Robert Osborne and Laurel McCombs will help you assess and revitalize your development program to take an anti-racist approach that results in successful fundraising and a high return on investment.
Steven: All right, Bob, Laurel. I’ve got 1 p.m. Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Bob: Yeah, let’s go.
Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon to all of you on the East Coast. Good morning if you are on the West Coast, I should say. If you’re watching the recording, no matter what time it is, I hope you’re having a good day. Thanks for tuning in. We are here to talk about “It’s Not Either/Or,” we’re going to talk about “Fundraising with an Anti-Racist Approach.” I’m so happy to see you all here, a full room. I’m Steven over here, at Boomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items real quick, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session. So, if you have to leave early, maybe got an appointment later or maybe you get interrupted, maybe a homeschool toddler or a pet barges in on you, I understand, we’re all in homes together, but don’t worry, we’ll get you the recording later on today so you can get caught up on everything. Or share it with a colleague, share with a friend, we love that as well. This going to be good information, obviously. If you didn’t already get the slides, I send them out about an hour ago, but we’ll send those slides out again in case they missed you, so don’t worry, we’ll get all that good stuff in your hands.
But most importantly, please feel free to chat in. We love answering questions. At the end of the session, we’re going to save a little bit of time, just as much time as we can. So don’t be shy. We got a full room, so get those questions in early and often. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. You can use either of those, it’s okay, I’ll keep an eye on both of them, I promise, we’ll try to get to them. If they don’t get to you, I’m not playing favorites or ignoring you, so ask them early and often. But we’d love to hear from you, you can tweet us, I’ll keep an eye on Twitter as well.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just for context, some people say, “Hey, what the heck is Bloomerang?” you know, we do these webinars just about every week. We’re above 500 webinars now in 8 years, kind of amazing. It’s been really fun. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomberg, we’re a provider of donor-management software. So, if you’re interested in that, you know, you can check us out. We’re pretty easy to find, if you want to learn more, that’s kind of our core business. But this webinar, this is probably one of our favorite things we do, in addition to that software. So check that out.
Don’t do that right now because this is a very important hour that we’re going to have here. We were very intentional about this being the first webinar of 2021. We’ve been planning this for a few months. And, in light of yesterday’s events, I think it bears saying that I think this topic is more important than ever. So I am very honored and excited to have Bob Osborne and Laurel McCombs here. Bob, Laurel, how are you doing? You doing okay?
Bob: Doing well, we’re doing well.
Steven: Yeah, this is awesome. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you two, over the past few months. Bob, we were introduced by a mutual friend and we put this together. I didn’t, you put it together. I did hardly anything. But it’s awesome to have you. And, you know, we’ve been talking about this and Bloomerang is going to keep talking about this. And I was telling these two earlier that we sent out an email, on Monday, and, within an hour, had over 1,000 registrants, I think we’re close to 2,000 now. I’m so happy for all of you for tuning into this, caring about the topic.
And yeah, Bob and Laurel are awesome. Check them out, they’re both over at the Osborne Group. You may also recognize Karen Osborne, she’s the third in their merry trio. They’re great. Bob’s the principal over there. Laurel’s . . . she’s been doing this for over 20 years, tons of accolades, has a lot of experience with a lot of different types of nonprofits. And I’ve said too much. I’ve taken too much time away from you two experts. So I am going to pipe down because nobody cares what I have to say. And I’ll let you two take it away. So I’ll stop sharing my slides and let you bring up yours.
Bob: Good, thanks. While Laurel’s bringing the slides up, I’ll just introduce ourselves again. I’m Bob Osborne and I’m joined by my colleague Laurel McCombs. Hi, Laurel.
Laurel: Hey, Bob.
Bob: Hey. We’re always happy to see each other since we live on opposite coasts. But I’m really happy to be joining you guys here today to talk about fundraising with an anti-racist approach. This is a topic that Laurel and I and Karen and we’ve all been talking about, you know, really for most of our careers, just as people of color, but we’re really excited to be able to kind of take a lot of things that we have been thinking about, over the years, and kind of pull them all together into a webinar. And so we’re really excited to be here. And thanks to Bloomerang, thanks for giving us an opportunity to present some of our ideas.
Quick run through the agenda. You know, you can kind of see it here for yourself, but Laurel and I were talking and, you know, we assume that you’re here because you already find this at least worthwhile in terms of exploring, that anti-racist fundraising is worthwhile for you to explore. So we’re not here to convince you about whether you should or shouldn’t do it, we’re here to really try to give you the tools, then some practical advice on how to do it. So we’re going to assume that, by being here, you’re interested in the topic, and we’re going to try to make it practical for you. Because I think sometimes that’s the thing that’s missing. I think, you know, it’s been great to see people really buy into the idea that this is something that’s important, but I don’t think there’s always clarity about how to do this well. So that’s really what we’re going to try to do here today. We’re going to start off with just context setting, then we’re going to talk about some practical things you can do, and then we’re going to talk about how to move forward. So, Laurel, let’s jump right in.
So, first, I wanted to kind of really just give you guys a sense about what this is and what this isn’t, because I think that’s important. So, one, these are questions to consider around anti-racist fundraising. It is an exploration of best practice with regard to anti-racist fundraising. It’s an exploration of ways of achieving a high ROI as you do anti-racist fundraising. And it’s just considerations to think about as you think about your own program, you know, what should you be thinking about and what context should you have. Let’s go to the next slide. And then, most importantly, actionable ways that you can move forward.
What this isn’t, let’s talk about that because, I think, that may be even more important than what it is. So this is not all the answers. This is an ongoing conversation. Yes, Laurel and I have thoughts and experiences around this, lived experiences, but we don’t sit here and pretend that we have all the answers. We’re going to try to provide some context. What it also is not is a cookie-cutter model of what anti-racist fundraising is. I think, you’ll see in a few minutes, that there’s not necessarily like a set definition of anti-racist fundraising.
