Culture of Philanthropy: What Is It? & Why Is It Important?

Creating and sustaining a thriving philanthropic program is an aspiration of every development professional. But doing so is especially difficult in today’s fast-paced environment, where critical partners have fragmented days and diverse understandings of philanthropy.

Development leaders can dramatically impact how their organization approaches philanthropy and build a deeper philanthropic culture and tradition.

Meet with our donor engagement strategist to discuss how fostering culture of philanthropy can transform your fundraising program.

What is a Culture of Philanthropy

A culture of philanthropy is a subset of a hospital or organizational corporate culture. It refers to the hospital or organization’s attitude toward philanthropy and fundraising. An organization with a strong culture of philanthropy embraces a patient-centered and donor-centered environment where everyone understands that charity and fundraising are critical to the organization’s success.

Within this culture, everyone is an ambassador for the hospital’s service, for philanthropy, and for fundraising. All donors are treated with respect and honor, no matter the gift size.

Why is a Culture of Philanthropy Important?

Fundraising is the oxygen that lets the rest of the organization not only survive but thrive. It’s the glue that unifies your teams, your goals, and your aspirations into one holistic mission and it provides a solid base for your organization to launch from.

An organization steeped in philanthropic values and culture is a living force. It’s powerful, sustainable, and opens the door to new possibilities.

How Do You Build a Culture of Philanthropy?

Building a culture of philanthropy doesn’t happen overnight. It needs to be built from the ground up. Or, in organizational terms, from the leadership down. Creating a philanthropic culture is three-pronged: organizational culture, importance philanthropy, and the link between philanthropy and fund development. Organizations need a good understanding of these elements to succeed in building a philanthropic culture:

Organizations with strong philanthropic cultures are also keenly aware that their culture belongs to every individual, every department, and every volunteer. To excel at this, there are some things that every organization can do.

Mission, Vision, & Values

An organization’s ability to articulate its mission and vision in an aspirational manner is critical. The story must be told in a way that’s compelling, relevant, and in a manner that illustrates the urgency of accomplishing what the organization is setting out to do. Every organization has a story to tell, so tell your story—and shout it from the rooftops.

To achieve a philanthropic culture, your mission, vision, and values not only need to be clearly established and set out, but they need to be top of mind for all your stakeholders. Everyone at your organization needs to embrace this vision of who you are, where you’re going, and why you do what you do.

To ensure your mission, vision, and values are top of mind:

  • Put them on your website.
  • Design posters that are placed around the hospital.
  • Add them to your email signatures.
  • Begin team meetings with them.
  • Put them on your donor wall.


Organizations with the most sustainable philanthropic cultures know donors consistently give to compelling visions as they hold their own. Donors have the same aspirations for impacting the world as the organizations in which they invest. Because they feel deeply connected to the impact that these organizations are having, they see the organizations as a type of extension of their selves. And organizations with the deepest culture of philanthropy see their donors in this same manner.

When your entire organization lives by your mission, vision, and values, it will be the catalyst for connecting your organization to the community.

A Community with Integrated and Intentional Communication

An organization with a strong culture of philanthropy has a connected community—not individual silos or departments. Many organizations separate donors, foundation staff, physicians, board members, and volunteers, and communication flows to individual silos rather than between groups.

Philanthropy is one of the most effective accelerants to achieve a commonly held vision. When members from every stakeholder group can explain how and why they’ve committed their own resources and time to achieve this vision, others are attracted to join the mission.

To do this, all critical stakeholder groups must have the same information about the organization, and this happens through consistent communication. Organizations with deeply abiding philanthropic cultures tell their story throughout their organizations:

  • In buildings and across the campuses.
  • In marketing materials and social media.
  • On donor walls.
  • Across all communication channels.

Viewing Donors As Parnters

Organizations whose sole purpose is serving the community care deeply about meeting the needs of the people they serve, and many care equally about the needs and well-being of their employees. However, organizations with a thriving culture of philanthropy go beyond these two constituencies and care just as deeply about meeting the needs of their donors.

In these organizations, donors are viewed as much more than a resource for funding; they are irreplaceable partners in accomplishing the vision of the organization. Meeting the needs of these partners is balanced equally with meeting the needs of employees and all groups critical to the success of the organization.

These actions are powerful for ensuring donors are partners, and not just funders:

  • Embrace the mindset that donors are philanthropic investors seeking a partner with mutual aspirations to create the change they want to see in the world.
  • As a development professional, you can become your institution’s expert on your philanthropic partners.
  • Be a philanthropist yourself. Give to organizations that are meaningful to you and learn what you can do better by evaluating your giving experience.
  • Build and nurture relationships with partners that donors partner with (their professional and financial advisors).


In organizations where philanthropy thrives, donors are viewed as partners, not just funders of the organization.

Stakeholder Alignment and Engagement

When everyone in the organization is aligned around common aspirations, the organization can easily show how its philanthropic partners complement other institutional efforts and resources to accomplish the mutually held vision.

Nurses who interact with patients daily can provide insight into a patient’s interest to give, providing more focus to the foundation’s fundraising efforts. An environment that’s positive for the patient is certainly of exponential importance. But, having a trusted community where referrals can be made to the fundraising effort from anywhere can open the door to plenty of donation opportunities.

Physicians are healthcare’s frontline. Their work involves commitment and dedication to an organization’s mission and its patients. They truly understand how philanthropic investment can change lives and they can communicate this authentically. Training physicians on how to respond to a patient if they indicate a desire to give back is key to activating their involvement. Or helping them recognize the cues that should prompt them to reach out and ask. Patient-physician relationships are fundamental aspects of identifying grateful patients and recognizing their giving potential.

Clinical staff implementing a role for clinical liaison (such as a retired or former physician, clinician, or hospital administrator) within a foundation can help generate strong clinical staff engagement. In essence, building relationships within your staff is similar to how you would build relationships with prospective donors.

Employees can be empowered to be ambassadors of the organization and its philanthropic culture, further empowering fundraising. There are additional benefits as well. Engaged employees improve morale and productivity while enhancing retention, recruitment, and skill development. When employees are engaged and believe in what they’re doing, it’s more than a job. They care about the difference they’re making. And having employees that care is an enormous asset to any organization.

Development professionals can impact an organization’s culture and build a broader and deeper philanthropic tradition.

A place where philanthropy thrives is a place where all key stakeholders approach each day with a spirit of abundance, knowing there’s enough to not only meet their needs, but to share in meeting the needs of others.

Stakeholders should know exactly how their mission accomplishes this, and they have great confidence in talking to others about why they dedicate their lives and resources to this vision. When this happens, lives are saved and changed. Not just those the organization serves, but also those who provide the services and those who make philanthropic investments to achieve the vision.

Next Steps to Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

At BrookGlobal, we become your partner to help accomplish building a deeper philanthropic culture. Our methodology of creating engagement systems (Mission Centers, Donor Centers, Strategic Vision Centers, History to Vision Centers, and more) provides a process and tools for development professionals to more clearly articulate your organization’s vision. Then we work with you to build understanding and alignment around that vision so philanthropic investment can accelerate your organization’s success.

Talk to a donor recognition expert today and see how we can help you build a strong philanthropic culture at your organization.

For more information on creating a culture of philanthropy, check out the blog below:


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