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An Indispensable Resource for Nonprofit Leaders and Fundraisers

At a time when nonprofit leaders find themselves in an increasingly diverse philanthropic environment, understanding how to harness the power of cultural diversity is essential. This highly anticipated resource is grounded in Lilya Wagner’s many years as a fundraising professional, trainer, and consultant, as well as her extensive global and

  • Information and insights about specific population groups and their cultures, traditions, and practices in North America that affect and influence philanthropy.
  • Examples from countries of origin.
  • Real-life examples and sidebars from representatives of those cultures.
  • Input by professionals and practitioners from diverse populations and countries of origin.
  • Suggestions for the culturally-proficient professional, particularly in fundraising.[/color-box]

Cultures of Philanthropy: We have so much in common

By Madeline Kuns

I have been afforded the amazing opportunity to research and carry out a comparative study of the varying cultures of philanthropy between the United States and Italy. Researching this fascinating topic has taken me down many roads that have helped me see the differences in philanthropic giving between the two countries. As you might imagine, there are many differences, but the truly confounding fact of the matter is that for as many differences there are, there are just as many similarities, if not more! In widening the perspective, these two countries have similarities, but when looking at a truly global perspective … the similarities they have can be seen in countries all over the world.  I have been astounded by the greatness in similarities that both Italy and the United States seem to share, not only with each other, but with so many other countries as well. Obviously fundraising practices are different, and the amount of funds donated tends to differ, but beyond this, things look fascinatingly similar.  The word culture insinuates differences; it’s for this reason that the similarities are so amazing.

Through my research I have found that all countries have some form of a culture of philanthropy, but one that varies in degree. For instance, in 2015, the Foundation de France published a report on their findings of philanthropy in Europe; they compared this to the United States to provide an understanding of the cultures in each locale. Numbers show that within the United States individual giving brings in the most donations, whereas in Europe, foundations have the most assets. Assets translate to dollars – or in this case euros – and so we see the amounts donated.

In 2013, the Underdeveloped report was released in the United States and in my opinion, it served as a major wakeup call to the real threats facing the nonprofit sector. It highlighted the gaping holes in this very large, very important sector! The lack of knowledge people have is evident when it comes to the advancement of fundraising and the universal suspicion the general population has for the nonprofit sector and its transparency. On top of everything, it would appear that few organizations actually have a valid culture of philanthropy – that is the overall culture of an organization that promotes friendliness towards donation dollars and an all hands on deck mindset towards the advancement of the mission. This in turn causes frequent job turnover due to general unhappiness in ones job and low buy in from other people within the organization to promote the need for raising funds as a means to promote and promulgate the mission (Bell & Cornelius, 2013).

I have no solid evidence to back my own thoughts up, but I look at my own personal experiences in the nonprofit sector and the Underdeveloped report makes perfect sense to me. Due to a solid understanding of nonprofits, what they do and often the stigma that is associated to fundraising and all things related, this makes working in  and the advancement of our nation’s culture of philanthropy a difficult position. It’s not an easy feet to have a solid organizational sense of philanthropy, when it is missing in our every day lives.

I’ve seen it in many organizations I’ve been involved with, a fundraiser is hired from another organization – where they were very successful – and the organization thinks that that person will be able to raise X number of dollars with little or minimal effort. A year passes or less or more and the person leaves the job without raising the amount of money they were set out to raise. What went wrong? Well the organization thought that hiring that person would solve all their problems…when what really happened is they hired a person to fundraise so that others no longer had to worry about that aspect of running a nonprofit. But, what really happened was that the cultural environment needed to support fundraising was not created and everyone blames the fundraiser, therefore everyone fails. The systems that support it are vital to the success of the mission and the entire organization must buy in, not just the fundraiser to achieve success.

It’s my experience, in sifting through the research, and speaking with those who work in the sector, both in Italy and the United States, everyone seems to have these same problems. This also has a negative influence on an over all promotion for a need to have a strong culture of philanthropy in order to promote giving at a national level.  Within Valerio Melandri’s – who is quite possibly the most published Italian on all things fundraising – ‘Il fund raising in Italia’ he speaks of these same problems, a missing element that is needed to make fundraising a profession, which in turns hurts the sector as a whole and maintains a stigma that this is not important work, ultimately translating into a poor culture of philanthropy or let’s say a weak one. One that he argues could be much stronger given the proper attention, promotion and promulgation of the body of knowledge.

