Giving Compass' Take:
- Vu Le defines abundance - a popular term in the social sector that is poorly defined - in a way that established the term as a tool for advancing equity.
- Are you embracing this definition of the abundance mindset? Which of these areas can you better embrace?
- Read about racial economic equity terms to know.
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I see some colleagues sprinkling “abundance” in conversations like fistfuls of confetti who are some of the most scarcity-ridden people ever. Is abundance just about money? Is it about relationships? All of it? At the risk of oversimplifying, here are some thoughts on abundance, starting with a few different “spheres” of abundance:
Abundance of money
It means not hoarding donors or funders. It means foundations increasing their payout rates and giving out more money each year.
Abundance of imagination
This does not mean ignoring the current challenges plaguing society, or basic human inclinations. We can see the world as it is, and yet can imagine the world as it could be, and work toward that vision.
Abundance of relationships
Think about kids who have “secure attachments.” They make friends easily, don’t get jealous when their friends have other friends, don’t cling on to their parents, etc. Similarly, those who have an abundance of relationships connect to people easily; are glad to introduce people to one another; aren’t afraid that their colleagues, supervisors, mentors, donors, etc., will abandon them if they meet new people. Those who have scarcity in this area become guarded and jealous; they become gatekeepers.
Abundance of grace
It allows for people to make mistakes, learn from them, and improve. It widens our views, increases empathy, and enables us to forgive ourselves and one another.
Abundance of trust
Believing that most people will do the right thing the majority of the time.
Abundance of faith
Yes, this could be in the religious sense. But here I am talking more about the faith in people being ultimately good, and faith that it may take a while, but that eventually the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice.
Abundance of equity
When there is an abundance of equity, people genuinely engage with difficult topics like white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, ableism, etc. People of different identities feel safe and an authentic part of the team.
I can go on: Love, hope, time, empathy, integrity, justice, joy, humor, etc. The point is that we’ve been talking about abundance for years now without really defining it or considering what it means and how different spheres of abundance can co-exist or relate to one another. For instance, look at our traditional fundraising practices: There’s an abundance of faith—“Donors are amazing people! They will contribute to our programs, and we will make the world better.” This is, however, coupled with a scarcity of justice—“yeah, we know our fundraising strategy relies a lot on poverty tourism and white saviorism, but what can we do?”—as well as trust—“No, we can’t give donors feedback or talk to them about reparation for slavery and stolen Indigenous land; they’re too fragile and won’t take it well.”
Abundance can be a helpful concept, and an important counter to the scarcity mindset that much of our sector has internalized. But let’s agree to be more thoughtful about it. If “Abundance” is something your organization, movement, or you as an individual hold as one of your key values, that’s great. But spend some time examining it. What do you mean by abundance? Does everyone have the same views of it? Which spheres are you thinking about? What does it look like in everyday practice? Are you abundant in some areas but not in others? How does your privilege affect your perception of it? Does abundance look different to people with backgrounds and identities different and similar to yours? What actions do you need to take to actualize true abundance?
Read the full article about abundance by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.