The 5 Points of Possibility
This is part 1 of a 5-part blog. The 5 Points of Possibility are a key component of my model for building and sustaining a Culture of Philanthropy, and are a central theme in my book Choose Abundance. These points began to emerge after the first course I co-led for development professionals. At the end of the course, we had the participants share their key takeaways, which initially seemed random and disconnected. Over time, inspired by my students’ observations and the seminal white paper Beyond Fundraising by Linda Wood and funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, I concluded that the most impactful changes fall into five distinct buckets, consequently becoming what I now call the 5 Points of Possibility.
As you begin to plan for and rollout your Culture of Philanthropy, keep these five points in front of you to guide your way. These powerful points certainly belong on your bulletin board! (Go to the book hub at www.ChooseAbundanceBook.com to download your 5 Points of Possibility Poster!)
The 5 Points of Possibility
- Culture of Philanthropy Is Integral to Our Mission
- Everyone Shares Some Responsibility for a Culture of Philanthropy
- We Build and Maintain Deep Donor Relationships and Partnerships
- Community Engagement Is What We Do
- We Recognize Every Contribution of Service, Items or Money as an Expression of Philanthropy
Point of Possibility 1: Culture of Philanthropy Is Integral to Our Mission
This point is fundamentally grounded in the Hearts & Minds domain of the Wheel of Change. Although you could literally use the words “Culture of Philanthropy” within your mission strategy, it has much more to do with the values (the attitudes, beliefs and feelings) of your organization and its people than with strategy. In order for culture change of this magnitude to be successful, the leaders of the agency must recognize that everyone involved (program staff, development staff, board members, donors) has something to contribute. Equally important, the leaders must strive to get everyone on board. It is here that we must remind ourselves that above all, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as stated by Peter Drucker. As a result, if Hearts & Minds aren’t aligned, no strategy will fly.
What if a Culture of Philanthropy was an integral part of your organization’s mission?
What would it look like? Imagine if, as your organization embarked on a Strategic Planning process, building a Culture of Philanthropy was identified as one of your agency’s top priorities. You would then examine the values associated with your desired culture and set corresponding goals and practices to reinforce it.
Going forward, you would revisit your practices and goals, in order to see if they remain consistent with and are moving you toward your desired culture.
- Are organizational benchmarks consistent with a Culture of Philanthropy?
- Do programs in place to educate new staff and board members on your agency’s culture?
- Are there goals in place to build community partnerships and strengthen donor relations?
Remember, you don’t need to rush and do all these things at once. Just imagine what it would be like in its most functional and fully-embraced form.
Including a Culture of Philanthropy in your mission statement, or near the top of the list of your guiding principles, is a great idea. However, you must be clear about what this entails. What are the values consistent with this culture? What are the corresponding behaviors associated with these values? In addition, examine what is pushing up against it, especially in the domain of Hearts & Minds. A Culture of Philanthropy is the polar opposite of scarcity thinking.
Pitfalls to avoid in Point of Possibility 1:
- Failing to be introspective, first with the top leaders of the organization and continuing throughout the agency. It’s important to explore where you may have blind spots. Are you enhancing or obstructing your desired culture? It may be useful to get feedback from your peers.
- Neglecting to enroll people from every level of the organization. This is most successfully remedied by establishing a group to implement an organization-wide Culture of Philanthropy (see Chapter 9 of Choose Abundance). A second option is to integrate a Culture of Philanthropy into your strategic planning process (see Chapter 16 of Choose Abundance).
- Not having complete buy-in from the top leaders in creating a Culture of Philanthropy. Sadly, I’ve seen this mistake made over and over again. If you are not the top staff or board leader, be sure to have conversations to introduce the notion. Be intentional about enrolling your leaders to take on this aspirational, yet achievable, vision for your agency.