Philanthropy Readings – August 2019

August 30, 2019 § Leave a comment

We are all fundraisers

August is Black Philanthropy Month! Unfortunately, I only learned this at the end of the month, but I am delighted to amplify the message and be an ally (especially in future years).  The August newsletter of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University includes an article by Valaida Fullwood, one of the architects of Black Philanthropy Month. In it, she artfully connects this years observation with the 400 year anniversary of the first documented African slaves to arrive on American shores. For more information about this, please see the brilliant New York Times 1619 project.

Eddie and Sylvia Brown were featured in the August Chronicle of Philanthropy as leading Black philanthropists. They very generously share their story as an example and inspiration to other Black philanthropists, and philanthropist in general.

This profile, and an interview with Dwayne Ashley, a Black fundraising professional who founded his own consulting firm, are great stories for Black Philanthropy Month, but it’s not clear that the Chronicle has made the connection. Like me, perhaps they will amplify this more next year.

Well, Nonprofit AF has done it again. A scathing piece on overhead fundraising, which, they argue, we need to stop talking about AT ONCE! (Quick! Don’t think of an elephant!). It’s a paradoxical situation (my favorite – really) because as nonprofit professionals we need to address it, and ignore it at the same time. They are not wrong. It IS really terrible that the general public is counselled to give only to organizations where most of the money goes to programs and services. How do people think those programs and services get administered!? Who keeps the records? Who stewards the donors? Who makes sure the donor intent is being honored? The hard-working folks who are considerd “overhead,” that’s who. I guess we need to be prepared to talk about overhead when the question rears it’s ugly head, and then keep the focus on the wonderful work our organizations do the rest of the time.

Another from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the cover article (subscription needed) is about the industry-wide dissatisfaction of front line fundraisers. According the the article, 51% of fundraisers say they will leave their current job within two years. I’ve been a professional fundraiser (albeit not on the front line) for 25 years, and I’ve always known the tenure of major gift officers to be about two to two-and-a-half years. That has long been the average, as I understand it. So while this is nothing new, what I appreciated about this article is the plain way it dived into all of the reasons why this may be: no culture of philanthropy; unrealistic goals; no resources; toxic work environment; low salaries; no professional development, and no career advancement possibilities. It gives me hope to see these issues stated plainly out in the open. I have a couple of gripes, though: 1) It speaks of millennials as if they are young up-and-comers in their twenties, new to the field and the world of work in general. Millennials are in their thirties and forties, full grown adults with families, and mortgages. 2) It assumes that only front line fundraisers can call themselves “fundraisers.” I take issue with this. Those on the front line could not do their jobs without those on the back end, identifying the prospective donors, maintaining the database, answering phones, doing the gift entry, running reports, etc. They may be the stars of the show, but those of us moving the sets around and running the lights, we’re all invested in raising lots of money and ensuring the gift officers’ success.

Those of us in the fundraising, development, advancement, whatever you want to call it…

We Are All Fundraisers

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