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Get together with a giving culture – for GAgives and beyond

Since it was launched in 2012 by GCN and a cadre of partners, GAgives on #GivingTuesday has proven its power and momentum: from $782,000 raised in 2012 to $7.8 million in 2018! Clearly, Georgians have responded to the call, contributing their money, time, and voices to recognize nonprofits’ pivotal role in making our state a better place to live, work, and play.

The success of this homegrown generosity movement also reflects, quite clearly, the way that the spirit of giving brings people together – an opportunity that nonprofit CEOs and EDs should take note of not only for its potential to unite external supporters, but to foster connection within their nonprofits.

Far too often, we find departments, leadership, and boards at odds, developing an “us vs. them” mentality that stifles progress, infects culture with dissent and distrust, and holds everyone back from accomplishing their common goals: furthering the mission and raising the funds needed to support it. To build a “culture of philanthropy,” nonprofit leaders must not only develop a set of organizational values and practices that nurture fundraising, but also encourage teamwork across roles and functions.

Nonprofit leaders must not only develop a set of organizational values and practices that nurture fundraising, but also encourage teamwork across roles and functions.

In the 2017 Blackbaud Institute study Fundraising Matters: Building A Culture of Philanthropy, 52 percent of respondents said that their organizations do not fare well in creating an internal culture of giving. The report goes on to share the leadership strategies at several grassroots organizations that have spurred a culture of philanthropy, and become highly successful in raising funds from individuals (the largest source for charitable giving, accounting for 72 percent of total giving in 2017).

Here are a few of the strategies uncovered by the Blackbaud study, accompanied by our own suggestions for making immediate progress with each.

  • Influencing behaviors by modeling active engagement in fundraising: Encourage your board and staff to volunteer as a group for your own organization, or in support of another organization. This makes giving back a part of the culture, reinforces the value of making a difference, and builds camaraderie among coworkers. That’s especially true if you go out of your way to make it a great time: Try making t-shirts, arriving early with tasty snacks for everyone, and inviting family to join and cheer on the team. Take photos, then share them on Facebook and at the next board meeting to let the world know that “giving back” is part of the fabric of your organization.
  • Formalizing processes that reflect new expectations and norms: Alter job descriptions so that collaborating and meeting with the development team is a formal expectation. Define exactly what that means for each role.
  • Acknowledging and addressing people’s core feelings about fundraising: Plan a few informal “Development 101” lunch-and-learns for your board and staff. Leave ample time for questions and feedback as non-development team members begin to learn about the challenges and joys of asking people to contribute. Ease their angst over money and asking for it: Teach them that giving is way most people want to leave their imprint on the world, and help them to see the role that each of them plays in making fundraising a success for your organization.
  • Shifting attitudes and priorities through strategic – and regular – communications: Have the development team provide a weekly “Mission Moment” email with a quick update on what’s happening in their department. This could include an announcement about a newly funded grant, a photo from a happy hour fundraiser, or a note of thanks for a donor who just increased their monthly gift. Tying these wins to new programs or needs helps staff see their connection to fundraising, and how it makes their jobs easier.
  • Changing organizational structures: Assign a representative from the program and development teams to sit in on each other’s meetings so that each is kept abreast of what the other is doing. Consider creating a GAgives on #GivingTuesday committee, bringing together staff from multiple departments to brainstorm for your year-end campaign.

Want to drive sustainable fundraising success before and after GAgives on #GivingTuesday? Start by taking a look internally, and use the above strategies to grow a sense of ownership, collaboration, kindness, and giving among your staff all year long. Then watch as staff begin to volunteer, make their own financial donations, and share your good works with their friends and families along with a request to support the mission

When you get your team to rally around the idea of “giving,” and see fundraising as something worth celebrating, a winning GAgives on #GivingTuesday campaign is sure to follow.

Christal M. Cherry is a senior consultant at GCN’s Nonprofit Consulting Group.

Need more information on establishing a culture of philanthropy, or tips for a successful GAgives campaign? Reach out to the experts of GCN’s Nonprofit Consulting Group any time at [email protected] or 678-916-3082. Also, be sure to sign up for the June 27 webinar Create a Social Campaign That Drives GAgives Success.

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