10.12 Donors of Color Not Needed for the Movement?

My head is still throbbing from my conversation with a program associate at a southern-based foundation.  The conversation had me so upset I reached out to my board of directors for moral support.  The foundation person (who is probably first contact for groups considering submitting a grant proposals) told me our organization was not compatible with their social change agenda.

Okay, I get that. Not all groups fit all grants. I preach that. But I was told my organization’s work wasn’t social justice work.  I said, yes we are!   I told her “We believe strengthening donor-ship and leadership skills of individuals (in communities of color) is key to helping groups build organizational capacity and sustainability.  I told her working on community-led philanthropy and fundraising is working for social change.

The program associate disagreed. “Sorry, ya’ll don’t match our mission” is exactly what she said. But I assumed what she meant was that sharing cultural knowledge and developing people of color with a donor/fundraiser/activist mentality and the spirit of volunteerism, is not considered part of a progressive social change agenda.

Bullshit!  It’s grassroots movement building.  Direct action organizing in itself is not the only solution to fighting injustice for this generation.  As a peer of mine suggests “lets include other solutions like creating alternative economic models, building resilient communities, and understanding that we all have something to give and to receive.”

How can a funder say changing attitudes and behaviors, demanding accountability, mobilizing community, and building collective power are keys to achieving social change, but that empowering people of color, community based organizations, and progressive minded youth with philanthropic/fundraising tools that promote self-sufficiency are not?

I’ve met several people in the progressive arena who say that my community’s version of “community philanthropy is not the same as big cash gifts that fund movements.   I just want to know, why not?  At my organization, we define community philanthropy as giving – giving of our time, giving of our talents, giving of our culture, as well as the giving of our money.  Giving what we have as individuals or as a community helps make change possible, plain and simple.

It was people learning the power of giving $5, hosting house parties, pooling funds, and writing fundraising letters that helped get a person of color elected president.  Imagine what we could achieve if there were groups in the social justice movement that strategically trained others to do that. Oh wait; there are groups like that.

I would love to say kiss my… to all to the naysayers and people who believe that giving an organization a fish is better than teaching them to fish, but instead I’ll reference my boy Prince when he sang “we are the new power generation, we wan’na save the world, the only thing that’s in our way is you.”