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Cultivating a Culture of Philanthropy: New Approaches to New Realities

Cultivating a Culture of Philanthropy: New Approaches to New Realities

It's hard to imagine any college or university where top administrators and board members aren’t hoping against hope for a broader or more enduring culture of philanthropy. After all, who wouldn’t want a deep and ready reserve of more-generous and loyal donors, especially in these times when other sources of support are so constrained? The means and methods by which most institutions pursue that goal, however, are based on a flawed assumption—that fundraising in itself engenders philanthropy. It doesn’t.

Fundraising harvests philanthropic goodwill; it doesn’t produce it. In fact, in some cases, certain fundraising tactics are even depleting what traditionally has been higher education’s greatest philanthropic reserve: the loyal alumnus.

This month's cover article of Trusteeship highlights the importance of a culture of philanthropy, with key takeaways such as:

  • A board today must ask not only how much money has been raised for its institution but also, “What is the state of our culture of philanthropy, and how might we better create the institutional conditions to make it stronger?”
  • Such a culture cannot be built without attracting and retaining, over two or more decades, a significant number of loyal alumni donors.
  • Three powerful forces are at work in the minds of such donors: 1) appreciation (the value of the education received greatly exceeded the price of tuition), 2) affiliation (the opportunity to remain actively engaged after graduation), and 3) agency (the belief that the donor is helping to create a better world).
What does your institution do to create a culture of philanthropy?
Seeking more information about trustees and fundraising? Consider The Board's Role in Fundraising.
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