Muir Woods California pathway fork

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 2


Muir Woods California pathway fork

Get on the Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy, Not Forgettable Fundraising

In Part 1 I laid out why philanthropy inspires, and fundraising tires.

Fundraising must be done, of course, but there’s something about how it’s too often practiced that turns too many people off.

It’s the “fund” part of the word. This makes people think it’s all about money, when really it’s all about valued outcomes.

These valued outcomes are shared by many who care about the cause.

  • Donors and non-donors.
  • Employees and volunteers.
  • Users and providers of services.
  • Development departments and program departments.

All these folks have a collective stake in the love and mission-focused organization’s survival.

Because all of them are dedicated to making the world, or some small corner of it, a better place.

How Philanthropic Stakeholders Get Disenfranchised

When fundraising is delegated to the development committee, or the development director, it disenfranchises a huge segment of folks who care about sustaining the cause — both internally and externally.

Similarly, when donors are competed over, donors are disenfranchised. This may take the form of non-cooperation or even outright war between those who should be facilitating philanthropy.


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:


4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Attention-Sucking Nonprofit Jungle

Photo of 4 keys

Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world? A world that’s really a jungle, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, socially conscious businesses, political campaigns, friends, and family?

Your mantra can no longer simply be about “creating awareness.”

Alas, attention is increasingly ephemeral.

The new nonprofit currency is not creating attention. It’s building loyalty.

You simply can’t afford to keep losing 8 out of 10 new donors. Which means it’s time to reframe how you do fundraising. It can’t be primarily about going after money. It has to be about giving, and receiving, love. If you do it the right way, money will follow as a natural outgrowth. [I’m going to talk about this more in an article focusing on “connection” next week.]

Today, I want to explore 4 keys to raising money in our revolutionized technological zeitgeist.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Bad News/Good News:

The fundraising environment is altered. Mostly due to technology.

Lots and lots of technology.

AI fuels both predictive models and automation. Software enables multiple, simultaneous email campaigns. New tools allow easy sharing and engagement on social media. High quality photography and video can be made with the ease of a smart phone. Multiple new places regularly emerge to find and connect with potential constituents.  And on and on and on… If you feel you’re being hit almost daily with a firehose of new technologies, you’re not alone.

Technology has made it possible to do things never before imaginable.

But… possible and probable are not the same thing.

cat in tree

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Useful Life Advice for Nonprofit Fundraisers

Some years ago I happened on an article in the New York Times where the author, David Pogue, asked readers for their very best ‘life advice.’  There was so much great stuff in there!  If you happen to have a NYT subscription, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading the full article. For those who don’t (and really for everyone), I decided to share some of my favorite pieces of wisdom with you.  Particularly those that apply to your nonprofit work. And, especially, those that apply to your work/life balance.

Let’s begin!

1. Worrying about a cat stuck in a tree?

cat in treeNot every problem needs to be addressed immediately. Some will work themselves out.

You’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, have you?” When Alexandra Aulisi’s cat couldn’t get down from a tree, her grandmother reassured her with those words, predicting (correctly) that the cat would come down on his own. “This advice made me realize that, sometimes, you need to shift your perception of a problem to see a solution,” Ms. Aulisi noted.

David Pogue, NYT

While it’s tempting to drop everything (e.g., whenever a new email appears in your inbox, especially if it’s someone asking for help), it’s important to assess if this situation actually requires a rapid response. If not, you have options.


1. Lil’ Bo Peep: “Leave it alone and it will come home.”

Ever been on vacation and noticed a flurry of emails, back and forth, forth and back, from members on your team?  Often, by the time you’ve returned, the ‘problem’ – as urgent as it may have seemed at the time based on all the email hyperbole – seems to have evaporated. I’m not suggesting you ignore legitimate, pressing problems; just use common sense and exercise judicious restraint.

2. Could someone else handle this?

I’ll never forget some excellent advice I received (actually from one of the donors I worked with during the years I was a young parent).  While I was stressing about potty training, she told me: “Have you ever seen anyone at college who still wears diapers?  If you don’t potty train your son now, never fear.  His college girlfriend will!”  It was silly, yet made a whole lot of sense. I didn’t need to oversee and micro-manage every little thing. Sometimes things happen on their own time frame. This was a reminder that patience can be a virtue.

2. Having trouble getting started?