Creating a Culture of Philanthropy Across the Institution

Institutions often struggle when it comes to advancement. But it is to be expected because it’s not their core business. Their core business is to educate students, conduct ground-breaking research, and contribute to the academic community. The same is true for healthcare organizations who may also struggle when it comes to advancement because their focus is on treating patients, discovering clinical breakthroughs, and researching. 


Both organizational types, advancement and philanthropy become a thing on the side. But to be successful, they need to adopt a culture of philanthropy in all these settings. For example, grateful patients give back and enable you to treat more patients. The same applies to educational institutions: alums donate and help you further your mission. 


A culture of philanthropy is unity among all stakeholders and very powerful if an institution can take deliberate action. 


Here’s how to create a culture of philanthropy across the institution. 

Step 1: Get Executive Leadership Buy-In

Before your institution can fully adopt a culture of philanthropy, you must garner executive leadership buy-in because they are the face of the institution. Executive leaders can nurture the understanding of philanthropy—why it’s essential to the institution—and garner support, providing a unified approach from the top down. 


Additionally, they have an outward-facing public role that can help further the culture of philanthropy. They can identify and communicate the institution’s vision and needs to external sources like high-end donor engagements and solicitations. But their attention and involvement foster an organic culture of philanthropy simply by communicating and illustrating their buy-in.

Step 2: Empower Faculty Members as Fundraising Advocates 

Faculty interact with many stakeholders and are known to make or break the donor experience. In fact, there are plenty of stories where faculty do not support a culture of philanthropy and, in doing so, have incumbered their entire network of people.


Faculty members can be powerful tools when it comes to creating a culture of philanthropy. Empower them as fundraising advocates by including them in donor-supported efforts and engaging donors in awareness of their role and why it matters. Then, tie that directly into how it supports your culture of philanthropy. 

Step 3: Recognize Philanthropic Partnerships 

Donors like knowing that their gift is appreciated. Frequently showing recognition makes them feel valued as significant contributors to your organization. It also affirms their decision to give because they could have given to any cause or not given at all. 


Use your existing collateral to recognize philanthropic partnerships and promote a culture of philanthropy. Department newsletters effectively communicate externally, but don’t neglect your internal communication. Develop marketing collateral to be sent internally; spotlight wins and focus on highlighting collective or collaborative philanthropic efforts.  

Step 4: Remain a United Front

No matter what area the constituents interact with, they should receive the same “feeling.” This feeling is delivered when everyone across your institution remains united regarding your culture of philanthropy. Break down silos between departments—removing the us vs. them mentally—and share unique objectives to enhance unity.


Remember, it’s not the advancement strategic plan; it is the strategic plan, and instilling a culture of philanthropy requires everyone’s participation.