Culture of Philanthropy

Written by Bridget Brown

We are familiar with the term culture of an organisation, but what about a culture of philanthropy? And why should your organisation build and develop this to help your fundraising outcomes?  

The culture of an organisation is simply defined as the way we do things in our organisation. While culture is unique to every organisation, there they are key components that most organisations have. Culture usually develops over time from shared beliefs.  

The Australian Human Resources Institute states organisational culture includes an organisation’s expectations, experiences, philosophy and values that hold it together and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world and future expectations.  

The culture of an organisation can be its greatest asset – it has the ability to boost the productivity and performance of the organisation and boost staff retention.  

Alongside this in non-profit organisations is the concept of a culture of philanthropy. 

Ignited Fundraising defines a culture of philanthropy as the actions and values that support and nurture fund development at a non-profit organisation.  

In her research into Culture of Philanthropy, Cynthia Gibson states, ‘It’s a culture in which fund development is a valued and mission-aligned component of everything the organisation does.’ 

Gibson goes on to say that a culture of philanthropy is one in which everyone (board, staff members and executive) has a part to play in raising resources for the organisation. By engaging everyone, they are part of the process and are more likely to want it to succeed.  

A key role for leaders in non-profit organisations is to support the effort to develop this kind of culture. Staff leaders need to believe in the merits of it and what it can do for the company. If there are influential people at the top of the organisation who can guide the development of this culture, it will happen faster and is more likely to garner support and engagement from other leaders and board members.  

A culture of philanthropy should be fundamental for any organisation serving a human purpose. By having an organisational wide understanding of philanthropy, interactions with key stakeholders will be continually underpinned by this culture and it would be expected to result in further donor engagement and consequently increased donations to the organisation.  

The last 18 months has been a time of change for many organisations as the world has faced the Covid 19 pandemic and the many challenges it has brought. In Australian, as we move towards an environment of living with Covid, now is a good time for organisations to make changes and see how they can develop their culture further and use it to retain their donors, engage with their natural constituency and consequently increase funds.  

It is also timely as the pandemic has seen many people resign from their jobs after having more time to think about their role and assess their options. Good quality fundraising and development staff are an invaluable asset to any non-profit organisation. By using the conversations around culture and investing time in this, organisations can use it as a tool to retain key staff.  

As Giving Architects Australia, Founding Partner, Nigel Harris comments, ‘We must strive to retain good people in these roles because without quality staff members, service provision and philanthropic engagement is difficult to accomplish.’  

‘We need to provide a culture they are proud of and can work within to achieve their results as part of a wider team’. 

Building and changing the culture of an organisation to encompass philanthropy takes time and energy from key people within the organisation. Dr Ruth Knight is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies, she is looking at the role of culture of philanthropy in non-profit organisations and how it can be leveraged to improve donor and employee engagement and the organisation’s sustainability.  

In our next Advancement Resources and Giving Architects free webinar, Nigel Harris will be joined by Dr Knight and Advancement Resources’ Kelley Marchbanks to discuss the why, what and how of a culture of philanthropy and how to embed culture in your organisation. To register for the webinar or for more information visit  


3-Part Webinar Series  

Understanding Trends and Trust 
Join Advancement Resources’ Mauria Brough, Ven Batista-Pedro, and Kelley Marchbanks and Giving Architects Australia’s Nigel Harris as they dive into the history and philosophy behind Advancement Resources’ 20 years of research in medical, academic, and nonprofit philanthropy.

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Our team at Giving Architects are happy to field your questions and consider answers that might be most suited to your needs and situation. Send us a quick message or give us a call. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you.
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