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Community-Centric Fundraising: Why Your Organization Should Leave Traditional Fundraising Behind

In the nonprofit sector, fundraising (or the lack thereof) seems to dictate programmatic efficacy – money is often the limiting factor to charitable work. What if money wasn’t the limiting factor?

Donor-Centered Fundraising:

Donor-centered fundraising is today’s norm. Organizations praise their donors. They tirelessly thank them and tell them they are heroes. If you’ve donated to an organization before, maybe you’ve received information about a child you’ve “sponsored,” or been told how many people were fed based on your individual donation. You were made to feel that you personally impacted the cause. You’re the hero, and you’ve done your part.

Where’s the issue? People are donating money, the money is being put to good use, and the donor feels good about herself. She’s able to deduct the donation on her taxes and is therefore incentivized to keep giving.

The issue is that money should not be limiting factor. Money should not be controlling the conversation in service and philanthropy. Money should not be what makes a person feel they have done their part, or be made to feel like a hero.

Community-Centered Fundraising:

Cue community-centered fundraising. Very generally, community-centered fundraising represents a paradigm shift away from seeking out the wealthy for their donation, to seeking out community members for their allyship. Community-centric and donor-centric fundraising both place emphasis on relationship building and instilling a sense of stewardship with donors. Community-centric fundraising, however, does not care about empathy of the donors – it cares about justice for the people being served. This means focusing communication with donors around subjects of injustice – not around how your donor is saving the world.

The guiding voice for community-centric fundraising is Vu Le – a nonprofit leader most well-known for his blog Le has written a series of compelling articles highlighting the ways that nonprofits perpetuate the racist, classist, misogynistic, and ableist inequities they reject and are yearning to change. Toxic results of donor-centered fundraising include: white saviorism, foregoing intersectionality, fostering competition, and otherism (otherwise described as creating distance between the donor and the person in need and acknowledging their varying status and wealth and equalizing that with their inherent worth.)

The concept is a lot to digest, but it is not complicated. Community-centric fundraising is a powerful tool that requires a community to work together, advocate for each other, and serve not only with wallets with but with time, energy, and attention.

Hopefully this blog post is only the start of your journey toward community-centric fundraising. Read Le’s 9 principles of Community-Centric Fundraising and explore additional resources on the Community-Centric Fundraising website. Invite your Board of Directors, and get involved in the movement!



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