Over the last year, Nicole McVan and I have done a lot of thinking and writing about some of the ills of fundraising that we have personally experienced and witnessed. We believe many of these things act as hindrances to the inclusion and equity that many in our sector purport to want to champion. In fact, we even created a Community of Practice as a dedicated space for collective wisdom focused on dismantling harmful aspects of philanthropy.
Make no mistake, we do not rail against fundraising as profession or the positive impacts that philanthropy has in our communities and societies. We do wish to point out that there are a number of harmful “best practices” that were taught to us, and continue to perpetuate in fundraising and philanthropy. These practices have been developed from collective learning in a colonial and capitalist system that oppresses entire communities and values wealth creation over equity, our natural world and safety for everyone.
Furthermore, these “best practices” are so ingrained in our profession that they rarely are even examined, let alone critiqued; for example, “the donor is always right.” I can honestly say that donor-centricity and the donor always being right (borrowing from the retail mantra: the customer is always right) were part of the fundraising 101 education I received on the job when I made the transition from public health into fundraising (an unusual career path and story for another time). These were practices I rarely questioned. Keeping or losing donors were the linchpins to achieving my annual fundraising goals.
Over the last few years my own maturation in the sector, the confidence attained through positional leadership and the credibility gained from fundraising success and participation in sectoral leadership tables and conversations enabled me and my colleague Nicole to re-consider these “best practices.” We were left with the notion that certain fundraising fallacies deepen inequity, create harm, and weaken our effectiveness and happiness in our roles. They also hold us back from real and authentic connections with our donors and prevent us from creating a relationship that invites the donor into the work in a meaningful way.
To learn more about why and how fallacies including: resources are scarce and we must fight each other for funding, and the donor is always right, restrict our ability to make real and lasting change for our causes register for our free webinar hosted by iWave. Consider joining our twice-monthly Community of Practice - open to anyone worldwide. In this webinar and the Community of Practice we will unlearn undermining practices and re-imagine philanthropy that is based on an anti-oppression practice, centered around community that is more effective at engaging and inspiring our donors.
Tanya Hannah Rumble , CFRE (she/her) is a fundraising leader who has raised millions for some of Canada's largest charities. Tanya is passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion; and power and privilege and how these intersect with philanthropy.