Right now, we are witnessing a surge in institutions and leaders co opting language and reinventing and marketing themselves as “antiracist,” “inclusive,” or “equitable.” But many have been and will continue to engage with important issues in performative ways.
Collaborative philanthropy is already at the root of many communal Indigenous and African societies. In fact, it was collaboration and fundraising from diasporic communities that supported liberation struggles, which then led to independence from colonial rule. On the heels of Pan-Africanism, a movement based on the belief that unity is fundamental to socio-economic and political progress, African leaders, such as Tanzania’s first president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, recognized that the fight against colonization was a common thread, a shared experience that could bring African nations together.
Today, Black women in the nonprofit realm constantly face spoken and unspoken rules on how to present our bodies, our voices, and our aspirations. This new kind of policing is unlike the respectability politics of old — the politics that would have you believe that advanced degrees and a business suit can keep you safe from harm. This new type of policing problematizes however we show up. It makes an issue of our joy, our bodies, our intellect, and our work ethic.
VOX ATL is a teen-led organization. For us, that means teens are involved in every aspect of the organization — they serve on the board of directors, work as peer editors, facilitate community workshops, pick what new swag items we buy, and more. They also participate in fundraising efforts.
VOX ATL teens who have participated in our fundraising work have helped compile a list of what to do — and more importantly, what not to do — to ensure that you are keeping things VOXy.
Recently, USA Today published an opinion piece titled People-focused philanthropy is on the way out. A philanthropy that divides is taking over, by Elise Westhoff. The basic premise of this article casts a critical eye toward the recent national conversation about community, equity, race, and justice. It suggests that holding space for philanthropy to refresh or reinvent itself in response to current events — or for philanthropy to acknowledge how systems, policy or politics — has had a disparate impact on groups of individuals and causes harm to the donors themselves.
Welcome to the social profit/nonprofit sector. You know, the good sector, the one that has long basked in its reputation of doing good work. It’s an inherent goodness that is unquestionably bestowed upon it.
However, for far too long Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour have absorbed all that the sector has on offer — the good, the bad, and the downright harmful and reprehensible.
And their stories are disturbing.
In mid-February, I sat in a development committee meeting. Like most meetings I attend, I was the only non-white, non-cis person in the room, sitting on mute, listening to an all-white, all-cis group share their ideas for how we could monetize an educational week of events.
Eight years ago, I had an idea. The idea was inspired by what I had seen at other organizations around the country, but for where I resided, in Central Virginia, it was a new thing. After about a year of testing this idea out and playing with it in a real-world sense, I decided to commit to seeing it come to fruition. I would end up spending so much of my time — without compensation, mind you — working relentlessly, because I believed in it.
There are so many reasons the notion of accountability to donors is not only misplaced but factually illogical. I’m not talking about the significant ethical reasons that have been covered so well in racial equity and social justice forums. I’m talking about logic-based, fact-based arguments. Because once we begin down the logic trail, the entire donor-centric model of accountability begins to crumble on its own.