Enhancing Your Culture of Philanthropy Amidst a Dynamic Health Care Landscape

Susan Holt, President

Susan Holt, President

Hospitals are increasingly examining their culture of philanthropy. Considering the recent great recession, the changes brought about by health care reform, and now sequester, it is no wonder that many health care organizations are focusing on building their philanthropic culture. An institution’s culture of philanthropy is a strong indicator of not only current success, but of its future position in giving.

An organization’s culture of philanthropy encompasses behaviors and attitudes well beyond the attainment of annual fundraising goals. Simply focusing on the fundraising goal without a commitment to core philanthropic values may result in the achievement of annual revenue, but will not steer the organization through the storms of economic and institutional change. A robust culture of philanthropy values the role philanthropy plays in the organization’s core mission and promotes philanthropic investors who are involved participants in the organization rather than bystanders whose donations are merely transactions.

Elements essential to a philanthropic culture:

Institutional Leadership

  • Prioritizes and communicates the role and importance of philanthropy
  • Engages faculty and staff in discussions about including interactions with development, alumni and donors in their annual plans
  • Sets aside a percentage of time dedicated to new relationship building and calls
  • Having advancement staff tending to their top assigned prospects

Board and Volunteer Leadership

  • Set expectations for Board and other volunteers in “giving and getting”
  • Engages with the advancement staff in building new relationships for organization
  • Identifies and cultivating prospects and aiding in securing their gifts
  • Serve as general ambassadors

Advancement Staff

  • Acquires a passion for the organization’s mission and stories
  • Becomes and remains current on all the organization’s programs, needs and philanthropic priorities
  • Adheres to the principals of industry best practices in prospect management
  • Thinks every day about its list of top prospects and/or projects and how to advance their philanthropic and donor-centric interests
  • Maintains excellent records and data
  • Engages with faculty, volunteers and students

Staff, Physicians and Faculty

  • Becomes familiar with the organization’s overall needs and philanthropic priorities (in addition to their own department’s)
  • Becomes familiar and engaging with at least one member of the advancement office
  • Participates in advancement functions and planning as requested
  • Is aware of departmental needs and donors’ interests and how to connect a prospective donor or friend with the advancement office
  • Participates in philanthropic strategic planning as needed


  • Appropriately acknowledges donors and the organization’s philanthropic heritage
  • Is aware of how philanthropic stories can appropriately be interwoven into the organization’s messages, reports and stories
  • Explores and implements ways philanthropy can be made visible to students, faculty and visitors