5 Ways To Leave A Philanthropic Legacy

Development leaders talk with donors each day about “leaving a legacy.”  Typically, this legacy talk involves a major or planned gift.  It may involve naming a building or establishing an endowment.  We position the gift as transformational for a program, a service, or our entire institution.

Our “leaving a legacy” pitch can be very compelling.

So, here’s a question:

What type of legacy are you leaving with your efforts?

In consulting with higher education, healthcare, and other non-profit clients, I have come to understand the following 5 characteristics as being key to high performing development programs:

  1. Trust and confidence is high among team members;
  2. Cross-team communications are informal, frequent, and a sense of teamwork is deep-rooted within team members;
  3. Standing meetings are engaging, viewed as productive, and held as infrequently as possible;
  4. A can-do spirit and an ardent focus on serving donors is continuous;
  5. Regular planning and reflection time as well as processes for encouraging, vetting, and accepting new ideas are built in.

You will notice that none of these 5 characteristics speak specifically to knowledge of major or planned giving strategies.  Nor are there specifics about the annual fund or the use of social media.

When I advise clients about establishing performance metrics for development staff I offer a set of guidelines.  The first is that only 20% of a development officer’s evaluation should be based on the amount of gift commitments she was able to raise.

The other 80%?  It’s about building purposeful relationships, displaying strong financial stewardship, and enhancing teamwork.  There’s a lot more to successful development than simply raising money.

Regardless of your title or position, you have the opportunity today to make your development program, your development team, and, ultimately, your institution better, more effective, and even transformed.

It is easy for some to get lost in the trifling matters of the office.  But anyone can focus on the 5 characteristics above and enhance the important, the substantial, and the long-lasting characteristics that lead to development success.

So, what legacy are you leaving?


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