Conversations of this sort have me convinced that the next generation of non-profiteers will think very carefully about whether to embrace the twentieth-century, consumer-oriented approach to fundraising to which many of us still remain very loyal. Dion has only been at this for a couple of years and has quickly figured out that contemporary fundraising has a tendency to focus on the short term, commodify the stories of those being served, and elevate the donors like kings and queens rather than as fellow citizens who share in a commitment to the same cause.
Dion is the founder of Dion's Chicago Dream, a non-profit feeding those in neighborhoods without access to fresh food and produce. Food deserts, areas in which it is difficult to find affordable and healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, affect every part of the city, with a larger presence in the South and West sides of Chicago. Dion’s initiative has expanded to assist residents in need in every Chicago neighborhood through the power of fresh, healthy food.
Before we wrapped up our conversation today, Dion shared his thoughts about how leaders should be interacting with funders. Dion explained that we shouldn’t be afraid to correct flawed assumptions nor should we allow inherent power dynamics to corrupt the relationship. Dion’s explanation reminded me of Jane Addam’s work at Hull House just over a century ago. In the same struggling Chicago neighborhoods, I suspect Addams would have characterized her work in much the same way that Dion did today - “We’re doing philanthropy differently.”
As always, we are especially grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast.