Grow Up

If you’ve ever been admonished to “grow up,” you know the sting of those words can linger.  One of the reasons these words stick with us like they do is because they demand much more than a simple change in our behavior.  Rather, they are meant to communicate a much deeper transformation – a maturation – that must occur in our thinking, attitudes and perspectives.  The words “grow up,” don’t suggest we are acting wrongly as much as they suggest we are thinking wrongly.  And changing our thinking, attitudes, and perspectives is almost never a quick and easy adjustment.  Most would agree though, that becoming more mature is almost always worth it.

Similarly, whole institutions can find themselves needing to “grow up” as it relates to philanthropy.  And just like with individuals, the concept of “growing up” for institutions is not so much about implementing a particular set of new development activities, programs, events, or initiatives.  It’s not about doing things differently as much as it is about conceptualizing philanthropy differently.  Here are 3 points of evidence that could suggest your institution has some maturing to do when it comes to philanthropy:

  1. Phrases such as, “squeezing donors,” or “hitting them up,” or “twisting their arms” are peppered throughout the language of institutional leaders when discussing the development process;
  2. Giving is not discussed transparently, easily, or consistently at governing board meetings, board members are not involved in the solicitation of other board members, and the board does not have specific giving goals;
  3. You either haven’t operated an annual family (employee) campaign consistently or when you attempt it, you are met with serious resistance.

If you find that your institution struggles with one or more of these behaviors, you most likely have important work to do educating and transforming the minds and hearts of those closest to you.  And this work matters.  Because donors can sense when an institution is philanthropically immature.  And their response is usually less than generous.

Don’t be surprised if the institutional process to become more philanthropically mature is lengthy and challenging.  We all know, growing up isn’t always easy.


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