And then, what it’s also not is an examination of the problems with philanthropy. So, you know, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Community-Centric Fundraising, I think they brought up some really good points around philanthropy in general and anti-racist fundraising. And I would suggest that you go there and kind of, I think, it’s worth exploring those kind of questions. But we’re not going to talk about philanthropy in general, we know that you guys are fundraisers, and we have a pretty practical job when it comes right down to it and that’s raising money. So we’re going to try to talk about that and how do we do that with an anti-racist approach.
Okay. So what is anti-racism? I’m going to go into this very, very quickly because, again, this is more about fundraising than anti-racism in general, but it’s the idea that inaction in the face of racism is, in fact, racism. And to not be racist it’s important for us to be actively involved in fighting racism. So that’s anti-racism in a nutshell, according to Ibram Kendi. Again, there’s lots of resources online and books, and we suggest that you read them, where you can learn more about the general concept of anti-racism. But again, we’re going to talk about anti-racist fundraising.
So what is anti-racist fundraising? Okay, so it’s an excellent question, and we’re going to explore that. You know, again, there’s no one answer. And what we would say is that it’s really a spectrum that’s going to really be based on your own values, as an organization. So it’s a spectrum, it’s a conversation that’s happening right now, it’s happening in lots of different places. We think it’s really important that people are asking these questions. But it can look like a lot of different things.
So is anti-racist fundraising simply having a diverse board and staff? Is it having a diverse fundraising staff? Is it having a diverse donor base? Is it going further than that and regranting to organizations that are led by people of color or who serve people of color? Is it going even further than that and having active conversations with your donors about the importance of an anti-racist approach and being willing to walk away from money from certain categories of donors, from specific people?
You know, it can be all of those things. And so what we’re going to try to help you guys do today is figure out for you what does that mean. And Laurel’s going to talk about this a little later but we really think the only way to do that is it really has to be rooted in your values. You really have to have defined your values. And by understanding what your personal values are, as an organization, and I would go even further, and your values as a fundraising department, you’ll be able to answer the question of what anti-racist fundraising may look like for you. Without it, we think it’s pretty hard to do this work. You’re kind of working in the dark. It’s not anchored to anything. And so it’s like a first step. That’s something we would recommend, and Laurel’s going to talk about that a little bit more.
And so, today, what we’re going to talk about is really, based on our experiences over our careers but really in the last 9 months or so, and I imagine lots of you are wrestling with these questions right now, try to give you some practical advice based on what our clients are struggling with right now, and find some solutions to that, while also providing a high return on investment. Because, again, after all, we’re fundraisers.
But I also think it’s important to have a high return on investment around fundraising because, frankly, as a practical matter, if you don’t have a high return on an investment, you’re going to abandon it as an organization. Right? Like, as soon as something goes wrong, as soon as there’s a crisis, you’re going to default to the way you always have done things. And so we think it’s really important to have this conversation in the context of fundraising and return on investment, not just because we’re fundraisers but because we think this is an important approach, and the only way that you’re going to continue with this approach is that if you have a return on investment. So that’s our goal today. So let’s start to dive in.
So what are some common not-for-profit traps? And so there’s a few here, and I’m not going to go into detail on all of them because, again, I think there’s other information out there that you can find and look for. But I want to highlight one or two that, I think, are really, really important that we see as being problematic for organizations. So one is messaging without the work, you know.
And so lots of clients, you know, after the Black Lives Matter protests happened and some of the protests over the summer, we saw lots of fundraising letters going out fundraising on those causes. And so I think it’s really important for you to ask yourselves, as an organization, you know, “Are we really doing the work or are we just talking about the work and fundraising off of the work that we’re not doing or that others may be doing a better job of or having more impact?” And I think that’s a more important question. And I think, when we’ve seen clients really have trouble, this is one of the areas where there’s trouble, internally with their staff, but also, very often, with their allied organizations and people that they’ve worked with. So making sure that you’re doing the work before your messaging on it is really important.
And then, the second thing I think is really important is to, and this may be the most valuable thing, is to really question your assumptions and question what we see as true. So I had a friend who came to me, a couple weeks ago, and was struggling with this. He’s a Caucasian man but he works for an organization that serves, you know, people of color and he was talking, he was describing some problems he was having. And he cited a document that he had seen where he saw that objectivity, and they were having this conversation within their group, that objectivity was seen as something that promotes white supremacy. And he came to me and he said, “Bob, you know, how can that be? How can objectivity, which is objectively a good thing, be party to white supremacy?”
And I’ll be honest, the first time I saw that, I really kind of questioned that myself, I’m like, “Yeah, well,” you know, I consider myself an extremely objective person, that’s probably my defining characteristic, if you talk to my friends and family. But then I really started to think about it and what I realized is that it’s not objectivity itself but it’s really the way objectivity gets used. And I’ve had my own experiences, here in New York City, around the segregation of the New York City public school system and realized how often test scores and other so-called objective measures resulted in the most segregated school system in the country. And I think that’s what we’re really talking about here.
And so he really valued that advice because he hadn’t really thought about it that way. And so I think, as you go in and start to do this work and explore it a little bit more, be open to questioning things that you may never have thought that you would ever question. Be open to hearing about how things that you think are just givens may not be givens or may be used in a manner that forges racism in some way.
So I want to run through some quick myths about people of color, about BIPOC donors. And so Laurel and I can and have done whole seminars purely on this, so I’m just going to kind of hit some of the highlights here for you. I think a really interesting example that sort of illustrates a lot of the myths around this is the National Museum of African American History and Culture which raised $540 million privately to get built. Seventy four percent of the people who gave 1 million gifts to that organization, or higher, were African Americans. And almost all of the money raised for that organization were from people of color.
