As development professionals, our work is focused on encouraging generosity in others. We rarely pause to assess (at least publicly) our institution’s level of generosity. I think we miss an important point when we go about our business in this way.
Think about this: We tell our faculty/staff/doctors/etc. that the “family campaign” is important because we need to be able to tell other, outside donors that those who know us best support us fully. We argue that the giving behavior of our faculty/staff/doctors will serve as a model of sorts for other donors.
However, we rarely think about our institution’s generosity toward our constituencies as a model to encourage their engagement with us. We are missing a huge opportunity.
As I talk with donors and prospective donors to institutions, I regularly will ask about their perception of how the institution is positioned in the community. In many instances, the response is that people feel warmly toward the institution, but they don’t view the institution as an appreciating community asset. When individuals do not view the institution as a leader – as an asset that is appreciating – their level of investment will decline.
Here is an exercise for every advancement team. Collect and rank order by perceived importance to the community the top non-profits and community organizations around your institution. Are the leaders of your institution engaged meaningfully with those organizations? If not, begin to develop strategies for institutional leaders to become more involved with these organizations. Position people to sit on boards. Have others volunteer for special events. Invite organizations to use your facilities. It’s like a institutional moves management program.
Over time and with steady engagement, your institution will be viewed as a generous leader of the community. And when we are generous, generosity is more apt to be returned.