The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1


Get on the Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy, Not Forgettable Fundraising


Philanthropy is a mindset. An embracing culture. A noble value.

Fundraising is a means towards that end. Servant to philanthropy.

Philanthropy, not fundraising.

This has been the tagline for my business and blog since I began Clairification in 2011. It grew naturally out of my experiences working as a frontline development director for 30 years. I’ve always insisted that no single person could possibly receive credit for a donation.  “Donors don’t give because of development staff,” I’d tell program staff.  “They give because of the great work you do!

Sustainable fundraising takes a village.

In fact, in my practice I went so far as to develop a point system for major gifts moves management (you can learn about it here) that ascribed many more points for a donor meeting with a program director than one with a development staffer.  I wanted to show program staff how much they counted!

Everyone counts.

This is exactly the premise of the groudbreaking report commissioned in 2016 by the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, “Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy?.” It was one of three reports centering on confronting chronic fundraising challenges, and showcased the paramount importance of building an organization-wide philanthropy culture as a paradigm for the 21st century. When the report came out, here’s what I said:


Do you wish you had a dime for…

Jar of Coins

Awareness alone is passive.


Do you wish you had a dime for every time a nonprofit board or staff member told you “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”

Nonprofits tell me this all the time! If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  And I would, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • You discovered my values match yours,
  • You offered me opportunities to connect with your mission and supporters that involved something other than money,
  • You showed me you knew what most engaged my passions, and…
  • Then you gave me the opportunity to enact my passions by asking me for a gift!

You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.

Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.

Why should I?  There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to feel emotionally and then act on.

I’m busy.  I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.

You’ve got to do better than just hope I’ll stumble upon your website, see your social media post, hear about you on the news, or even open your direct email if you want me to really sit up, pay attention, and actively engage.

Especially if you want me to engage as a philanthropist.