And so I think that’s a really interesting example that sort of brings home, in a really practical sort of way, a lot of our assumptions. We often assume that we can either be, you know, diverse and inclusive and equitable or we can raise money. And the reality is that’s just not true. Every ethnicity has a sizable number of people who are capable of giving large gifts. Race does not play a significant factor in the size of gifts that people give. Many BIPOC people, you know, have very considerable salaries. The reality is we’re often just less likely to be asked. We’re not always asked for money, and that has a lot more to do how we’re perceived, as BIPOC donors, has a lot more to do usually with the organizations than the reality on the ground.
And then, finally, I want to just say on this particular topic that, you know, we tend to talk about BIPOC people as homogeneous. And the reality is there’s big differences between each group. And even within each group, there’s lots of differences. And so just like anything else, in terms of fundraising, it’s good to know trends, it’s good to know some generalities, but really this work is about talking to your donors, talking to the communities that you serve, and really understanding what their needs are, and, again, checking your assumptions at the door. So, with that, I’m going to turn over the next section to my colleague Laurel who’s going to get practical with us.
Laurel: Great. Thanks, Bob. And so now that we’ve kind of set the context for all of this, we really want you all to leave here with something really practical. You know, I think everyone has had some really great conversations, over the last 9 months, about this topic. But a lot of our conversations, up to this point, have been very philosophical, very theoretical. And I think what Bob and I really hoped to do today was to start to give you all something really practical, you know, “What do I do?” Right? “I get it, I’m there, I want to make change, but I don’t know where to start.”
And again, as Bob mentioned, we’re not here today with all the answers or some cookie-cutter model for you to go and just kind of ABC implement, but we do want to give you a framework by which you can create your own plan and that really makes sense for you, where you are, what’s happening in your organization. Because you’re all very different. Even just quickly looking through the chat, in the Q&A, that’s coming in, you are all vastly different organizations serving different populations in different parts of the country. And so, you know, again, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this but rather we want to give you a framework for what this all might look like.
And that framework really starts with remembering that we have to take a dual focus to this. That, any time we’re making change, anytime we’re trying to move forward with big heavy things in our organization, or even really small light things in our organizations, we have to look at them both from a cultural perspective and a strategic perspective. And, you know, I know the old saying, you know, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” but you still need a strategy. Right? And, you know, we can work on culture all day but, if we don’t have a plan for how we’re going to do things, even our culture can’t sustain that. And vice versa.
So, you know, I think the one here . . . and, obviously, I’m not going to go through all of these in detail because I’m going to go through values and vision in a little more detail in a minute, but the one that I really want to focus, pull out from this slide is this idea of organizational will. And this is actually something that . . . I tend to talk about organizational will a lot with clients and when I do training, regardless of what I’m talking about.
You know, in the last 20 years, as I go out and talk to people about, you know, “Why can’t we get our gift major gifts program to really take hold?” or, “why can’t we move forward on planned giving?” or, “why can’t we do more collaborative fundraising?” Right? All of these things that people want to do but seem to have roadblocks on, a lot of times it comes back to organizational will. It just comes back to, “Is this something that we understand the why of?” Right? You know, I was thinking yesterday, we always say like, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I think really like, “Where there’s a will, there’s a why.” Right? That, somehow, if we are really going to do something, we have to understand why we’re going to do it.
I think this goes back to what Bob was just saying about return on investment. Right? We may all understand the moral case for doing more around racial justice and equity, but if there’s not also a business case for doing that, it’s not sustainable. It’s not something we’re going to continue to make a priority. And so we have to understand both the moral case, the business case, and we have to ensure that everyone across our organization has the will to make this change. And so I just highlight that because, I think, it feels like a fluffy thing but it’s one of those fluffy things that’s really, really important and actually ends up being perhaps one of the biggest roadblocks when we’re trying to make any change in our organizations.
So, again, Bob talked about not, you know, messaging before doing the work. And some of you might have been saying, “Okay, well, but what is the work?” Right? So, “If I can’t message yet, if we’re not ready to put our messages together, if we’re not ready to decide what our tactics are going to be, what is the work that we need to do?” And this is the work.
Some of you might be looking at this and thinking to yourself, “Well, of course, that’s, you know, nonprofit management 101, Laurel,” like, “we’ve got this.” But I can’t tell you, and Bob would agree with me, the number of times we go into an organization and these core things aren’t in place. And 90% of the time, if an organization is struggling with fundraising in general, but particularly with things around diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, these things are not in place. And they’re trying to do the work, they’re trying to make change without having these core foundational pieces there.
And we know that we have to start with mission, I think we talk a lot in this business about mission and how important mission is, but I also think mission tends to just be this statement that gets slapped on the wall and not really core to who we are and core to how we move forward with things. So, you know, your mission really is that thing that drives everything you do. It’s the reason you exist. You know, when you were formed and you filled out your 501c3 paperwork, it was the reason you told the federal government that you needed to exist in this world. Right? It’s important and it should be the core of all of the decisions that we make.
Moving on from vision, I think it’s really, really important that we think about vision and impact. You know, mission, again, is the core of why we exist. Right? It’s the foundational piece of why your organization is even there. But your mission remains fairly static over time. Right? So your mission is probably the same as it was 30 years ago when your organization was started, and it will probably be the same 30 years from now. Very few organizations change their core mission, unless you’re, you know, someone like March of Dimes who actually, you know, cures polio, and then you get to change your mission and go cure something else.
