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For the Love of Humanity: Building a Culture of Philanthropy

When you hear the term fundraising, what do you think of? Oftentimes, this word conjures images of uncomfortable transactions: awkwardly asking for contributions, selling event tickets, or soliciting pledges door-to-door. Many people say that the pressure to reach specific goals makes fundraising activities feel exclusively about the money.

How about the word development? Do you have different connotations with it than fundraising? Using the term development generally highlights the relationship-building aspect of fundraising activities and brings about feelings of possibility, expectancy, bounty, growth, participation, or collaboration.

Next, let's build on this further to the word philanthropy. The Greek roots of the word philanthropy literally mean "love of humanity". As Board members and nonprofit leaders, our role is to be a philanthropy facilitator. We are inviting people into the work of loving and caring for each other. Is there anything more exciting than that? Who wouldn't want to take advantage of that opportunity?

People give to your organization because it meets needs, not because it has needs. In other words, people give through your organization to serve the community.

It's easy to focus on programming and forget that programs and services need philanthropic support to flourish. Too often, philanthropy and development are an after-thought. We focus on the programs, but then sustainability can flounder. Philanthropy should lead the organization, rather than try to keep up with the vision for the organization. It paves the way for innovation and nimble responses to ever-changing factors (the pandemic is a great example!).

So, how do we start to change our perspective from a fundraising focus to a development and philanthropy focus? The donor development cycle can be a powerful tool to help us shift our thinking. In our next blog, we'll tell you more about this important process of relationship-building and how to implement it.


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