This post is a response to Pam Pompey’s blog post of October 12, 2010, entitled “Donors of Color Not Needed for the Movement?” on the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training blog.
From the moment I read Pam Pompey’s blog post about an experience with her organization The Ujamaa Institute on the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training’s (GIFT) blog, I could not stop thinking about it. Three months later, it is still my favorite piece of writing on philanthropy. My first thought reading it was, “this should really be on the RG blog,” so it is an honor to present it to you all with some of my thoughts.
Pam Pompey is the Director of the Ujamaa Institute, an organization that does grassroots donor organizing in African-American communities in North Carolina. In her blog post, Ms. Pompey writes about contacting a southern-based foundation for funding. She describes being told that her organization “was not compatible with their social change agenda.” The interaction led her to conclude that, “what [they] 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.”
Unfortunately, in this situation I think Ms. Pompey’s conclusion was correct, and ask myself why this is so. The story represents to me a “teachable moment.” I think it is currently conventional wisdom in philanthropy to conceptualize donor organizing as a wealthy white people’s activity rather than an approach that includes communities of color. Perhaps this is because wealthy white people have more financial resources available for philanthropic purposes than people of color, and immediately accessing those resources as a funding source is seen as the primary goal.
The reality is that donor organizing in communities of color is incredibly effective. Pam Pompey writes, “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.” (more…)