You know, but for most of us, fortunately or unfortunately, our missions will continue to be needed. But vision is the shorter term encapsulation of what’s going to be different to help you achieve your mission. Right? So, if you’re saying, you know, “We want to cure cancer,” right, that’s a long term. You know, you may always, you know, for a long time be working on that, but, in the next 3 to 5 years, what’s the specific change that you want to see? Right? Maybe that specific change is that we know there are a lot of women who aren’t getting mammograms. Right? And, in the next 3 to 5 years, we want to make sure that, you know, particularly underserved populations of women are getting mammograms to increase early detection and lower risk. Right? So what is that shorter-term vision? What’s going to be different in the world?
And the reason vision is so important is because it protects us from getting sidetracked, right? Because missions are usually really big. Vision helps us narrow down our focus for a shorter period of time. A lot of the conversation, I think, around anti-racist fundraising has to do with the power dynamic between funders and organizations and the potential for funders to contribute to mission creep, right, contribute to shifting organizations away from the directions that they really want their own programs to go. Having a solid mission and vision and understanding the impact that you want to make helps you to avoid mission creep. Right? This is the thing that helps you to say, “No-no, this is where we need to go. We’ve done our research, we’ve done our homework, we know our communities, we know this is what they need.”
And so, when a funder comes in and says, “Hey, actually I would love it if you did this thing instead,” you can have a much more robust dynamic conversation with a funder to say, “well, let us share with you what our vision is and why that is our vision, and maybe we can come to an agreement, in terms of bringing you closer to where we are. And maybe we can’t,” right, “and maybe I need to recommend another organization in our community that’s doing something closer to what you want to accomplish.” So, again, mission is important but vision is the thing that drives our shorter-term, 3-to-5-year plan and what we’re going to be doing.
But I think the real core of this and what I really want to focus on is values. Because I think that, in a lot of ways, people give lip service to values. Oops. I think that, you know, you’ll see somebody’s annual report and, on the, you know, inside cover, it’ll say, “Mission, vision, values,” right, and there’ll be some generic kind of things like, “Trust and respect,” kind of listed there. And that’s nice, don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice thing. But, you know, if mission grounds us in why we exist and vision grounds us in the impact that we want to have, values ground us in the manner in which we expect ourselves to achieve that vision. Right?
So values aren’t just some nice fluffy warm and fuzzy thing that we like to talk about because, you know, we like to talk about it, values are core to how we do our work. You know, think about the values you are raised with, you think about the values that you raise your own children with, you think about the values in a school community, in a neighborhood, you know, these are the expectations that we set for our community about how we conduct ourselves. Values matter. Values are important. And when we talk about anti-racist fundraising, they are perhaps the most core part of making sure that we have an anti-racist fundraising approach. And we have to be able to identify that these are our values. Right?
So, you know, big homework, like I hope you’ll all go and just look at all of these foundational elements, but particularly revisit your values. Have conversations across the organization with your board, staff, donors, volunteers, service recipients, everybody in your community, because these are values that not just your staff live by or just your board live by, these are values that we expect everyone in our community to live by, including our donors.
And I know we’ve already gotten questions coming in about, you know, donors that maybe aren’t comfortable with an equity message or a racial-justice message but, if one of your values, as an organization, is that we value racial justice and equity, then that’s a value and that’s something that you’re going to have to decide as an organization, whether or not it’s okay for people to be part of your community who don’t value the same thing.
Now, again, this is why it’s so different for all of you because people are in different places. People do have different sets of values. But regardless, you need to have them, you need to have them written down, and you need to make sure everybody else knows about them. Bob, this is a really important one, so before I move on, I just want to make sure I didn’t miss anything really important about this point.
Bob: No, I mean I think you hit it all. But I think I would, I guess, underscore how important this is, just as somebody who’s been asked over the last, you know, 8 or 9 months, like, “How do we set up an anti-racist fundraising program?” I was like, “I have no idea because I don’t know what your values are. So how do we even begin to get our hands around this, you know, if we can’t define what’s important to you and what your values are, I can’t tell you whether it’s mostly for you about recruiting a diverse funding base or if it’s really regranting to organizations and partnering with organizations that serve people of color,” like, “that really depends on what you value, as an organization.” And so I would just underscore that. Like it is almost impossible to do this work without this.
Laurel: Absolutely. And don’t assume that everyone knows what your values are. Right? I think that’s the other thing is I think people assume that we’re all on the same page, in terms of our values, until we actually start having difficult conversations. And then, all of the sudden, we are like, “Oh, I guess people weren’t on the same page that we all feel this way.” So have a conversation about it, write them down. And anytime anyone new comes into your organization, again, whether it’s staff, board, volunteers, donors, service recipients, display those values loud and proud and say, “This is what we believe in and this is how we accomplish our work.”
And, of course, you need a plan. I hate that I have to say this but you do. And you need a written plan, like it needs to not just be in somebody’s head, it needs to actually be on a piece of paper or on a screen somewhere that everyone can access it. Because you need to know how you’re doing this. Again, mission creep . . . and I get that we are in a crazy time right now, I mean I get that plans are changing every single day. But if I already have a roadmap for where I’m going, it’s a lot easier than when I have to pivot and I have to make adjustments to that plan versus just taking off down the road and hoping I end up where I’m going. Right? So make sure you have a plan for how you’re going to do all this.
And again, this is going to make conversations with funders and donors more tangible, more concrete, so that you aren’t just kind of following money. Right? I mean sometimes, if I don’t have a map, yeah, maybe I do just kind of sniff out where the berries are, on the side path, and, all of a sudden, I’m lost. Right? So make sure that you have a plan for this.
