Equity Update – Equitable Fundraising Practices at AFO

February 16, 2023

Background and Purpose 

In order to be holistically transformational in diversity, equity, and inclusion, AFO will evaluate and adapt its fundraising strategies and tactics to align with Community-Centric Fundraising principles while maintaining some aspects of donor-centric, or traditional, fundraising.  

This work is important for our mission because our strategic plan includes prioritizing inclusion for all Oregonians in our programming, which will require increased efforts to connect with folks from marginalized communities. Community-Centric Fundraising is designed to keep our community central to our fundraising efforts and to avoid any damaging direction that donor-centric fundraising might result in. 

One key area for this work is to increase our funding for general operating funds. Before we can effectively serve our external constituents, we must ensure that our workplace is an equitable, inclusive, and safe space for individuals of all backgrounds. Paying livable wages, meeting cost of living increases, and offering benefits that show our appreciation of and care for our staff is essential to this work, and showcases to our audience that we lead by example. The nonprofit sector is fraught with underpaid and overworked staff, which often leads to burnout and, importantly, an exclusion of folks who do not have extra support to make that lifestyle successful. As such, a lack of diversity and equity is rampant in the industry. As we work to educate and engage the design/build sector about workforce development, we must also embrace these elements internally. 

While donor-centric fundraising is an effective practice, it often celebrates 100% of funds going to programs and not overhead, or the cost of things like administration, staff, and professional development. Donor interests are central to fundraising and use of funds, as opposed to the nonprofit’s interest and community.  

This document illustrates the elements of CCF that are the most impactful for AFO’s work and how we will work to integrate them into our systems and processes. It is important to note that we do not reject donor-centric fundraising in its entirety, but recognize that some of the principles do not advance AFO’s mission. Similarly, not all CCF principles would be effective for our work, but we can identify which ones to embrace and work towards.  

Integrating equity and inclusion into our fundraising process begins with education. We will take time in our board meetings throughout 2023 to learn about the principles of Community-Centric Fundraising and how we will shift some of our practices to align with those principles. This is part of our overall equity work and will similarly take time to understand, address, take action, and evaluate. By the end of 2023, the entire staff and board should have an understanding of what CCF is, how it applies to AFO, and the ways in which we are integrating it into our practices.  

This process will be led by the Executive Director with support from the Executive Committee. 

In Summary: Donor-Centric Fundraising vs Community-Centric Fundraising  

Donor-centric fundraising, also known as donor-centered fundraising or donor centrism, puts each donor at the center of the nonprofit’s outreach efforts. It involves an in-depth consideration of individual donors’ interests, motivations, and propensity to contribute to a cause.   

Community-centric fundraisers tend to be advocates for diversity, equality, and inclusion in the nonprofit decision-making process. Such an approach is believed to help make nonprofit work and outcomes more transformative and impactful. Instead of personalizing individual donor experiences, this approach regards and accounts for the differences between and within the communities the nonprofit serves.    

Read more here: https://www.keela.co/blog/nonprofit-resources/donor-centric-and-community-centric-fundraising

Overview: Community-Centric Fundraising and AFO

Principles adapted from https://communitycentricfundraising.org/ccf-principles/. AFO application indicated for each principle.

Applicable Principles and Areas of Focus for 2023

1. Fundraising must be grounded in race, equity, and social justice.

The conversations around fundraising must move toward sometimes uncomfortable discussions regarding race and wealth disparities, and more.

To ground fundraising in race, equity, and social justice:

  • All fundraising professionals must be trained in anti-racism, systemic oppression, equity, wealth disparity, intersectionality, and other areas important to social justice.
  • Where we can, we must encourage donors to think about the above topics, and their roles and privileges within these areas, understanding that people are on different points on various continua.

AFO Application: February 2023

  • Evaluate what education staff and board have received around equitable fundraising and anti-racism
      • Recommended subscriptions: the Social Justice Fund NW, Community-Centric Fundraising
  • Ensure that development team is well versed in anti-racism, systemic oppression, equity, wealth disparity, intersectionality, and other areas important to social justice.

2. All who engage in strengthening the community are equally valued, whether volunteer, staff, donor, or board member.

We equally respect, appreciate, recognize, and build relationships with our donors, staff, board members, volunteers, and clients.

