• Kerry Vandersypen, PF International

Developing a Philanthropic Orientation

Philanthropic orientation is a strategic orientation highly receptive to, and welcoming of, a variety of philanthropic sources of income. Importantly it is respectful of the nature of philanthropy and the role that all might play in developing it.


But why should it matter to you?


“An organisation’s strategic orientation is important because it shapes the strategy it will implement to create the behaviours necessary to sustain or enhance its overall performance.”

(Gatignon and Xuereb 1997; Slater et al. 2006).


For a non-profit organisation that performance is its ability to raise money to pursue the mission. That means fundraising.


Therefore, a philanthropic orientation is vital for Great Fundraising – the ability to achieve substantial income growth – to flourish.


The role of philanthropy

As a concept, philanthropy focuses on love for others or love for mankind. So, if that is what philanthropy is, what would it mean for an organisation to be oriented towards philanthropy and thus appreciate philanthropy as critical for its future survival and success?


Or, its ability to become a Great Fundraising organisation.


A qualitative study led by Professor Adrian Sargeant, identified three key factors associated with a philanthropic orientation that emerged from interviews with senior fundraising practitioners in Australia. These were found to be:


Donor orientation


Donor orientation was seen as a high-level focus on donor (or supporter) needs. Rather than regard donors as a “piggy-bank” they are regarded as individuals with a discrete set of needs that the organisation should respond to and nourish.


In a philanthropic culture, the organisation as a whole cares quite genuinely about the needs of its donors and the satisfaction of those needs is considered of equal importance to the satisfaction of the needs of the beneficiary.


“If you’re truly serious about growth it isn’t optional. Fundamentally you have to understand the needs of your supporters and build all that you do around delivering that. But more than just the fundraisers doing that – its everyone’s responsibility. Just takes a while for them to get it.”

Senior Fundraising Leader, Australia.


Embedding philanthropy at the heart of an organisation


For a philanthropic orientation to be adopted, the organisation has to consciously reflect on the nature of philanthropy and how the organisation as a whole will respond to and nurture it. The development of philanthropy cannot be something that is the sole responsibility of the fundraising team, everyone (including members of the Board or governing body) must see it as their responsibility. Everyone should be offered training in the basics and everyone should have fundraising (or at least supporting fundraising) in their job descriptions.


“Fundraising is routinely a part of induction for new members of staff. It isn’t that we expect everyone to ‘do’ the fundraising, it’s more that we want them to appreciate how it works and to be able to articulate and be proud of the case for support.”


It was interesting to note that many Australian leaders took such trouble to integrate fundraising into the organisation that they found themselves with more relationships or “bridges” between functions than other members of the organisational leadership team. This created in itself an opportunity to add value for peers because they could often forge connections that no-one else could. This was seen as important because it reinforced the non-monetary value that fundraising could offer and helped with further embedding it into the organisation as a whole.


Celebration of shared philanthropic successes


A further component of philanthropic orientation is the level of pride that the organisation develops in respect of its income generation and those who facilitate that to happen.


Many of those interviewed noted the pride that their organisation had in its service provision and the leaders and frontline service staff who were delivering their outcomes. What appeared to mark out a higher degree of philanthropic orientation was the extent to which the organisation was similarly proud of its ability to attract philanthropy and meet the needs of and steward relationships with, its supporters. Such pride arose out of a fundamental understanding that money and mission should be seen as one and the same thing.


Oriented for fundraising success


The overlap of these three factors and the requirements for Great Fundraising, as documented in the Great Fundraising Report, are abundantly clear.


Both call for a culture where the whole organisation is focused and energised behind fundraising – and ideally, its growth. And both recognise the importance of the donor and meeting their needs as paramount to achieving this.


Therefore, developing a philanthropic orientation is clearly one where Great Fundraising can thrive – and that in itself would be reason to celebrate.

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