In the U.S. alone, philanthropy is a $427 billion dollar industry, of which 68% comes from individual donors.
Yet the practices, theories, and foundation of modern philanthropy and fundraising often ignore the ways in which the industry perpetuates the very injustices the nonprofit sector wishes to end.
From grounding practices in donor experiences instead of community needs, to a lack of political, race, class, and power analyses, traditional fundraising practices:
- Prevent important conversations about race, inequity, and privilege. Donors are shielded from having difficult conversations about the challenges caused by wealth disparities, as most wealth is built on historic and current injustice. Donors have often played a part in oppression but are not approached with these issues.
- Proliferate the White Savior Complex and perpetuate the “othering” of people we serve. The practice of over-praising donors and centering their experiences reinforces the notion that donors, most of whom are wealthy white donors, are saviors, and others are there to be saved. This reinforces donors’ unconscious perception of the people we help as merely objects of pity and charity.
- Crowd out the voices of people served. Centering the donor and “major” donor attaches a perceived level of credibility, and often a belief that the donor holds solutions, instead of centering those most affected by injustice and who actually may have the best solutions.
- Maintain competition for survival. Current fundraising models value competition for resources instead of collaboration, even though all causes are intersectional and can only be solved in partnership.
- Further marginalize already-marginalized communities. By valuing high levels of engagement with donors, which larger, mainstream, and well-resourced organizations can afford, organizations led by communities of color, LGBTQIA+ communities, communities of disability, and rural communities cannot compete.
Traditional ways of fundraising uphold patriarchy, classism, white supremacy and other structural oppressions.
In April 2015, Vu Le of NonprofitAF.com published the following blog post.
Two years later, he wrote How donor-centrism perpetuates inequity, and why we must move toward community-centric fundraising as well as 9 Principles of Community-Centric Fundraising.
These posts were aggregated from conversations Vu had with leaders of color, especially women of color, and white allies in the sector over the years, who felt a dissonance with the way our sector has been doing fundraising. Sparked by the conversations and reactions the posts generated, Seattle-area executive directors and fundraisers of color from several organizations convened to discuss how to change and evolve fundraising to align with equity and social justice.
Realizing the magnitude of the work to advance this new philosophy, organizers started meeting monthly. In August 2018, the group held its first larger, local convening, bringing 90 fundraisers of color together to explore and reflect on the lived experiences of fundraisers of color in Seattle.
Affirmed by the conversations at this gathering, the Seattle chapter of Community-Centric Fundraising was formally formed as a fiscally-sponsored entity — as a group of leaders of color intent on sharing and amplifying a new way of practicing fundraising. In May of 2019, the Seattle chapter of CCF decided it was time to expand the Community-Centric Fundraising movement across the sector.
Movements are built on years of work by people and organizations that are often unacknowledged. CCF walks the path paved by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Non-Profit Anti-Racism Coalition, Social Justice Fund Northwest, Western States Center, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence’s seminal work The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Nonprofit Industrial Complex, as well as the work of Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Grace Lee Boggs, James Baldwin, and many, many other leaders and organizations.