The European Fundraising Association Report covering the 2013-14 years gives a great overview of what fundraising and giving is like in Europe, including Italy, at the moment. One important finding from the report is that there still seems to be a lack of public confidence amongst givers, which is a direct deterrent of giving (EFA, 2013-14).  The other reigning factors are due to a poor economic climate; a shortage of fundraising skills; corporate or statutory cutbacks and lack of transparency by nonprofits (EFA, 2013-14).

And so it would seem that there are still many barriers in place that keep us from having advanced cultures of philanthropy, but cultures of giving we have nonetheless. There are many things that can still be done to advance these opportunities we have at present, one of which is learning more and more about what methods work in ones given country so that we might adapt them for our own.

The importance in understanding the similarities we have will only serve to help advance philanthropy at a global level. This in turn will further promote the love of all humanity that is philanthropy! Another strong factor in developing, let’s call it a global understanding of philanthropy, are the Universities all over the world that are beginning programs in fundraising, nonprofit management, development, etc…providing opportunities for more and more people to make a difference in the world and perhaps make it a better place.


Bell, J. & Cornelius, M., UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising (San Francisco, CA: CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, 2013).

European Fundraising Association, (2013/2014). Fundraising in Europe.  

Retrieved from:

Farolfi, B. & Melandri, V. (2008). Il Fund Raising in Italia: Storia e Prospettive. Bologna, Italy: Societa’ editrice il Mulino.

Observatoire de la Fondation de France, (2015). An overview of philanthropy in Europe. Retrieved from:


Madelaine Kuns, hailing from Fremont, Ohio, attended college at The University of Rome, Italy. After college graduation, Madelaine worked for the Vatican for 6 years representing Sainthood Causes from all over the world. Working in conjunction with the highest Church authorities she first began working with major gift fundraising at this time. After 10 years abroad she returned to the United States and took on the role of Director of Development at the Tulane University Catholic Center where she stayed for 3 years. As of January 2018, she took on the role of Senior Development Officer at the Tulane University School of Medicine to assist in raising money for scholarships and research.

This past summer she completed her Masters in Philanthropy and Development at St. Mary’s University in Minnesota.

She currently resides in New Orleans with her husband of 10 years and 16-month-old boy, Luca. She speaks fluent Italian and serves on the Board of Directors of Project Lazarus, a non profit in New Orleans, and has continued to act as a Consultant to several Causes for Saints.

New and Current Resources

The International Code of Ethics is one to which we should adhere when doing fundraising cross-culturally and cross-border.  An excellent article appeared in Advancing Philanthropy, Fall 2017,, titled “Word Power.”  The same issue had an article on “Ethics in Australia.”

A useful and interesting site is–GlobalGiving connects nonprofitsdonors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. We help local nonprofits access the funding, tools, training, and support they need to become more effective.

For practitioners, an article appeared in The Chronicle Of Philanthropy Daily Update. March 07, 2017, By Drew Lindsay, “How To Find And Learn About Donors Abroad.”

A recent article on the Daily Update of the Chronicle of Philanthropy  discussed changes in Jewish philanthropy.  See the March 23, 2018 issue, “More Jewish Philanthropy Is Going to Identity and Social-Change Issues,” by Maria Di Mento.

The March-April Harvard Business Review had a great article on “Diversity and Authenticity,” by Phillips, Rothbard, and Dumas.  Interesting to get perspectives on diversity from a leading business journal.

Carlos Madrid, a leading fundraiser in Mexico, wrote in the AFP journal, Advancing Philanthropy, about “Ethics and Fundraising in Mexico.”  If you’re not a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, perhaps you know someone who is and that person can share the article—or I can.

Questions or comments, write to:

Featured Expert

Ahad Arif Kazimov, M.P.A., M.A., Director, Center for Social and Psychological Studies

Mr. Kazimov received his BA in psychology and MA in social psychology from Baku State University. From 2005-2007 Ahad was enrolled in the Master’s degree program in Public Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, through the Edmund Muskie Fellowship Program. His research and academic interests are philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, domestic and social policy, and civil engagement in social and political processes in Azerbaijan. He has made presentations at conferences in Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and in the United States on political leadership, civil society and corporate philanthropy.

This website is based on:

Diversity and Philanthropy: Expanding the Circle of Giving

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