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4 Steps to Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

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What is a “culture of philanthropy?” What are the benefits?


Creating a culture of philanthropy can grow your organization’s mission and fundraising quicker. You’ll have a team of ambassadors working with you.


The work starts at the top with the Executive Director and the board. Leadership needs to be invested in and understand the value of this work. When done right, your staff, board and volunteers will feel empowered to be your best ambassadors. Everyone will know what your organization’s needs are and be able to speak about your work in a consistent manner.


It’s also important to engage your staff, board, and volunteers for input along the way. They may have ideas how they can support your organization’s move to a culture of philanthropy. It also helps with getting buy in when people are involved along the way.

Step #1 - Creating your Case for Support

There are two types of Case for Supports:

  • The external: often used when launching a capital campaign and the materials are well designed.

  • The internal: this becomes the foundation for your marketing materials, grant proposals, PR. It’s also a great tool for board members, other volunteers, and staff to refer to for consistent messaging.

The Case for Support is your organization’s story and should be compelling, concise, and urgent.

  • Who is your organization?

  • What is it you do? (What problem are you trying to solve? Include a brief description of your programs.)

  • Why your work matters NOW.

  • What is your organization's history? Include your successes, a client story and testimonials.

  • How people can support your work (financially and otherwise).

Your internal case for support doesn’t have to be professionally produced. It does need to inspire support for your organization. It’s important that your document speaks to both the heart and the mind.

Step #2 - Create your Annual Fundraising Plan

  • Trends and Goals: A good development plan looks at the previous two to three years of fundraising results to inform your current plan. Understanding the trends in each revenue stream is important as you begin working on your new plan. Be sure to spend time understanding the “why” behind the trends.

Perhaps, your monthly donors have been declining over the last couple of years. Dig in a little deeper to figure out the cause. Are you not reporting back to those donors the results of their support? Once you understand your trends you can set realistic goals (even stretch goals). Remember not to overwhelm your plan with too many goals.


  • Roles and Responsibilities: Everyone in your organization has an important role to play when creating a culture of philanthropy. For each of your revenue streams think about activities and/or campaigns that will get you to your goal. Identify who is responsible for each activity and set a timeline.


  • Calendar: Create a big picture calendar for everyone to refer to throughout the year. The responsible parties for each fundraising activity can create a more detailed calendar. The visual will help with accountability and accomplishing your goals.

  • Budget: Create a budget for each activity along with what you are projecting to raise. Make sure the return on your investment is going to be worth it. Remember that staff and volunteer time = money too.


Everyone won’t be expected to “ask” for money but, everyone can ask potential donors to take a tour of your program(s), volunteer at your next soup kitchen, etc.


You’ve got a fundraising plan that includes your team of ambassadors. Now you’re ready for step #3. Your stewardship plan. Don’t overlook this step!

Step #3 - Create Your Stewardship Plan

The stewardship plan goes hand in hand with your development plan. Without a roadmap to steward your supporters there’s a good chance your retention rates will suffer. According to AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s 2023 Q3 Donor Report, the retention rate for nonprofits fell 1.3% compared to 2022 Q3.


Your donors should get 6 to 7 communication touches from your organization annually. This can be done with phone calls, handwritten notes, newsletters, etc.

  • Segmentation: This is an important step. Segmenting can be done many ways (size of gift, demographics, first time donor, etc). I would recommend that donation levels be a part of your segmentation. This will help identify the level of stewardship for each segment of giving. Perhaps your major donors get a thank you call from the Executive Director and a thank you note from a board member. Maybe Fridays become “Phoning Fabulous Friends Friday” with staff calling all micro donors (gifts under $100) to say thank you!


  • Roles and Responsibilities: Like your fundraising plan you should identify who is responsible for doing what and when. Encourage your program staff to bring stories and testimonials to your all staff and board meetings. Those can inspire your ambassadors and become part of their communications.


Schedule a pizza afternoon where staff, volunteers and board members are invited to eat and write personal notes on appeal and thank you letters. Make it fun!


  • Reporting: Every nonprofit should be reporting back to donors how their gift was used. This can be done over coffee, through your newsletter, annual report or an open house…get creative but report back! Your supporters want to know how they are making a difference and deserve to know.

Banner with "Nonprofit Empowerment" on it.

Step #4 - The Orientation

4 Steps to a culture of philanthropy

You’ve done all this thoughtful and intentional work laying the foundation for your Culture of Philanthropy. Now’s the time to bring everyone together for a short training and cover the case for support, fundraising and stewardship plans and answer questions.


Be sure to keep your team of ambassadors aware of your wins and where goals are falling short throughout the year. Everyone is in this together.


Important Note: Stay flexible. Expect the unexpected. Things happen throughout the year – staff leave, board members become disengaged, and grant deadlines are missed to name a few. Take a moment to catch your breath, regroup, and start where you can. You got this!


If Dandelion Consulting can support you in your fundraising efforts then let’s talk.


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