Rachel D’Souza-Siebert Archive

(Mis)Adventures in fundraising: What you can learn from my first failures in community-centric fundraising

On the first episode of Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast, Brené Brown shares her concept of “Effing First Times”or “FFTs” as she calls them. FFTs are a recognition of the difficulty at being new, let alone good, at just about anything.

“When we have no relevant experiences or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty and fear of these firsts can be overwhelming,” she said. “Yet, showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward learner stage is how we get braver.”

I long for 2018-me to have had access to this framing. I had just begun (intentionally) integrating justice, equity, and belonging into my development practice. As the founder of a boutique consultancy, I committed myself to the trials of novelty, knowing that more than once, I would — inevitably — fall on my face. But, I hoped (maybe knew?) the reward would outweigh the risk. I was open to experiencing and learning from failure.

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7 must-do activities in order to actualize a practice centered around community-centric fundraising

Over the summer of 2015, I found myself at a crossroads in my career. I was on maternity leave with my daughter and home with my 4-year-old son. It was during this personal transition period that my business, Gladiator Consulting, was born.

I wanted to find a way to infuse my personal commitment to racial justice and equity into my new role as a nonprofit consultant. I knew my point of view and skills could help justice-oriented organizations reach their full potential through fund development. I quickly found my niche working with grassroots and grasstops organizations in the start-up or initial capacity-building phase of their lifecycle.

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“What are you again?” (Not your token Brown friend, that’s for sure!)

My parents immigrated to the United States from India in the 1970s and chose to purchase their first home in a suburban municipality west of St. Louis, Missouri. To both the south and west of our subdivision were mostly white communities — to the north and east, mostly Black and immigrant Asian and Pacific Islander communities. If you’ve learned anything about St. Louis in the six years since Mike Brown’s murder, you are familiar with the deep segregation of our region and its toxic, implicit commitment to the Black-white binary.

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