Category Archives: philanthropy


Keep the Social Media Conversation Going

In the Date your Donors series, Network for Good’s Caryn Stein shares 5 tips on engaging non-profit constituents through social media. In short, treat your constituents like real people: listen, share, and build a genuine and inclusive relationship with them over time.

  1. Don’t be boring.
  2. Don’t come on too strong.
  3. Be a good listener.
  4. It’s not all about you.
  5. Be yourself.

Abundance and Webs of Influence

Did you miss Alisa Valdes‘ article on fundraising and culture? Read it before you read on.

Professional fundraising is one of those fields in which people’s latent beliefs about money and resources surface very, very quickly, either in support of an initiative or in ways that leave it isolated. There’s just no way to deal with funds, budgets, needs, and asks without revealing whether you yourself live in a limited world or an abundant universe.

Learning about Abundance

When a social justice non-profit invited me to step in as development director a few years ago, one of the first things I did was talk to Leanne Carlson who runs a year-round philanthropy institute for professional fundraisers. Most of Leanne’s regular participants work full-time in the medical system and foundation sectors, so why’d I pick her? I’m not a medic; nor do I work with an institutional foundation. But Leanne does fantastic work nurturing awareness of generosity in others, the philanthropy institute’s tagline is The Abundant Future, and a premise of abundance and supportive possibility is what I wanted to guide my work with and through my non-profit.

There is no true scarcity—only disconnection of resources. We live in a sea of possible partners and allies. Yet we often engage and capture the imagination of only a tiny portion. Many of those who could bring resources, intelligence, and energy are right around us. But we must learn to engage these allies in new ways. — Leanne Carlson

Across issues and specialties, social justice non-profits often suffer from a lens of lack: “We can’t do that because we don’t have the budget… If people gave more, we could do so much more.” The problem with that kind of negativity is that over time it seeps into leadership letters, undermining relationships with donors (really: you don’t like guilt trips, so why would your prospective donors?), and hindering how creatively organizational staff leverage the resources and relationships they already have to hand.

Where Messaging Comes From

We run our default messages about how the world works because of our earliest training and experiences. Our families of origin, our ethnic groups and religious subcultures, our nation’s storylines, our educational environment—all of these shape our working model of the world and what’s possible for “people like us” in it. Many people go life-long without challenging their or their family’s working model, but fortunately just as many people do question the assumptions they hold as adults. There are alternatives to a default of scarcity!

If, like Alisa and me, you’re rewriting some old scripts around resources and possibilities, consider seeking out an institute of abundance-oriented peers to support you. You don’t have to join a formal program, though I’ve found that beneficial myself. You might also link up with a more informal peer circle like the one I’ll be launching this March. The style isn’t that important: what matters most is the group’s foundational premises and how deeply members are committed to the logic of abundance and the open and supportive connections that flow from it.

Bottom Line: Create Well

You run the messages you run now because of the web of influences that taught them to you early on. While you can’t scrub your mind of what your earliest networks taught you, you can participate in alternative webs of influence, adopt different premises for the opportunities you take, and reroute your everyday orientation to the world you live in.

The field is wide open. Create well!

In the Absence of a Culture of Philanthropy

CompassPoint, a non-profit management consultancy, recently released a report on non-profit development and fundraising. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on some key findings about professional fundraisers this week.

Under Developed: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising

What determines whether an organization has a culture that supports fundraising success? Experts point to a range of factors. For example, are fund development and philanthropy widely understood and valued in the organization? Are its fundraising efforts “donor-centric” and focused on building deep relationships over time, not just asking for money when it’s needed? — CompassPoint

Half of Fundraisers in the Top Job Would Like to Quit (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

The Chronicle article is a fairly depressing account in which non-profit executives and development directors assign each other blame for the dysfunctional status quo. In the absence of a “culture of philanthropy,” neither development officers nor non-profit executives can operate at full capacity.

Fundraising Counsel from Network for Good

Are you on Network for Good’s mailing list? All the product placement aside, subscribing is worth it for content like their white paper on ten fundraising areas to master this year.

10 Fundraising Mantras for 2013 includes some smart recommendations about testing the most effective ways to approach prospective donors, stepping into donors’ shoes when crafting communications, and nurturing relationships with a long-term view rather than for the length of your current campaign.

You’ll probably already be working on some of the Network’s suggestions, but if you need a little cross-functional boost to get them done, use an external white paper like this to share ideas and build credibility with peers in other sectors of your organization.

It is through the practice of good stewardship that we as humans express love for the world. — William Enright and Timothy Seiler

Stewardship is the responsible management of others’ resources for the common good. It’s more than rote organizational functions and it’s certainly not about shoring up the institution with planned gifts.

Stewardship is about establishing and sustaining a trust between an institutional steward and the stakeholders who share their resources because they care about a given mission and impact on the world, and want that mission and impact executed well.

As Enright and Seiler argue, it involves accountability, prudence, and discernment. Without these three virtues, a group can easily lose sight of its core purpose, the values that drive it to act in the world, and the basis for the trust it seeks from stakeholders.