By instilling a culture of philanthropy with your board members, you’re ensuring that everyone on your team is living up to the same standards.  

Cultivating this giving spirit will also make your board members more effective at inspiring others to give to your organization.

First, Define a Culture of Philanthropy

Narrow down what you want a culture of philanthropy to mean for your organization, get specific, and then proceed to enforce this culture among your staff and board members.

A culture of philanthropy should encourage the following:

  • Everyone working towards the same mission
  • Framing in the sense of donors and donor retention
  • Shared commitment to purpose
  • Interrelated parts:  inside-out and top-down

Focusing on Board Involvement

Instilling a culture of philanthropy with your board members:

1. Act as the Face of Your Organization

To be effective, board members need to see themselves as the face of your organization and act accordingly.  To lead them in this direction, you can provide them with a set of guidelines.

Tell your board members to:

  • Serve as philanthropic ambassadors within the organization and in the community
  • Embody/ reflect the values or purpose of the organization (i.e., If you represent a vegan organization, don’t attend a chicken wing fest!)
  • Be present within the organization — Don’t just show up to the meetings; be an active participant!

2. Encourage Annual Contributions

Everyone involved in your organization should be making at least one monetary contribution each year to the best of their ability, including your board members.  Showing support and faith in the nonprofit they represent will foster more trust from current and potential supporters.

In order to encourage annual contributions from your board members, you should convey the following points:

  • This should be the organization with which you provide more financial support than any other
  • Being the face of the organization, it is important to show your support not just through your presence and time, but with your financial contributions as well
  • When there are special campaigns, you should give an additional gift
  • If your organization has a specific need in mind, make sure to contribute beyond your annual contributions to meet that need

3. Cultivate Relationships with Supporters

Serving as the face of your organization, board members should also be involved in speaking with and reaching out to your supporters:

  • Cultivating relationships to bring people to the organization in the form of donors, board members, volunteers, businesses, and others
  • Utilize your personal network for more than marketing purposes, this could be a tool for engaging new donors, recruiting volunteers, etc.

4. Participate in Fundraising Tasks 

Board members should also be actively participating in fundraising tasks at least once per year:

  • Participate in a fundraising event committee
  • Invite your own personal network to participate in the fundraising
  • Sign up to be a peer-to-peer fundraiser 
  • Identify prospective donors within one’s personal network – as the face of the organization, a board member should be attempting to obtain support at all times
  • Participate as a p2p fundraiser to help bring in new donors


Getting your board members on board with adopting this culture of philanthropy requires a deep level of commitment on their part.

Keep in mind that any resistance to this could point to an issue with having the wrong board to begin with – more so than the demands being unrealistically high.

Learn more on this topic from the following articles:

Starting a Nonprofit Board from Scratch

Improving Nonprofit Board Involvement

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