Getting Personal

Yesterday, my partner and I put up our rainbow flag to mark the beginning of Pride month.

It was a more sombre than celebratory occasion this year. And it gave us the opportunity to do something important:

To remember that before Pride was a parade, it was a protest.

In fact, the very first Pride was a riot. The Stonewall Inn rebellion was led by Black and Latinx trans women who were protesting to end police brutality and oppression.

It’s 51 years later, and protests are spreading around the world in response to police brutality and anti-Black violence in Canada and the U.S., and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

I’m writing about this today because I know that chances are, you became a fundraiser or a nonprofit leader because you want to change the world for the better.

And no matter what your work or your mission, we have an obligation to fight for racial justice - because (in the words of Maya Angelou) the truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.

Here are three practical ways you can take action, written with my white colleagues in mind.

1. Provide meaningful support to Black employees

Your Black team members are dealing with a lot of trauma right now - not only are they dealing with the day to day emotional toll of experiencing and witnessing racism, but they are also being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

If you’re a leader, it’s your responsibility to open the lines of communication. Acknowledge the news events of the past few weeks, actively encourage self-care, such as taking mental health days when needed, and even better, invest in providing trauma informed mental health support to your team.

Here are two important articles to read that articulate this way better than I do:

Maintaining Professionalism in the Age of Black Death is...A Lot

Check in on Your Black Employees, Now

2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

It’s important that white folks commit to proactively work to educate ourselves (there are excellent resources out there - you can Google “anti-racist reading” to get started).

As you do this work, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll end up feeling uncomfortable along the way – I’d be worried if you didn’t!

Discomfort is an important part of growth. In fact, it can often guide you to the place you most urgently need to pay attention.

Do conversations about racism and white privilege make you squirm? Do you find yourself proclaiming your "colourblindness" when faced with cultural differences?

Then you’ve found yourself a great place to start.

Here are some ideas to help you recognize and start working on implicit biases in your work.

3. Share the wealth

We’re all fundraisers here, so we know firsthand how important money is for our missions and movements!

Do some research in your local community to find out how you can support grassroots organizations working on the frontlines to support social change.

There are many initiatives to donate to if you are able, including your local chapter of Black Lives Matter, local fundraisers in support of protestors, and community led health and arts organizations.

I hope you’ve found the above ideas and resources helpful. I’m not an expert, and am on my own learning journey, so I welcome your feedback and ideas if you feel inclined to share.

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert

with 20+ years experience raising millions of dollars across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. If you want to raise more 5, 6 and even 7-figure donations your non-profit, you can download Emma’s free Blueprint for Major Gift Success, and learn the 4 crucial steps to raising big gifts (at any size shop!)

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