And then, finally, taking all four of these things, mission, vision, values, plan, and then creating your case for support. Right? “Why is it that people should support us?” And the reason this is a really important thing that I want to stress is because I think people do this backwards. I think that, again, as Bob talked about, people want to start with the messaging. People want to start with, “Well, let’s go out and write a direct-mail piece,” or, “let’s go out and put some stuff on social media,” “let’s go out and tell people why they should get behind us.” But then their messages are inconsistent, they’re not core to their values, they’re not core to their vision, they’re scattered, because they haven’t taken the time to look at these core elements and say, “Who are we? What do we want to accomplish? How do we want to accomplish it and why should anybody, in this community care that we’re doing this?”
And so taking time . . . again, I know this is foundational stuff but it’s foundational stuff that too few organizations actually have in place. So take some time to get these things in place. Please write your case for support down and share it with everyone, with the board, with the staff, with key volunteers, so that when they are out in the community talking to people about your organization, they’re using the same language, they’re saying the same things that you are.
So now that we have these kind of core foundational pieces in place, now we actually get to start talking about tactics and strategies and messaging. Right? The things that, I think, most of you probably came here today to hear us talk about, the kind of like, “Okay, so how do I do this? What do I do now with all of this?” Again, remember, and I’m going to say it one more time, because I can, because none of you are here to tell me not to, I’m going to say one more time, get those foundational elements in place before you get here. As you walk away from today, I hope you take away that that’s your first piece of homework today is getting those foundational pieces in place. And then you can come back and start looking at strategies and tactics. But we’re going to, you know, talk about that now.
So, again, as Bob said in the beginning, no cookie-cutter approach, there’s no one thing to do. Some of you are already doing things really, really well, some of you have already made some amazing innovations and are doing some really interesting stuff. I’ve, you know, been, the last 6 to 9 months, been on some really great webinars and read some really great blogs and articles on new techniques and ways to look at things like prospecting and research. And there’s so many different things that we can be doing.
But I think where I would start and where we’re advocating that you start is to really look at your entire development program and kind of break it apart. Right? I mean just break it apart and see what are the things that are lurking, hidden in different places that we didn’t even think about that are exclusionary, that are, you know, keeping people away from us, that are making people feel excluded or not included.
And I think it helps to look at the fund development system. Right? So, when we look at a good fund development program, it’s really made up of these kind of four buckets. Right. So we’ve got a donor management model, technology communications, volunteer leadership, people and performance management. And, you know, obviously, we have, you know, 20 more minutes or so to talk, and so we don’t have a lot of time to go through each and every piece of a donor program in detail, but Bob and I did think that we would just give you a few examples of what it would look like to look at a few of these key pieces and kind of think critically about how we might be taking a more anti-racist approach in some of these things. So we’re going to start in this people and performance management bucket. And Bob’s going to talk a little bit about staffing.
Bob: Thanks, Laurel. So I think there’s two areas where, if you do this part well, it solves a lot of your issues, and if you don’t, it doesn’t. And that is making sure that you have people around you who are diverse, frankly, and who can talk to you about this and help you as an organization. And so I think one of those is staffing and the other is board of volunteers, which Laurel will talk about in a minute.
So one is really investing in staff from your communities that you serve. And you can define communities however you like, but really making the effort . . . and I understand that finding development people, in general, is not an easy thing, but I think sometimes we talk about the effort that we make when we don’t make as much of an effort as we can. I think that, often, we’re guilty of that around boards and volunteers, I think, Laurel is going to talk about, but making an effort to invest in staff and the communities that you serve.
Two is supporting them through professional development. Like a very common situation and a very common complaint is that the support staff are BIPOC but upper levels of management aren’t. And we run into this all the time, even within progressive organizations that mean well, but this is what tends to happen. And so really making sure that your profession, your BIPOC staff have an opportunity to advance and that you give them the training and professional development that lets them, you know, be good and move forward is really important.
And then, the other really common issue, I think, that organizations have around this is a tendency, you know, to put all of this work on your BIPOC staff and kind of say, “We want to do this, you guys tell us what to do.” And the reality is your BIPOC staff are not DEI experts, most likely. They have lived experiences, they have opinions, they have thoughts, but they are not DEI experts, for the most part. And so it’s really important for you, those of you that are managers, to take the time and take the effort to educate yourself, to not put this work on your BIPOC staff but to really . . . you know, you can read Community-Centric Fundraising, you can read Vu Le’s blog, you can pick up Ibram Kendi’s book. And there’s lots and lots of resources out there so that you have an understanding of it.
And I also hear lots of complaints . . . not complaints but concerns from managers who say, “We really want to do this but we don’t know how to do this,” like, “we want to but we were never trained in this.” And so, for your managers, providing them with professional development around diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts becomes really, really important. And give them the tools to be able to manage this work, you know, well. Because I think we run into people, you know, who have very good intentions but are just not necessarily equipped to do this work.
Laurel: So, of course, the other big kind of people thing and one of the other big buckets in that fundraising model is your board. And, you know, obviously, we could talk all day about the board. We could talk all week about the board, and I have about two minutes to talk about the board. But I guess the biggest thing I would say about the board is, you know, again, as Bob said, probably the best way to help your organization do this work better is to have diverse people involved. So, you know, that means having diversity amongst your staff and it means having diversity amongst your board, and not having diversity amongst your board purely for the sake of having diversity amongst your board, but bringing people on your board who are passionate about your mission, passionate about your organization, and also provide unique perspectives.
And, you know, this is something we’re hearing a lot from people out in the nonprofit sector, which is, you know, “But we have a give and get. What if bringing diversity onto our board means people can’t make the give and get?” Well, first of all, check your assumptions. Right? So there are plenty of BIPOC out there that can meet your give and get.
The second thing I would say is, you know, there are plenty of organizations out there, let’s say, you have a $10,000 give-get. How many of your board members are meeting that give-get right now? And even if they are, what else are they doing for you? You know, so,I said to Bob the other day, I said, “Okay, so you’ve put a whole bunch of rich people on your board. How’s that working for you?”
