The word culture is tossed around pretty easily these days: culture of philanthropy currently is in vogue (without a requirement of understanding or a definition). A short explanation is that culture is the way we all believe and behave within that organization. The challenge can be to see ourselves and our culture as it appears to newcomers, visitors and potential supporters, and is not necessarily what we think it is.
I worked with a group that was basically the only organization out there for an obscure, but difficult medical condition. The group characterized itself as open and welcoming to the newly diagnosed, the caregivers and families who shared this issue. In reality, the group was not all that nice to new people; did not show the open arms and hearts that they thought they did.
Not Really That Nice
In fact, the group was inclusive, impatient with ‘new’ questions or ones that had been asked so many times before, and did not foster a local, on-the-ground outreach, even if on the ground only meant a phone call or other means of personal communication. Everyone wanted someone else to do it: to find the right volunteer, create the correct boundaries for physician recommendations, gossip, personal and medial details, to save notes, follow up, then inquire about membership to the Foundation. And for sure, no one was to ask for funds, it SHOULD be free, right?
And they wondered why membership, donation and awareness targets weren’t’ being met.
Play Undercover Boss
Be a stranger, be a newcomer: Go to a different phone, come in with a new email address and find out what is it like to be new to your organization. How is the phone answered, how long does it take to get an email reply to a basic inquiry. Are people excited to hear from you, or are you interrupting something else? Do you feel a sense of interest and compassion in the language and wording they use, that they get it, and you?
It can be surprising to find out how your culture appears and how it can either help or hinder achieving your goals. Step outside, and take a fresh look. What is right and wrong, good and bad will show; and show you what needs attention.
Want to get to the bottom of your culture, get in touch by email here or by voice on 310 828 6979.
Cindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting
As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.
Image Credit: fungal cultures by David Midgley on Flickr.
Posted while listening to:Don’t listen to this – Instrumental Music to Create Flow – music2work2