Culture: It’s complicated.
“Culture” is ubiquitous, although that does not mean it is easy to define. Instead, “culture” presents a challenge when we try to change it without buy-in from essential stakeholders. Understanding that every organisation has a particular culture, whether or not stakeholders acknowledge it, is crucial in formulating a fundraising strategy. Before building or changing a “culture of philanthropy,” it may be helpful to refer to a few underlying assumptions about culture:
- All organisations have it
- It is a powerful source of communication inside and outside of the organisation
- It can be detrimental if not aligned with the well-being of the institution
- It can – and should – be measured.
Cultural Moves Management
Most of your organisation’s supporters are considered cultural “adopters” and tend to be the largest sub-group of supporters. They are passionate, reliable, and motivated by external and internal factors. A smaller group of your supporters are cultural “leaders,” who serve as visionaries and should be enlisted as cultural ambassadors. To continue their work in advocating the culture, cultural leaders in the organisation should receive ongoing stewardship for their support. Adopters, alternatively, can be transitioned into cultural leaders through ongoing investment and incentives.
Detractors of your organisation’s culture are most often “fence-sitters” – they tend to be passive, undecided, and sceptical. Fence-sitters are waiting to see what’s going to happen, so you want to avoid rewarding this behaviour. Instead, show them the benefits of joining and adopting the culture.
A smaller group are “naysayers,” who are oppositional, misinformed, or combative. Because they may have legitimate complaints, naysayers should have an opportunity to share grievances. Sometimes naysayers can even become cultural proponents, but other times, leaders may confront staunch opposition to change. In this instance, they should redirect the naysayers’ energy and avoid letting them set the agenda.
Regardless of where your stakeholders fall in cultural moves management, it’s critical to give them each the time and support needed to legitimise their experience and foster a sense of buy-in for your organisation’s success.
The objective of cultural moves management is to encourage detractors to become supporters. Key lessons from CCS’s practical experience of cultural moves management include:
- Philanthropy must be rooted in the organisational culture to resonate with donors.
- Leadership sets the foundation for positive overall and philanthropic culture.
- Values must be communicated, early and often, to all stakeholders.
- Measuring desired outcomes, like participation or elevated giving, will strengthen perceptions of culture.
So, how strong is your culture?
One simple test is to ask your essential stakeholders what your mission statement is. If they cannot recall, then it might be time to revisit how your organisation communicates its strategic vision. When your stakeholders can recite your mission without hesitation, that is good indication that your organisation is well on its way towards developing a culture of philanthropy.