You know, I’m just not convinced that, you know, this kind of a thing that every single person on our board has to be someone with wealth is real. Right? I think everyone on our board needs to be passionate about our organization, has to participate in fundraising, has to be an advocate, has to be out there helping with resource development. I’m not sure that every single person has to be personally wealthy themselves anyway, but even so, I will say there are plenty of BIPOC out there that are personally wealthy. So, you know, I guess I just, again, Bob said in the very beginning, let’s test our assumptions about these things. And I think that is, probably, nowhere more so than with our board.
So, you know, again, this last bullet, like do you even know what you want out of your board and what characteristics are most important? How about let’s start there. Before we even try to go out and recruit more diversity for our board, how about we just start by figuring out what it is we want the board to do in the first place. Right? And what’s going to be really significant, not just same old minimum requirement but what does a dynamic board look like for our mission? And then, let’s go out and do that. Because yes, you can find BIPOC board members. I mean and you should and you need to. And it’s going to make your discussions richer, it’s going to make your program richer, it’s going to bring new perspectives to your board. And it’s a really core piece of doing this work. I’m going to turn it over to Bob to talk about communications.
Bob: Yeah, and then I just want to emphasize what you’re just saying there for a second, because I think this is the thing that drives Laurel and I the most crazy. Like yes, you can find diverse board members, the business owner, the lawyer. You know, I think there’s a tendency to be really lazy around this and kind of go after the usual suspects and not really think very deeply about it.
The other thing I would say though is don’t just add BIPOC board members for the sake of adding BIPOC board members. I don’t know about you, Laurel, but I’ve been asked to be on a lot of boards, in the last 9 months, and I’m pretty sure I know why. And it’s not a great feeling, if that’s the only reason that you feel like you’re being recruited. And, frankly, it doesn’t work, like there’s nothing worse than being on a board where you feel like you’re there just by your identity and not by the value that you bring to that board. And you will not have a sustainable situation if that is the situation. So, you know, everyone on the board needs to give based on their own means but that doesn’t mean everyone on the board has to be rich. You want a strategically composed board, and some of that is money and some of that is other things.
So now I will talk about communications, Laurel. And I know we want to save time for questions, so we’re going to move things really quickly. Communication is the toughest thing. This is where I think having the staff and board that are BIPOC becomes really important because there’s no easy way around this. You really need people kind of looking at it and making sure that your messaging is going to, not just resonate with the people that you are communicating to, but does them justice as well. And one way of doing that is letting people tell their own stories. I think Andy Goodman talks about that, let people tell their own stories is probably the safest way of ensuring your communications are good but also having, you know, people around you, within the communities that you serve, to just make sure that those messages are what you want them to be.
Laurel: Absolutely. Again, as we think about . . . and we’ll move really quickly here, as we think about breaking down your fund development program, a huge part of that is how we interact with donors. Right? So look at your donor management system. Hopefully, you have a donor management system. If you don’t, call us, we’ll help you think through it. But, you know, there’s these steps, you know, we have these models and these steps that we should be going through to make sure that our donors have a really dynamic journey and really dynamic experience with us. And while that’s intended to create a really great experience, sometimes it results in not a great experience for people. Or it results in us inadvertently kind of pushing people out of this cycle and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
I mean simple things like the way we do research, potentially, you know, looking at like wealthy zip codes or looking . . . you know, some of the more traditional ways that we’ve done research. Thinking about maybe we’re pushing, you know, perspective owners out of our donor pool because of some of the traditional ways that we’ve done this. Maybe you aren’t, but I think for some [inaudible 00:45:19] those things are true. Again, not a cookie-cutter approach, but look at your donor-management system.
Think about how you identify, how you plan, how you close gifts. Right? “What are the processes, what are your system’s doing, and how can we make sure that those processes and systems are inclusive and that we’re looking for, not just opportunities to not to be anti-racist, but to be innovative?” Right? ” . . . and to be more open and to be more inclusive and bring more people to the table.” So I think there’s a lot of opportunities. Bob’s just going to give an example of what that might look like specifically around stewardship and engagement.
Bob: Yeah. So those of you who know Laurel and I already, you know how much we think stewardship is really important and engagement is really important. But, you know, I think the main thing I want you to take away from this topic is really . . . like, again, there’s a tendency, when we think about BIPOC donors, to just think about us in generalities, as opposed to as individuals. And we’re individuals and, just like any individual, you want to ask questions. And the best way to understand how to steward people, how to engage them, how they would like to be messaged to is really just to ask those questions and do the work around that.
And so, you know, again, most of the things that will work for, you know, people of color, in terms of fundraising, are the things that will work for anybody else. But to understand the nuances that may be different in different communities, you really have to ask the questions, ask strategic questions and really understand what drives people’s motivations and what’s going to engage them and what they value and how they like to be communicated with.
And then steward. You know, this is really important for those of you that are trying to diversify your donor base. None of that really matters very much if you don’t make a strong effort to retain BIPOC donors as well. And so stewardship becomes a really, really important part of that work, just as a practical matter. It will be very difficult to do this work without having a strong stewardship program because you’ll just cycle through your BIPOC donors and you won’t see any real change.
Laurel: Yeah. And I guess too, Bob, just the, you know, best advice in general, right, whether it’s a question of, “How do I engage staff in this work? How do I engage board in this work? How do I engage volunteers and donors?” ask them. Right? You know, and I think that’s the . . . stop trying to guess what is going to, you know, make people feel more included or what’s going to make people interested in getting [inaudible 00:48:02]. Go and talk to people. Right? And be open about the fact that you want input and you want to make this experience for people and you want this to . . . you know, I think we’re weirdly very afraid to go and have conversations and ask questions. And instead we make assumptions and we move forward with strategies that then either don’t work or, even worse, backfire. Right? So I think just avoiding that, in general.
