Thursday Nov 18, 2021

Can fundraising evolve for those who give on their own terms?

When I first announced that I would be having this conversation with Tyrone, I described his telling of Madam CJ Walkers story as an indictment of the wizards of contemporary fundraising and I asked how much better the fundraising experience would be if we were encouraged to engage with donors like Madam Walker in more meaningful ways. While it’s certainly admirable that so many of our organizations express a willingness and desire to engage with more diverse communities, we have to also interrogate the reasons why we haven’t done so in the past. What have we not acknowledged about history or our identity that has prevented individuals like Walker from being better represented among our constituency.

Tyrone shared with us today that he wanted to answer the question of what it meant to be a generous African American woman in the midst of Jim Crow and what it means to be a philanthropist who gives on their own terms. For Walker, giving wasn’t about what you give away late in life or as an extracurricular activity that you do with friends. Giving for Walker was a demonstration of her philanthropic agency and for causes that couldn’t wait until she had accumulated a lifetime of wealth. In a very practical sense, Tyrone’s book challenges us consider how many of today’s donors find themselves in the unseen middle, desiring meaningful engagement, and intent on contributing in meaningful ways and yet, instead of seeing them, we have pushed them into a cheap, mid-level donor program that neither recognizes nor acknowledges the opportunities such donors truly represent.

Tyrone’s book, Madam C.J. Walker's Gospel of Giving: Black Women's Philanthropy during Jim Crow was recently awarded the 2021 AFP Global Skystone Partners Research Prize on Fundraising and Philanthropy, and the Alliance for Nonprofit Management's 2021 Terry McAdam Award for best book in nonprofit management. If you like to purchase the book, you can enjoy a 30% off by using the code F20UIP at https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/?id=p085352

As always, we are grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. And, if you’d like to download Responsive’s latest edition of Carefully & Critically, just click here.

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