Giving Compass' Take:
- Vu Le explains that when nonprofits and fundraisers center donors' feelings, the sector perpetuates existing inequalities instead of making real progress.
- How can donors work to revise these harmful social sector norms? How can you support nonprofits that don't center donors' feelings?
- Learn about the value of 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 idea of catering to donors as a guiding philosophy has been pervasive and often goes unquestioned. It involves centering the happiness, desires, and convenience of donors, especially major donors. Over time, it becomes the air that many fundraisers breathe. Many internalize it to the point where they are unable to see the unintended destructive consequences of this form of donor engagement. Then, we pass it on, training fundraisers to act and think a certain way while simultaneously shaping and conditioning donors’ expectations, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle.
If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at this passage from a fundraising textbook that I saw on Twitter:
But if you begin with the premise that your organization can accomplish absolutely nothing without the generous, ongoing support of its donors…if you recognize that you and your colleagues are dispensable, but your donors aren’t…and if you follow that logic through to its inevitable conclusion…then you’ll realize that you’ve been operating in an upside-down or inside-out fashion for far too long.
Yikes! I haven’t read the rest of the book, so my observations are based on limited information. But I read this excerpt and my stomach felt like it had consumed some questionable leftover community event food. “If you recognize that you and your colleagues are dispensable, but your donors aren’t”? How can anyone not see how messed up that is?
Yes, we have been “operating in an upside-down or inside-out fashion for far too long.” But it is not what the author of this book thinks. Chief among the problems with the way we’ve been trained to center donors’ emotions and comfort is the fact that most donors are white, and so much wealth has been built on white supremacy and inequity, and we have an entire field trained to tell mostly white people that they are heroes who should be coddled and “loved.” And over time, rich, mostly white people start expecting and now demanding to be treated this way. How do we mitigate white supremacy when we keep perpetuating it through our every day practices?
Read the full article about the problem of centering donors by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.