And, of course, there’s a million more things we could talk about. And I know there’s so many questions coming in and this is such a huge topic. I know Bob and I kind of stressed about like, “How do we cover this in 45 minutes?” and now even more than 45 minutes, because there’s so . . . I mean we’re talking about entire development programs. Right? There’s so many nuances and staff, and board, and there’s so much we could be talking about that we haven’t talked about today. And so I hope that what we’ve done today though is give you a framework, right, to start to say, “Okay, I can create a plan now because at least I know where to start. I can start with my foundational pieces, and then, I’m going to break my fund development program apart. I’m going to find . . . “
You know, and this is just a few things. This was just me and Bob kind of brainstorming, off the top of our heads, what some of the things might be that could pop up as challenges for you. But there’s probably a million more here. And I would love for, as you all go and break apart your programs and start to make innovations and start to make changes, please, email us, you know, send us messages, say, “Hey, you know, we’d love to start collecting, you know, ideas and things that people are doing and then share them back out to the community,” because we’re all learning together with this. And I think the only way we all get better is if we all just keep communicating, sharing what’s working, sharing what’s not working. And at least we’re trying, right? So go break it all apart and see what you find. And Bob’s going to talk a little bit about how you kind of take all of this and move forward from here.
Bob: Yeah. So now what? And, you know, so we like to use this slide for a lot of different things because some things are harder to achieve that are high-impact, some things are lower-impact and harder to achieve. I guess, the thing that we would emphasize to you is to do something, even if it’s small. As a practical matter, what I see when people aren’t doing this work, let’s face it, a lot of you are afraid, you know. Laurel and I were nervous about even doing this webinar because it’s such a fraught topic. And I want to acknowledge that, that it is fraught, and we totally get it, but it’s really important.
And don’t let the fact that you don’t know exactly what you’re doing paralyze you. You know, start with something small but do something. And then, you know, every journey begins with a small step, you know, and, I think, this is no different. So think about what you can do today, what you can do tomorrow. Think longer term but try to do something, even if it’s small, and don’t let the fraught nature of this paralyze you.
So thanks so much for listening to us. I think we’re going to take Q&A now, and we will kick it back to Steven who will let us know about any questions.
Steven: Wow, thank you. I don’t know what else to say, this is a huge public service that you’ve done this. I wish we could do it for a week. I’d love to just sit here and listen to you. And yeah, we’re not going to solve this problem in 45 minutes, but this is a really good start. And from what I can see in the chat, I think people would echo that. So thank you, thank you for this. Thank you for making this be able to be recorded so that other people can learn from you two.
Lots of things stuck with me. One thing Laurel said that I just keep coming back to, you know, “Don’t pay lip service to the values.” Wow, this is great. Yeah, we got a lot of great questions. And I really appreciate all of you, in the chat, who have been answering other people’s questions with your own experience. Thank you for doing that, that’s really awesome. I love to see that activity. Probably not get to all the questions but let’s leave your contact up, while we go through these.
The very first question that was asked . . . actually it came at 1:03 p.m., so thank you, I’m going to leave these anonymous, just in case. But it wasn’t the last person who asked this question, a lot of people are wondering, “Hey, we have a lot of white conservative donors. We want to do this. Are we going to lose some people?” What do you think? I mean, is it a matter of we’re going to break some eggs to make an omelet? It seems like, when it nets out, there’s going to be a lot more people who respond positively than negatively. Is that what you have seen? Do you think people should let that be a hindrance to doing this? It seems like the right thing to do. What do you think?
Bob: Well, I mean I think this is where, I’ll let Laurel chime in too, but I think this is where values come into play and understanding what they are. Because, yes, you might lose donors. And this is true not just with diversity, equity, and inclusion but with a lot of different things. Part of this job is you do have to be willing to walk away from money if it is not in line with your mission, if it’s not in line with your vision, if it’s not in line with your values. That said, my sense is that people are probably more open to this conversation than they had been before, and maybe it’s a journey you can take them on. But it’s really a decision that you have to make for yourself I think. I don’t know, would you add anything to that, Laurel?
Laurel: No, I 100% agree. I’ve not only had this conversation in the sense of just kind of donors responding to a broader message of equity, but also . . . you know, just an example. I had someone I was talking to recently who said they have a donor who doesn’t like that they serve people who are undocumented. And they were like, “But we don’t check documentation status, that’s our policy. We don’t do that.” You know, and we were kind of going back and forth, and I said, “Look, if that’s your policy and that’s your value, that’s who you are as an organization. You need to own that, and you need to live that. And if you lose that donor, then that’s what happens.” But, you know, those are the tough things that are going to have to . . . and that’s, again, why the board is so important, because these aren’t just conversations that you should be having amongst staff, these are really, really core policies and values that your board should be a part of as well.
Steven: I love it. Similarly, a lot of people that have asked a variation of this question, and both of you touched on it briefly but I wonder if we can tease it out a little, you know, people who are maybe on the lower rungs of the organization who are passionate about this, getting that buy-in, bringing it up to their boss, their board . . . what should people do if they’re getting blocked in every attempt? Is it a matter of maybe you should find somewhere else to work? I mean is there a point where you’ve tried . . . I mean, can you give a pep talk to these people? Because it seems like a lot of the people here listening are in that situation.
Bob: Yeah. I don’t know, Laurel, do you have a good answer to that? I have thoughts, but go ahead [inaudible 00:55:21].
