How to Engineer a Culture of Philanthropy
I’ve been asked a number of times about the difficulty in making culture change. It seems so abstract! How can you actually change the culture? In my book, Choose Abundance, I suggest that if you want to engineer a Culture of Philanthropy you have to first identify what your current default culture is. Only then can you intentionally design and engineer your desired culture.
How do we engineer a Culture of Philanthropy? Fortunately, Robert Gass, founder of the Social Transformation Project, has created the Wheel of Change model to help us better understand how to positively transform our agencies.
Hearts & Minds, the “missing link”
The Wheel of Change Model suggests that we need to work on three different domains simultaneously in order to powerfully impact an organization’s culture. When attempting to enhance our development efforts, we are often drawn to the Structures, such as a database, a development plan, the staff roles on the organizational chart or a strategic plan. We are also focused on our Behaviors, like getting the board to get more involved in development, asking for a gift, hiring a new development professional, or publicly acknowledging donors in an annual report. If we readily obtained these items, many of us would be happy. So, why can’t we just achieve those goals? There seems to be something in the way.
The problem is, we aren’t paying attention to Hearts & Minds. When striving for fundraising success, it’s common for people to overlook this domain. This is where attitudes, beliefs and feelings lie. How something occurs for someone depends upon their perspective, feelings, etc. Sometimes we articulate these feelings, and sometimes they are simply in our minds. But whether silent or shouted, attitudes, beliefs and feelings deeply impact our behavior and ultimately, our success.
The challenge is that the Hearts & Minds aspect of culture is invisible unless you’re looking for it. It’s like we’re goldfish living in a dirty fishbowl; when we are in it, it’s our whole universe! We have no idea that it’s cloudy – it’s just the way it is.
If we intentionally look at the Hearts & Minds that exist within our organizations, we can begin to see how scarcity thinking might be thwarting our attempts to engineer a Culture of Philanthropy. Think about it: if there is a hidden (or expressed) belief that fundraising is a necessary evil, then we hire a Development Director to let us off that fundraising hook, we’ve essentially wasted good money. Imagine being that fundraising professional? The organization would likely not have the proper tools (a scarcity mindset would prevent the purchase of a proper relational database). There would be no administrative support, and the board and executive leaders would not include the development professional in conversations about programs (they should be out asking for money, they shouldn’t be in meetings with the other staff!)! I have seen this scenario played out in countless organizations. Then they are shocked when the development professional leaves their job out of total frustration.
This is not just my experience; this is the exact same information that came out from the CompassPoint/Haas study of 2700 executive directors and development directors across the US called UnderDeveloped. It stated development professionals are staying in their jobs an average of 18 months, board members are doing very little to support development, and often the development professional is not included at the leadership table. The study asserts that what is missing is a Culture of Philanthropy.
“Scarcity thinking and scarcity language are the constant force pushing up against your desired Culture of Philanthropy.”
—Eric Phelps, Rainmaker Consulting Principal
Evaluating the Hearts & Minds in your organization
Spend some time looking at the Hearts & Minds within your agency. In the previous blog Mindset is Your Superpower we described how a mindset of scarcity could dominate your organization. Both scarcity and abundance thinking are found in people’s attitudes, thoughts and opinions. And it’s a choice… if we are aware.
Keep in mind that this is a very sneaky domain, and it isn’t obvious from the inside. Think about the dirty fishbowl metaphor I mentioned previously. We get hints of a culture riddled with scarcity when someone says something, but often not directly. When we think about it, we just know what the agreed-upon way of thinking and doing things is, and we start to see how this could be a roadblock when you try to engineer a Culture of Philanthropy.
Make a list now of the Hearts & Minds that are prevalent in your organization as indicated through people’s words and actions:
- Is fund development perceived to be a necessary evil?
- Do people believe that there is a scarcity of resources?
- Is there a sense that asking people to volunteer would put them out?
- Is there a belief that we shouldn’t ask volunteers to give or it would put them out?
- Are there organizational values stated somewhere? Do people seem to embrace them?
- Is there trust of the leadership?
- Are donors or board members thought to be unapproachable or ‘above’ the program staff?
- Are the development staff perceived as below the program staff?
- Do staff people feel heard?
- Does the board feel empowered?
- Does the board embrace a role in fund development?
As you answer these questions, begin to look at where your agency might be blocked in its pursuit of fundraising success by mindset.
How do we make the necessary changes to engineer a Culture of Philanthropy?
If you discover that your agency is in fact blocked, you might want to start a conversation with a group of team members. Here are a few actions you can take to move you in the direction of engineering a Culture of Philanthropy.
- Talk to Rainmaker to do a Culture of Philanthropy Assessment. I recommend you do it with a team.
- Have a conversation to identify places where your culture is aligned with and misaligned with a Culture of Philanthropy.
- Take our upcoming Choose Abundance Academy with your leadership team!
- Do the following exercise!
Take a moment to reflect on the Structures, Behaviors and Hearts & Minds that are prevalent in your organization.
Structure—Structures run throughout every organization. Think of the various examples of Structures in yours:
- Is there an organizational flow chart showing the various staff positions?
- Are there silos?
- Are there weekly meetings?
- How about a Structure for clocking in?
- Are structural protocols for how to report to the state or federal government in place? Or structural mandates for foundations that have given your organization grants?
- Do you have particular Structures to assure safety of clients, members and employees?
- How about the Structures associated with development? Is there a database? Is it an important tool that tracks relationships, or does it manage financial transactions only?
- Who is a part of the leadership team? Is development included?
- Who talks to whom?
- Who reports to whom?
- Is there a mandate for staff to be “in their seats”? Are there rules for when people take breaks?
- Are there Structures that people do not often comply with? Ones they love or hate? Do people show up to meetings on time?
All of these Structures are indicators of the culture of your organization. Take a few minutes and list examples of Structures that exist in your agency. Do the structures support philanthropy?
Behavior—Similarly, there are Behaviors that reveal a lot about your organization. Take the time to write these down.
- Do people chat and have lunch together?
- Do some people intentionally stay outside of the main social network? Are some people just not welcome?
- Who gets hired and promoted and who doesn’t?
- Do leaders include staff in decision-making?
- To what extent do the board members know the staff?
- What gets rewarded and what does not?
- What is the approach to professional evolution and learning?
- Are there opportunities for board members to meet clients or have a firsthand experience of the work you do?
- Do people communicate directly with someone if they are upset about something, or do they talk behind people’s backs?
- Does the Executive Director work closely with development? Does the Executive Director meet with donors?
Again, these Behaviors indicate the culture of your organization. What does it say? Is this the culture that you desire?
Take a stand to take on a few different actions to engineer a Culture of Philanthropy. Be certain that they are SHMART Goals (they should be Specific, include Hearts & Minds, be Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timebound.)