone in between understand the importance of your organization’s fundraising success and how they can contribute to it within their unique roles.

These fundamental strategies and best practices can help an organization flourish in all areas.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.

5 Ways to Create a Culture of Philanthropy, as told by npEXPERTS:

1. Introduce the Concept

In theory, most of your organization would probably agree that building a Culture of Philanthropy is a good idea. But does that agreement really mean understanding?

It’s imperative that the buy-in from your complete organization is more than head nods and shoulder shrugs.

  • “Building a culture of philanthropy starts by cultivating the understanding that fundraising is core to your organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.”

Anne Wallestad, BoardSource, Chapter 2: Board of Directors

  • “When beliefs change, culture changes.”

Wendy Watson-Hallowell, Belief Works, Chapter 9: Outcomes

2. Lead culture change

Make sure your leadership style lends itself well to a culture of philanthropy, whether that’s through encouraging meetings between departments or allowing your employees the chance to gain a deeper understanding of every aspect of your organization. Ask for employee feedback and do your best to implement practices that will encourage a smooth transition towards a culture of transparency and openness between departments. Encouragement and support that trickles down from leadership within an organization will have a tremendous amount of impact in building a new culture.

  • “It’s not enough for leaders to understand what a culture of philanthropy is… making it happen is about leading a process of culture change throughout an organization.”

Linda Wood, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Chapter 1: Leadership

  • “We need to pay more attention to providing nonprofits and their leaders the kind of targeted support that will help them build a culture of philanthropy inside their organizations.”

Linda Wood, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Chapter 1: Leadership

3. Ensure that board members know their roles

Your board members play a vital role in leading a culture change. Make sure that they understand that fundraising is everyone’s role, including their own. Share your expectations and ensure that they have a solid understanding of how they can best serve the entire organization.

  • “Helping your board make the connection between fundraising and your organization’s ability to pursue its mission is an important part of building a culture of philanthropy.”

Anne Wallestad, BoardSource, Chapter 2: Board of Directors

  • “Fundraising is everyone’s job. It simply does not work if it is done in isolation.”

Andrea McManus, ViTreo, Chapter 3: Development

4. Get your volunteers involved

It’s no surprise that volunteers are a crucial asset to an organization. But their purpose doesn’t stop after their shift ends or they drop off canned goods. Getting your volunteers more involved in your organization is a great way to ensure that they continue supporting your mission. Educate them on your organization’s goals and make sure they understand that their contributions go far beyond an hour or two of work.

  • “The key to getting someone to support a cause is to get them to behave like a supporter.”

Katrina VanHuss, Turn Key, Chapter 4: Peer-to-Peer

  • “The explosive power of individuals to self-organize seamlessly and rapidly is changing philanthropy as we know it and beyond.”

Cheryl Contee, Fission Strategy, Chapter 7: Social

5. Listen and collaborate

A lot of departmental tension is due to not understanding how other departments operations and what they need to succeed. The solution could be as simple as weekly cross-departmental meetings or information sessions to keep everyone updated and informed. That’s all part of the listening objective – give people an opportunity to share with and understand one another.

For collaboration, it’s imperative that the team works towards shared goals. These goals can be your organization’s cause, having a successful fundraising program, or growing your programs and donor opportunities. With each project, put everyone back on the same page so they can work towards these shared goals as a team.

  • “Effective collaboration happens when teams create the time and space for learning across an organization and when it becomes ingrained into an organization’s DNA.”

Beth Kanter, Beth’s Blog, Chapter 5: Marketing

  • “Do you want to be a better fundraiser? Start by forging a friendship and a partnership with your program colleagues.”

Pamela Barden, PJ Barden Inc., Chapter 6: Programs

For even more insight into building a culture of philanthropy from experts, download npEXPERTS.


Ali Martinez is an Associate at the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact. With experience in social marketing, advertising, and project management, Ali loves combining strategy and creativity to create interesting and effective campaigns. She manages the promotion of Blackbaud’s thought leadership initiatives to establish the Blackbaud Institute brand, maximize exposure, and help provide a seamless experience for key sector experts. Follow her on Twitter: @alicmtx

culture of philanthropy

Guest Writer

Nonprofit Hub loves incorporating thought leadership from all over the web and across the globe to help nonprofits be more remarkable. These posts were curated by various friends, partners and thought leaders. If you'd like to work with us, drop us a line at

July 18, 2017

You May Also Enjoy

Become a Member

Whether you’re with a large team or a solo entrepreneur looking to start the next great cause, we have a membership package that will help you grow your network and your cause.