Sunday, April 24, 2011

Creating A Culture of Philanthropy

In the next few blogs I will offer specific ways in which colleges and universities can create and deepen a culture of philanthropy, to include culture of “accountable gratitude” that will sustain it over many years.

The seeds of true philanthropy should be planted at freshman convocation. All too often, colleges and universities merely exhort their new charges to give by stressing the critical importance of private support to the life of the institution. But creating the rationale for fund raising is not the same as creating a culture of philanthropy. The latter could be achieved if the president were to say,

“Today, we formally induct you into this institution. In so doing, we provide you a wealth of life-changing and life-deepening opportunities. The more effort and open-mindedness you bring to the task, the more this remarkably rich culture will yield, though the full value of it all may take decades to realize. We also pass along a gift of immense, immeasurable value, one that previous generations have passed on to us. Each generation of students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends has enhanced its value. In the dedication to their duties and to the place itself, each has added depth and dimension.

Many have given of their time, talent and treasure. The impact of their generosity is all around you, in the quality and capabilities of the faculty, in the range and depth of curricular and extra-curricular programs, in the beauty of the campus, the elegance of the architecture, the functionality of facilities, and in a thousand other ways that are less perceptible but nonetheless most certainly redound to our repute and ennoble our ethos.

Today, the generations of (institution’s name) bequeath this gift to you, the Class of (graduation year). In philanthropic support alone, we estimate the sum total of their support to be a stunning (amount). Today, we ask only that you enjoy that gift, and make the most of it, in every way possible, while you are here. But when you leave and start to benefit from what you have been given here, we ask that you begin to think about doing for the next generation what the previous one did for you. The farther you go down that road and the more you achieve, the more we hope you will reflect on the gift that was presented to you today, and ask yourself in what state your generation will leave it. To date, each generation has left a greater gift that the one it has received. We hope and trust your generation will do the same. In presenting this great gift of generations past to you, we remind, therefore, you that the future greatness of this institution is now in your hands. “

I hope you see how the framing of an inter-generational compact is far more effective in creating the long-term conditions for philanthropy that the mere exhortation to give. In my next post, I’ll offer another example of how we can continue to inspire and foster true philanthropy.

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