Every summer, I head to Winona, Minnesota to teach in the Masters Program in Philanthropy and Development. This is one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. Intense. Focused. Full of cage-rattling questions and deep conversation and soul searching.
And every year, my student colleagues say such interesting things. Raise such important questions. Wrestle and challenge.
Consider this from Beth, Cohort 21: “I now had to stare down the ugly beast of reality. As an organization we cared more about ourselves than those who supported us and we were not very coy about it either. Our messaging made it clear, our attitudes reinforced it, and worst of all our leadership practices it from the top down. Based on our class dialogue I was painfully aware of so many of our organizational shortcomings but this one was akin to a mortal sin in the development world.”
Thanks Beth, for reminding us that – too often – we are all like this. Our organizations, our fund development operations – everything we do – is not sufficiently customer-centered. Customer-centered includes focusing on our clients and focusing on our donors. Yes, we can be mission-centered and client-centered and donor-centered. We can and we must.
Consider these thoughts from Ryan, also in Cohort 21: “Today in class we discussed what philanthropy and a culture of philanthropy looks like…
“What came to mind when I heard the word philanthropist? An extremely rich business man with enough money to create a full-time job out of managing his donations – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
“That’s pretty sad that I applied and wanted to get a masters degree in something that made me think of old, white men with too much money to handle.
“This lesson today helped me understand what philanthropy truly means – giving. A philanthropist is anyone who gives time and/or money, regardless of the amount.”
Thank you, Ryan, for reminding us all of that essential truth: Philanthropy is not reserved for the rich. Good fundaisers don’t focus on the rich. Philanthropy (and its partner fund development) is about more than money.
Read Robin Hood Was Right by Chuck Collins and Pam Rogers, an important and beautiful book. Read “Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma,” the final chapter of my book Keep Your Donors – and posted as a monograph on this homepage.