Giving Compass' Take:
- Vu Le explains that donor-centered fundraising often undermines the equity and justice goals of organizations that the sector should uphold.
- What role can you as a donor play in shifting nonprofit fundraising away from toxic norms?
- Learn about community-centric fundraising.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
The point of fundraising seems so obvious. The objective is right there in the word itself: raise funds. We determine if a fundraising campaign is successful by whether it meets its target amount. And we assess fundraisers’ performances on how much they can bring in each year. Sure, we can have other indicators, like how many new donors we gain, how many existing donors we retain, etc., but ultimately, it comes down to how much money we can raise. What is there to talk about? I mean, do we argue that basket-weaving is really not about weaving baskets, or soap-making is not really about making soap?
For a long time, this philosophy has governed fundraising. In the pursuit of this primary goal of raising funds, we put up with really terrible donor behaviors. We charity-wash wealthy people’s tax avoidance. We conscience-launder for corporations. We use practices that appeal to donors but hurt the entire sector, like minimizing the importance of operating expenses. We train mostly white people and white institutions with money to believe that because they have money, they automatically have a say in which societal issues should get addressed and in what manner.
But there’s another problem that we don’t talk much about: This belief that the primary goal of fundraising is to raise funds, over decades, has weakened our collective imagination and made us forget the primary purpose of our sector.
Raising funds, and running programs, doing evaluation, conducting research, implementing operations, etc. are important, but they are tasks and tools that we use to advance equity and justice. If we value a tool more than what we’re using the tool to build together, then we’ve lost our way. The ultimate goal of our work is to protect the environment, not make donors happy; to further civil rights, not grow our organizations; to end poverty, not maintain our jobs.
Read the full article about fundraising by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.