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Fundraising will only be inclusive when we acknowledge the legacy of giving in communities of color

By Samra Ghermay
January 26, 2021

A montage blend of African American faces close up, both men and women with different shades and colors in skin tone.

Philanthropy is often characterized by benevolence, humanitarian backing, and generosity. But philanthropy is also full of complexities that have contributed to a long history of exclusivity. Within these spaces, many assume that major donors are those who are doing the most to promote the welfare of others—and that they are typically wealthy, white individuals and established family foundations. The belief that the legacy of giving is connected largely to these groups is problematic. Philanthropy needs to widen its barriers of entry to include, promote, and recognize more members of our society.

As an immigrant, born in Eritrea and raised throughout several African countries before moving to the United States, I have witnessed the impact and significance of community-based philanthropy and reciprocal collaboration—it is a pillar in many African societies. I grew up seeing my mother and grandmother’s participation in their own local associations called Ukub—an indigenous fundraising and credit system. Members, who were mostly women, not only contributed money on a rotation basis but also met monthly to connect and discuss socio-economic issues and politics (sprinkled with bits of gossip). This source of giving helped form my understanding of how effective and sustainable traditional fundraising practices can be.

As a nonprofit professional, I’ve observed the many ways in which Black and brown communities, immigrant communities, and other communities of color use grassroots strategies to fundraise and re-invest in themselves. In fact, I see how identity-based giving is an important part of the ways that belief-aligned groups get together to actively create change and address root causes of systemic issues in their communities. Think of tithing within Christian churches or Zakat of Muslim mosques, of HBCU sorority and fraternity fundraisers, of Tanda lending circles led by Latinas, of Susus in West African immigrant communities, and much more. These types of collective kinship are oftentimes ignored and not given the same recognition as white major donors within the world of philanthropy. Yet, it is these same groups that have successfully brought people together with a shared vision and purpose and have clearly defined and demonstrated what inclusive philanthropy looks like, especially in times of crisis.

As organizations seek to launch inclusive fundraising campaigns and inspire greater giving, they should expand their reach as much as possible by shifting to online fundraising strategies to attract major donors AND grassroots donors. All constituents should be included in fundraising efforts – from program participants to interns to staff and board. Fundraising and attracting resources is far easier if an organization has a strong, diverse social capital of committed people within its network, who are ready to take action. Finally, it is important to consider donors of color and younger donors who have expressed interest in giving but haven’t always been asked. This engagement will create visibility and trust for organizations but also generate buy-in from supporters.

In the midst of a global pandemic, uprisings for racial justice, political upheaval, a reckoning with white supremacy and financial instability, we must acknowledge the moment that we’re in. With an increased virtual presence, many nonprofit organizations have pivoted to reimagine their organizational structures, programming and services, and messaging. Let’s use the legacy of giving from all communities to encourage advocacy, attract resources, convey and reaffirm our mission in this moment and into the future, so that together, we can effect lasting and meaningful change.

Want to learn more?

Join us on February 25, 2021, at Candid’s webinar “Launching Inclusive Online Fundraising Campaigns During a Crisis.” We’ll discuss how small teams can raise money online from both grassroots and major donors during times of crisis. We will also discuss how to create an inclusive and empathetic online fundraising campaign. Register for the webinar.

Tags: Giving; Equity; Fundraising