The Importance of A Culture of Philanthropy

I'm just back from a quick trip to Boston for a meeting of coaches involved in a program to help Jewish day schools raise endowment.  We spent an evening and half day, discussing the program, parsing successes and not so successful. While we identified a number of issues that contributed to success the overriding indicator was a school where there was a culture of philanthropy upon which to build. As we talked I thought that this could be about any kind of fundraising program for any nonprofit. Fundraising success demands an organization with a culture of philanthropy--one of giving and receiving. Such a culture begins at the top.  Leadership--both of the staff and the board--must believe in the importance of development. Not just the results, but the activities that make up a successful development program. They must show their belief in a number of ways:

1.  Development must sit at the high table, alongside programs and administration. It can no longer be delegated to the kiddie table, off in some annex.

2.  There must be sufficient resources given to creating and sustaining of the department.

3.  The board must accept its role as ambassadors, cultivators, and givers

4.  They must be willing to open doors, introducing grinds, family, colleagues to the organization and the leadership of the organization to them

5.  Everyone involved in the organization must be a fundraiser--and the board must model this behavior for staff and other volunteers

Only when an organization values and embraces fundraising can it be successful and will it be able to sustainably raise sufficient funds to be effective in its mission

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping to build a culture of philanthropy and increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn how she can help your organization at or email her at