A culture of philanthropy

At this time of year, everyone seems to be a philanthropist.  Philanthropy is about passion, caring, love for humankind, and the spirit of giving, among other things.  Christmas – which I celebrate – is about all of those things, too.  It’s in this season that we’re reminded of the innate good will and giving nature of our fellow human beings.  So – if this is human nature, why can fundraising be such an uphill battle so much of the time???

In our line of work, we talk a lot about a culture of philanthropy.  More often than not, there is a need in an organization to create that culture.  For example, you work for an organization, and the mission is supported by all the staff and so many volunteers and friends in the public, but the instinct to donate money just isn’t there.  Perhaps they don’t know the organization’s case for support, perhaps they’ve never been asked… whatever the reason, sometimes philanthropy is engrained in the culture of the organization, but it’s usually not.

Can you create a culture of philanthropy?  If so, how?  I’m fortunate enough to work at a school where philanthropy is very engrained in the student, alumni, and parent experiences.  The school is about 18 months away from its 150th anniversary, and it receives zero government funding.  All funds are provided by tuition and fundraising dollars, so there’s no subsidy to fill that gap.  With such a long history of philanthropy, and buildings named after the school’s great benefactors, and plaques in buildings acknowledging generous donations, the culture of philanthropy is really evident.  I’m not saying everyone is “drinking the Kool Aid”, but it’s not as difficult to fundraise as I know it is in other organizations.

But I know there are ways to create the culture.  One of my favourite ideas is “Tag Day”, which is implemented by a number of schools I know of.  I wrote about this idea in April 2012 in a post called “Do your prospects know where their dollar will go???”, which referred specifically to my alma mater Wilfrid Laurier University’s Tag Day initiative.  The idea is to “tag” (with an actual tag) buildings, statues, classrooms, etc. on the university’s campus to bring awareness to what wouldn’t exist at the school without philanthropy.  Creating awareness certainly helps create a culture of philanthropy.

I’ve also heard of “Tuition Free Day”, which is a somewhat confusing name for it, but the idea is to highlight to students when their tuition dollars stop covering their student experience and when government funding and fundraising dollars kick in… it happens a lot earlier in the year than you might think.  Again, it’s about creating awareness.  When people understand the WHY, they’re more likely to make contributions themselves.

Those are just two, educational-centric ideas, but I know there are more.  What are your favourite ideas that contribute to creating a culture of philanthropy???


And that, my friends, is my final post of 2013.  It’s been another excellent calendar year for What Gives Philanthropy, and I look forward to more excellent posts and guest bloggers in 2014.

Thanks for reading!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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2 thoughts on “A culture of philanthropy

  1. Our family believes that creating a culture of philanthropy within our own children is our responsibility as parents.

    This Christmas we will take our teenaged kids to the grocery store and have them pick out their favourite non-perishable food items and we will donate our entire grocery purchase to the local food bank.

    We’re hoping to help foster a mindset within our kids which thinks about the needs of others. Perhaps they, in turn, will help to create culture of philanthropy within their own social circles and continue the cycle of giving.

  2. Pingback: Mid-Level Gifts | What Gives???

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