  • Our staff play a critical role in building a strong and just community. We must compensate them fairly, invest in their growth, and appreciate them as much as we appreciate donors.
  • Our boards play critical roles in this work. We must appreciate our board members as much as we appreciate our other donors.
  • Our volunteers provide valuable skills and work and help to strength our community. We must appreciate our volunteers as much as we appreciate donors.
  • We must see our clients not just as recipients of our services but vital contributors to the community. We must appreciate our clients as much as we appreciate donors.
  • We must understand that especially for many marginalized community members who may not have the financial means to contribute to an organization, the gift of time is significant and should be treated as such.
  • We must recognize and acknowledge when team members put in a lot more time than they are getting paid for, which happens a lot in our sector and can lead to burnout.

AFO Application: February 2023

  • Raise funds for operational costs, ensure that language around operational and unrestricted funding exists on our website and fundraising documents
  • Ensure that client (scholarship recipients, AiS students, professionals) recognition outlets are valuable to them, not just an opportunity for donors to be celebrated
  • Review membership and donor benefits and recognition, and make sure they are aligned with CCF best practices
  • Evaluate staff-to-board relationships, and board-to-staff relationships. Both should be taking care of each other –is adequate recognition of each group’s work a priority of the other?
  • Regularly check in with staff about comfort and care
  • Review volunteer appreciation: gift cards, acknowledgement, happy hour
  • Ensure that volunteer base is educated and supported in their work in marginalized communities

3. We treat donors as partners, and this means that we are transparent, and occasionally have difficult conversations.

Many fundraisers are afraid of having honest conversations with donors. We must have honest, respectful conversations to be effective, including strong disagreements as needed, with our donors.

  • We must create opportunities for donors to further their understanding of the complexity of this work.
  • We must respectfully and firmly push back when donors do or say things that may be detrimental to our work or to the community we are serving.
  • We must be honest and transparent with our donors about the resources that it takes to comply with their wishes and to maintain relationships with them, and we must push back when that becomes excessive.
  • We must never adhere to donors’ wishes if it ever comes at the expense of our clients and community.

AFO Application: June 2023

  • Establish and share publicly a clear and full story of AFO’s work and its impact on the whole community, and what it takes to make that impact
  • Gather testimonials from the community with their permission (and compensation)
  • Create a Gift Acceptance Policy to refer to when donor wishes are not in alignment with our goals
  • Consider educational events or communications with board/donors/partners/volunteers so that they can better understand CCF and AFO’s funding strategies
  • Revisit blog post about bringing donors to the movement

4. We foster a sense of belonging, not othering, and that everyone (donors, staff, funders, board members, volunteers) personally benefits from engaging in the work of social justice – it’s not just charity and compassion.

We must be careful to avoid “othering” the people we serve and reinforcing the savior complex. We must use fundraising to ensure everyone feels a sense of belonging.

  • We must authentically partner with our community members when asking them to be involved in fundraising efforts.
  • We must be thoughtful of the impact on our community members when we ask them to share their stories for fundraising purposes.
  • We must be thoughtful about what images we use on channels such as our website, brochures, and social media in order to avoid reinforcing the existing archetypes and stereotypes.
  • We must use “we” language, the “we” that includes the donor as part of the community doing this work. (We’re not against “you,” but sometimes it’s excessive. We need to balance out the “you” with the collective “we.”)
  • We must avoid creating a sense of charity or pity among donors toward other community members and instead encourage donors to see how they and their families also benefit from the work they are donating to sustain
  • We must encourage funders to understand and support core mission support, also known as “overhead” or “indirect” expenses.
  • We must not exaggerate how low our core support expenses are, as this affects everyone in the sector.

AFO Application: September 2023

  • Audit communications (social media, newsletters, verbal, website, program materials) to identify if you are othering students or folks of color that we’re working with
  • Include donors and sponsors in the collective “we,” with care. Educate, focus on the full community that makes AFO, and move away from transactional language
  • Identify and share statewide/community-wide impact that all groups focused on AEC development are contributing to
  • Incorporate all costs into storytelling, including overhead
  • Evaluate website and donation form copy – revise language to include support for overhead

5. Individual organizational missions are not as important as the collective community that is generous with and mutually supportive of one another.

The community is best served if we see ourselves not as competitors but as critical partners that are part of a larger ecosystem working collectively to build a just society.

  • We must invest in staff and board not just so they are effective from within our organization, but so that they are effective in the sector and can build bridges between organizations.
  • We must collaborate with organizations whose missions are interconnected with ours and support them to ensure they are also strong.
  • We must give credit to other nonprofits publicly.
  • We must introduce our donors to other nonprofits, as appropriate.

AFO Application: December 2023

  • Continue work with design advocacy community group to ensure that we are doing work reflective of the community needs
  • Consider partnership with another nonprofit for a fundraiser or to share a grant/funding opportunity with
  • Establish strong relationships with other organizations with similar missions, make sure that our work is complimentary