CCF's 10 Principles

The 10 Principles of Community-Centric Fundraising are ever-evolving core principles that have been developed from conversations with so many fundraisers of color over the the past few years. These 10 Principles are how we aspire to transform fundraising and philanthropy, so that they are co-grounded in racial and economic justice. We envision these principles changing and adapting over time, as we all continue to have more conversations and healthy arguments.

We also believe that CCF is not a one-size-fits-all model and that our 10 Principles may look very different in practice at different organizations, depending on so many variables and nuances. Consider these 10 Principles a starting point.


1. Fundraising must be grounded in race, equity, and social justice.

The conversations around fundraising must move beyond diversifying donors and tapping into marginalized communities to give. It must move toward sometimes uncomfortable discussions regarding race and wealth disparities, and more. While many of us are already having these conversations with our boards, colleagues, and even volunteers, donors have mainly been exempt from participating in these crucial conversations, which is a disservice to our donors, and to the sector.

To ground fundraising in race, equity, and social justice:

  • All fundraising professionals must be trained in anti-racism, systemic oppression, equity, wealth disparity, intersectionality, and other areas important to social justice.
  • Where we can, we must encourage donors to think about the above topics, and their roles and privileges within these areas, understanding that people are on different points on various continua.
  • We must invest in fundraisers who come from the communities that we serve.
  • Larger organizations must be cognizant of their roles and minimize inequitable practices like Trickle-Down Community Engagement, where they absorb the majority of the funding and donations and filter down small amounts to organizations led by marginalized communities who do the significant community engagement work.

2. Individual organizational missions are not as important as the collective community.

Our missions are interrelated but we have all been trained to prioritize our organization’s mission first, to raise as much money as possible for our individual mission. The community is best served if we see ourselves as part of a larger ecosystem working collectively to build a just society.

  • We must avoid fundraising and other practices that create a “tragedy of the commons,” where our organization benefits, but our output actually negatively affects the entire sector and thus, the collective community.
  • We must be thoughtful about which grants we apply to and which donors we take on. We must sometimes decline funding opportunities so that other organizations that do critical work in the community have a better chance if it best serves the community.
  • We must check annually to see if our mission is still relevant and responsive to community needs.
  • We must adjust or merge or even shut down if our presence negatively affects our community.
  • We must invest in staff and board not just so they are effective from within our organization, but so that they are effective in the sector and can build bridges between organizations.

3. Nonprofits are generous with and mutually supportive of one another.

Nonprofits need to see and treat one another not as competitors but as critical partners with the common mission of strengthening the community.

  • We must not let fear, scarcity mindset, or survival tendencies drive our decisions and actions when relating to other organizations.
  • We must collaborate with organizations whose missions are interconnected with ours and support them to ensure they are also strong.
  • We must introduce our donors to other nonprofits, as appropriate.
  • We must share grant opportunities and funder relationships as appropriate.
  • We must give credit to other nonprofits publicly.
  • We must collaborate and support one another during fundraising galas and other events.
  • We must generously share resources, ideas, and promising practices in fundraising and other areas.

4. All who engage in strengthening the community are equally valued, whether volunteer, staff, donor, or board member.

We currently respect, appreciate, recognize, and build relationships with our donors, and we must use those same principles with others in the sector, including staff, board members, volunteers, and clients.

  • Our staff play a critical role in building a strong and just community. We must compensate them fairly, invest in their growth, and appreciate them as much as we appreciate donors.
  • Our boards play critical roles in this work. We must appreciate our board members as much as we appreciate our other donors.
  • Our volunteers provide valuable skills and work and help to strength our community. We must appreciate our volunteers as much as we appreciate donors.
  • We must see our clients not just as recipients of our services but vital contributors to the community. We must appreciate our clients as much as we appreciate donors.

5. Time is valued equally as money.

Time is the only resource we cannot make more of, and thus, the donation of time must be valued as much as the donation of money.

  • We must appreciate those who contribute time, and talent, and connections to marginalized communities as much as we appreciate those who contribute money.
  • We must understand that especially for many marginalized community members who may not have the financial means to contribute to an organization, the gift of time is significant and should be treated as such.
  • We must recognize and acknowledge when team members put in a lot more time than they are getting paid for, which happens a lot in our sector and can lead to burnout. (For example, often we send a handwritten thank-you note to donors after galas and often ignore the development staff who work 30 unpaid extra hours during gala week. Maybe it should be standard practice to write them a nice note, too).

6. We treat donors as partners, and this means that we are transparent, and occasionally have difficult conversations.

Many fundraisers are afraid of having honest conversations with donors. We must have honest, respectful conversations to be effective, including strong disagreements as needed, with our donors.

  • We must create opportunities for donors to further their understanding of the complexity of this work.
  • We must respectfully and firmly push back when donors do or say things that may be detrimental to our work or to the community we are serving.
  • We must be honest and transparent with our donors about the resources that it takes to comply with their wishes and to maintain relationships with them, and we must push back when that becomes excessive.
  • We must never adhere to donors’ wishes if it ever comes at the expense of our clients and community.

7. We foster a sense of belonging, not othering.

We must be careful to avoid “othering” the people we serve and reinforcing the savior complex. We must use fundraising to ensure everyone feels a sense of belonging.

  • We must authentically partner with our community members when asking them to be involved in fundraising efforts.
  • We must be thoughtful of the impact on our community members when we ask them to share their stories for fundraising purposes.
  • We must be thoughtful about what images we use on channels such as our website, brochures, and social media in order to avoid reinforcing the existing archetypes and stereotypes.
  • We must use “we” language, the “we” that includes the donor as part of the community doing this work. (We’re not against “you,” but sometimes it’s excessive. We need to balance out the “you” with the collective “we.”)

8. We promote the understanding that everyone (donors, staff, funders, board members, volunteers) personally benefits from engaging in the work of social justice – it’s not just charity and compassion.

Some call it “enlightened self-interest,” this belief that by investing in others and in the common good, we also personally benefit. It’s not just compassion or a sense of pity. Getting donors to see they and their families personally benefit from their donations will lead to stronger investment in their community, which will strengthen the community.

  • We must avoid creating a sense of charity or pity among donors toward other community members and instead encourage donors to see how they and their families also benefit from the work they are donating to sustain

9. We see the work of social justice as holistic and transformative, not transactional.

We need to get people to see the work as a whole and not reinforce transactional thinking (like the tendency to focus on the split between program costs and “overhead,” or the division of our clients into discrete units supported by different individual donors). We need to get donors to see and appreciate that many elements are needed to make things run.

  • We are transparent with financial reporting, but whenever possible, will report holistically, not segment out by which donors paid for what. For instance, we should NOT say, “Your $1,000 bought books and equipment for 10 kids, and none of your money went to overhead.” Instead, we should say things like, “Your $1,000, combined with the funding from grants and other donors, along with support from volunteers and staff, helped us serve 300 kids this year.”
  • We must encourage funders to understand and support core mission support, also known as “overhead” or “indirect” expenses.
  • We must not not exaggerate how low our core support expenses are, as this affects everyone in the sector.
  • We must avoid saying things like, “We got a funder/donor to underwrite this event, so 100% of your donations go to programs and services.”

10. We recognize that healing and liberation requires a commitment to economic justice.

We also must recognize that healing and liberation requires a commitment to economic justice. This involves fundraisers and donors grappling with and addressing the root causes of inequity, including the destructive effects of capitalism and how we may be complicit in furthering them through our practices.