Laurel: Yeah, you know, again, I think this, you know, Bob mentioned earlier that this work can’t just kind of get passed off to BIPOC staff, but I also think that we need to engage BIPOC staff in all of this work. There’s a difference between engagement of people and kind of dumping work on people, so, you know, I think that there’s part of that. I think you influence up and . . . you know, in the last year, between everything that’s happened in this world, aren’t we all just kind of questioning what’s really important to us now? And yeah, maybe for some of us that is questioning where we need to be and driving our own decisions, with our own set of values. And if the organization you’re working for, if they come up with a set of values and they’re not aligned with yours, you know, that’s a tough decision. But we all have to live our own values, right?
Bob: Yeah, I think it does come down to values and pushing your organization to define those values. Not just as an organization but even within your department, [whether 00:56:24] our fundraising values is really important. Because, to be perfectly frank, the places that I’ve seen change is when, you know, the junior staff have sort of rebelled, in some way, and really pushed it. And that’s what’s moved things. And, you know, I’m sort of reluctant to encourage that as the first thing to do or but I have seen it work, I would think. But then, they have to circle back around to the values anyway. So I would say start there, it’s probably a more productive way of doing the work, and then, hold the organization to living those values.
But again, if you blow things up without an anchor of values, there’s no way to define what this all means. And then, it’s just like . . . the manager’s like, “We don’t know what you want,” and the staff has a sense of like, “we want things to be different.” But without that, it’s really hard to define it. So that’s what I would say is like start there and see where you are and then see what else maybe needs to be done, if you don’t get response to that.
Steven: That makes sense. That’s helpful. BIPOC donors, you know, we’ve already spent a lot of time on white donors, and it seems like they get a lot of the attention. But the other side, I mean, I’ve seen article after article, study after study, that they are the most generous. How can we ensure that our fundraising is equitable? A lot of people have even asked in the sense of gift acknowledgements, you know, are there some things you have done specifically in thanking donors in that community in ways that are more equitable. What have you seen? What should people maybe look out for in those direct communications? Especially post gifts.
Laurel: Yeah. You know, again, I think so much of this is looking at ways that we’ve done things in this business for a long, long time, purely because they’re the way we’ve always done them. I actually think there’s a lot of things that none of us have ever really liked about the way we’ve done things, but we just kind of were like, “Well, that’s what you’re supposed to do, so we’ll just keep doing that.” And, you know, for better or for worse, the great thing about 2020 was that, you know, I keep using this analogy, I mean half the glasses in the cupboard are broken, we might as well go break the rest of the glasses and go get a new set. Right?
So I think this is the time. Like, if you don’t like the way you do your donor listings, stop doing it. There’s no law that says you have to have an annual report. You know, there’s all of these things that I think, you know, we do because we all got taught when we started that that’s what you do. And I don’t think you have to do those things. And I think the way we tell stories, I think the way we use stories to tell, to share the way people want to support our organizations, it can be really dynamic. And, you know, maybe more of the way we do stewardship is about letting our donors tell their stories. Right? Not us telling them for them but letting our donors tell their own stories, especially our BIPOC donors. So, you know, I think, again, just don’t be afraid. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. Nobody’s going to come slap your hand, like you’re going to be fine.
Bob: Yeah. I would encourage everybody, you know. I think the leader, in this sort of conversation, is what I like about them is Community-Centric Fundraising is like they have some principles, they don’t pretend they have all the answers, but they have outlined I think some problems that they rightly see and some questionable things. And there’s an ongoing conversation about it. I think that’s what this really is. Like this is a conversation that maybe has been simmering for a while, but really I think it started, in earnest, in the last, you know, year or 2 and really accelerated over the last 9 months.
And so that’s the way I would look at it is like we’re all working this out together, we’re all talking about it together. And just like Laurel said, like question our assumptions, let’s think about if there’s better ways of doing it. Join the debate, let’s kick the tires, let’s try some different things, and, you know, let’s figure it out as we go along. But I think it’s really important that that debate is being had. And, you know, I think a good source of convening around this is Community-Centric Fundraising.
Steven: Well, you’ve done a good service in getting the conversation started, so thank you. It’s 2 o’clock, the hour has flown by. You know, hopefully, we can have other conversations. Besides following you two, reaching out, you know, a very kind offer, I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but, you know, how can people find you to keep that conversation going?
Bob: Yeah, well, you can email us at the contact information here, check out our website and blog. We have lots of good tools and materials there. You can reach out to us, you know, our website has lots of different ways of contacting us. But yeah, we’re really excited. And then, thanks for having us, we’ve been wanting to do something like this for a really, really long time. So we’re excited to be able to do it, and we really hope that people found it valuable and helpful.
Steven: I love it. Yeah, I’m just seeing the chat streaming, so I think you achieved that, Bob and Laurel. So thanks for doing this. And wow, this is now the most popular webinar we’ve ever done, so that’s awesome. I’m so happy that you all made the time. I know it’s been a hard couple of days, a day and a half. So thanks for joining. If you’re watching the recording, I hope you enjoyed it.
We’re going to get the recording and the slides out to everyone later today, just be on the lookout for an email from me with all those good things. And do reach out to these two because they’re obviously a wealth of knowledge and awesome human beings as well. So thanks for doing this.
I just want to tell people real quick about our next webinar next week. Same time, same place, I guess an hour later. I’m going to talk about mentorship. If you don’t have a mentor or you want one, you’re not sure the [value of 01:02:32] one, join us. Cool topic, never covered this topic in 8 years. And I’ve recently taken on a mentor so I can vouch for its effectiveness. So, if you’re free, join us. If not, register anyway because you’ll get the recording. And, hopefully, we can see you on that session as well.
So we’ll call it a day there. Thanks again to all of you for joining us. Like I said, look for an email from me with the recording and the slides. And, hopefully, we’ll see you again on another Bloomerang session. Take care of yourselves, stay healthy, get some self-care in this week, please. And, hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. Bye now.