As a native Calgarian, I have always had a deep fondness for my city; however, the post-flood wave of philanthropy and random acts of kindness exhibited by Calgarians, and people across southern Alberta, makes me especially proud. It’s a tough world and charities are not exempt despite their purpose to make it better. Many organizations were impacted by the June flood and must now deal with that adversity in addition to the daily challenges of remaining relevant and financially viable.
The impressive philanthropic efforts of our citizens, characterized by generous donations, compassionate gestures and volunteering, are indicators of a resilient city culture. We already knew we lived in a great city but, apparently, we needed a not-so-gentle reminder. The next year will be challenging for all charities, not just those that were affected directly by the flood. Calgarians’ ability to respond effectively and rally quickly set an impressive example of how we will re-build our city and, from this example, it is evident that charities that have cultivated philanthropic cultures and passionate donor bases will undoubtedly fare better in the post-flood economy than those that did not.
Below is a quick “pulse check” for philanthropic culture. Admittedly, cultivating philanthropic culture is always a work in progress (or it should be), but if you answer “yes” to 7 or more of these questions, then your organization has done a good job of cultivating a vibrant philanthropic culture. If you answer “yes” to fewer than 7 questions, well then, now you know what to do...
TDG’s Top 10 Indicators of Philanthropic Culture ©
1. Your Board and leadership can both pronounce and spell the word ‘philanthropy’.
A new concept? No, actually a very, very old one and a key funding motivator for almost all donors.
2. When someone calls to make a donation the receptionist knows who you are and what to do.
Make sure all staff know how to recognize and handle potential donors. Think customer service, competition and internal cooperation.
3. Accountability is a word your organization lives by, not pays lip service to.
The number one reason donors stop giving is because they don’t think their gift was used as intended or promised. Be accountable in all aspects to your donors.
4. You recognize that your primary role is not fundraising – it is building the philanthropic culture in your organization so that philanthropic relationships can survive and thrive.
Your role is not to ‘get donors’ nor is it to ‘raise money’. It is to build relationships that result in the formation of philanthropists. Donors and money are the outcomes – and you are the catalyst for social change in your organization.
5. Your organizational leadership understands and acknowledges the difference between philanthropy, development and fundraising.
Philanthropy is the motivating value, development is the management of a systematic and strategic program and fundraising is the action. They are distinct but connected.
6. You have a Statement of Philanthropic Values.
Have this discussion throughout your organization and engage everyone. How do you want to treat your donors? How important are they to your organization?
7. Development is a core function that is long term, strategic and responsive to community needs.
Development is critical to fulfilling your organizational mission. It is a core part of your strategic thinking, planning, direction and action.
8. Fundraising is everyone’s job.
It just simply does not work if it is done in isolation. Everyone has a role – ambassador, enthusiastic communicator, connector, cultivator, solicitor, steward.
9. 100% of your Board makes annual philanthropic gifts to your organization. And, your Board demonstrates its ownership of fundraising and all board members participate in fundraising – but not all in the same way.
It is very hard to ask others to support your mission if the leaders in your organization are not making annual meaningful gifts. Encourage board members to make it one of their top three philanthropic priorities and be able to lead with both passion and demonstrated commitment.
10. Donors are viewed as stakeholders in your organization.
They are not necessary, a burden, rich, your best friends, targets or a nuisance. They are stakeholders who have invested because they care about what you do.
So there you have it. Organizations that question the value of a robust philanthropic culture need look no further than the quick and impressive results achieved by everyday people helping everyday people in our city.
TDG’s Top 10 Indicators of Philanthropic Culture©
Hilborn's article about Calgary’s post-flood philanthropy
CCVO's flood impact report