What does culture have to do with our ability to inspire donors, attract new people to our organizations and retain and grow great teams?


If any of you attended IFC or Congress this year, you may already know that we were talking about culture – organizational culture. We curated panels, sessions and blogs on the topic and, in case you missed them, we have pulled some of the top takeaways from industry leaders who shared their insights on culture.


Throughout our discussions, we noticed that a large part of the conversation was around the topic of whose responsibility it is to create a thriving, positive culture in an organization.

And yes, it starts at the top.

So much so that research has shown that the fastest way to change a culture is to change the leadership.

But it isn’t always as cut and dried as that. As Caroline Riseboro, President & CEO of Plan International shared:

“Don’t think you have to be CEO to drive culture. You can drive it at any point in your career through your attitude, how you treat others and what you believe. Before great CEOs were ever CEOs, they were middle management, leading teams and achieving great results because they supported a positive culture wherever they were.”

This is key. You need to lead from where you stand, and don’t think that because you aren’t in a “leadership” position you can’t make a difference – because you can!


A simple idea that we were taught when we were kids has never been more true. Tammy Zonker, Chief Philanthropy Officer of The Children’s Center put it perfectly:

“The behaviours we demonstrate daily impact culture far more loudly than what we say about culture.”

And Cathy Barrick, CEO of Alzheimer Society Ontario echoed Tammy’s statement. She believes you need to make a lot of noise and make a real effort:

“Make lots of noise! Be out of your office talking to people, laughing and having fun – when the team sees you out and about, they are more comfortable approaching you!”


Culture has a direct impact on outcomes. Yes – actual fundraising results!

Our own Kimberley Blease believes (and all of us at Blakely believe) that a great culture attracts great people. And who doesn’t want that?

“A great culture motivates team members and that, in turn, attracts donors. Culture can truly make or break you. Bad culture doesn’t take risks because it’s too busy blaming — whereas, good culture embraces failure and nurtures innovation — without fear. Bad culture is too busy at the water cooler proving they are busy. Good culture gets on with it.”

We encourage you to take a hard look at your own organizational culture – and evaluate if there are certain things you can positively influence in your day to day. Trust us – it will make a world of a difference in your organization!

If you want to hear more on organizational culture, be sure to listen to Stephen George on the Good Leaders Podcast, launching the first Culture Club conversation on the power of culture!