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The Culture of Philanthropy Divide

About a year ago, a mid-sized nonprofit organization asked Rescigno’s to come into their development office to determine if their staff was working to capacity and to make recommendations, if necessary.

We spent about 2 weeks with this midwest-based organization. Based on those findings, we’ve had some time to think about what the ideal development office of the future might look like.

Will it look any different 10-15 years from now? I sure hope it will!

What I hope happens is that there won’t be this big gaping “divide” that separates the back office from the front, or, in some offices, the upstairs from the downstairs. This is one of the reasons why organizations have a hard time developing what I call a very elusive culture of philanthropy. Most people don’t act as ambassadors or engage in relationship building because the mentality of “we’re all in this together” has not been fostered.

I’ve seen all too often that when this type of silo exists there is a mentality that takes over and it’s not a productive one.

Hopefully, in the development office of the future, professionals will work in pods or teams whose purpose is collaboration. For example, imagine a gift officer working with a researcher and a donor relations specialist all being fed data by an analyst and an alumni relations professional.

If those individuals can work as a collaborative team, they’ll be able to share in the success when a gift comes in or in the struggles to get it in (or not).

When it comes to salaries, what if that “team of collaborators” I refer to all had about the same salary and the same responsibilities when it came to the donor experience? And all this while being able to concentrate on their particular area of specialization.

Don’t you think that working collaboratively, as I’m suggesting, the team could be more efficient and productive in getting gifts? I do!

That’s right. I think doing away with silos would result in more attention being paid to the donor. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

How does an organization promote a donor-centric office environment?

What I’m talking about here, of course, is an office that promotes a culture of philanthropy where collaboration among staff and others (volunteers, the board) breeds success.

Major gift offices down the hall to the right? Annual giving downstairs in the basement? That’s not what I see in the future. Think about what could be achieved if a “one-for-all, all-for-one” philosophy were to take hold. How many barriers to communication would be broken down?

So I’d love your input on this. I’ve shared with you a little about what I think the development office of the future might look like. What’s your vision of the profession from a culture of philanthropy standpoint for the next 10-15 years?

Please share your thoughts with me.

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