Fundraising Tools: The Black Male Perspective — Black Male Fundraisers Speak Out
Above Photo Credit: adobestock
A recent panel discussion highlights some of the issues facing Black males and how they approach their positions
Over the last two years, I’ve helped to create and facilitate two different panels of Black men in fundraising, both held online because of the pandemic. These panels allowed the AFP community to hear from Black men about their journeys, experiences, and perspectives in the fundraising profession. I’m indebted to Dwayne Ashley, CFRE; Don Baker; Alphonce Brown Jr., ACFRE; Richard Martin, CFRE; Juan McGruder, PhD; and Shereitte Stokes, ACFRE, for participating and sharing their thoughts and experiences.
Recently, a new organization was founded under the African American Development Officers (AADO) network called Men of Color in Development (MOCID). I reached out to three younger Black men from that organization to see if they would be willing to speak on an in-person panel at AFP ICON 2022 in Las Vegas this past May. Christopher Beck, Marcus Brewer, and Andre Forbes-Ezeugwu all agreed to participate, and the discussion at AFP ICON 2022 was tremendous. We since have asked them more about their experiences in the profession and what the AFP community can do better to support Black men and other fundraisers of color.
AFP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Beck: I am the principal gifts/inclusive philanthropy advisor for the Southeast Giving Planning Division of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and am based in Atlanta. I have been in the development and philanthropy profession for 20 years. I enjoy spending time with the Creator and my family. I love smooth jazz. Another fun fact about me: I am usually reading three books—one spiritual, one fitness-related, and a third on philanthropy.
Brewer: I’m a believer, a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, a friend. I’m a native Houstonian who has been in this amazing space of fundraising, on and off, for around 20 years. Currently, I’m special projects and development director for a human services organization called Change Happens in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward community.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: I am a native of Paterson, New Jersey, and a graduate of Albright College. I am presently a DEI development officer for Albright College, and I went on to obtain my Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate from the University of South Florida. I have been working in fundraising for five years.
AFP: Talk about what it was like to be on the panel.
Beck: I am so grateful to have been part of that experience and that I shared the stage with Marcus and Andre. Many thanks to AFP Global for making that move and to my mentors, Birgit Burton and Ken Miller, for pushing us to share our stories and to be authentic while sharing. That opportunity changed my life and forced me to think differently about our work in a good way. Thanks to the allies who attended and asked very penetrating questions, which was encouraging.
Brewer: It was a great experience to be on the ICON panel with Andre and Chris. We met because Birgit Burton, AFP’s chair-elect, asked us to help create what we ultimately called Men of Color in Development (MOCID). It’s a sub-committee of the African American Development Officers (AADO) organization. Our topic—Being a Black Man in Fundraising—came about because of conversations from our meetings. We continue to address issues that others will have to as well. Our panel allowed the attendees the opportunity to share their experiences and know that they aren’t alone. It was really inspiring to have been part of that discussion.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: It was very nerve-racking at first because I was talking about my personal experience as a Black fundraiser, and I felt that my story was simply that, just my story. But as I spoke, I realized my story was also the same as one of the attendees from Detroit—and the advancement officer from California’s story about how she struggles with diversity and equity fundraising. It was very fulfilling and encouraging for myself, the other panelists, and the attendees.
AFP: Have you felt welcome in the fundraising community?
Beck: According to the 2021 AFP Compensation and Benefits Report, of the association’s more than 26,000 members, just 15% are professionals of color. I have had a few bumps for sure, but overall, the community has welcomed me. The fundraising community has allowed me many opportunities and helped me gain some lifelong friends, meet some of the country’s top professionals in this space, and gain mentors from across the country, which has allowed me to see our profession from a different viewpoint. We all are working together to make our profession a more inclusive environment.
Brewer: That would depend on the community. My experiences have varied. For the most part, yes. We can be a bit cliquish. I include myself in that, and it’s something I’ve worked to change.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: I have felt welcomed in the fundraising community. Being a Black man in fundraising has its challenges, especially when going against the grain of the status quo. Thankfully, Albright [College] has been very supportive, and it has been a learning experience for everyone—me, our donors, and the institution.
AFP: What has been your key to success in the profession so far?
Beck: I owe my entire career to the Creator first and foremost. Besides that, my wife has always pushed me for greatness. My parents instilled in me a work ethic that helped shape my character. I have some incredible mentors that have always made time for me and helped me to see past my insecurities in this profession.
Brewer: Relationships, relationships, relationships. Did I say relationships? Feeling comfortable in almost any setting is key. As a Black fundraiser—well, really as a Black professional—it’s not unusual to be the only one in a room. And that has been me throughout my life. Your success is dependent on how you’re able to handle those situations. Thankfully, I’ve had great mentors. Some were in fund development, and some were in people development. Alphonce Brown Jr. and Carme Williams are two great examples. Then there are mentees who also serve as your mentor, like Cherrelle Duncan. Having awesome people around to advise you and keep you in check is important.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: The key to my success thus far has been my ability to adapt to change. We must evolve and keep educating ourselves to become better fundraisers.
AFP: What do you see as barriers to your success, either presently or in the future?
Beck: I am the barrier. My advice to anyone in this profession is, “Don’t wait for others to see your greatness.”
Brewer: Me. I am a barrier to my success. Partly because of what I may not know, but also because of how someone perceives that my knowledge is based on who I am. Access is also a barrier. If you work for a small organization, you may not have the connections needed to financially advance your mission. Now add a Black man to the mix. And I’m in Texas. Again, it goes back to something I said earlier—it’s about developing great relationships and being comfortable in most situations.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: Barriers to my success will only be myself. I am always working on overcoming setbacks to the success I want to achieve, and I am working daily and diligently to manifest that success. There will always be countless distractions and roadblocks that you have to overcome on any career journey, but it’s about controlling your mind and not giving up.
AFP: How could the fundraising community better support fundraisers of color, especially young men?
Beck: The development community must continue to have “real talk” sessions with men of color and be willing to hear the hard truth. Decide to address real issues that plague our sector as it relates to diversity. Don’t just have meetings for “optics”—be ready to be part of the “new narrative.”
Brewer: The first answer that I think of is intention. Be intentional in your recruitment. And then listen and support. Allow them to shadow in all types of activities. Let them lead projects. Allow them to make mistakes. Give them the same privilege of failing so that they can learn.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: It’s all about the available resources. My boss, Brian Pinto, assistant vice president of advancement at Albright College, understood Albright’s donor base and knew that I would need a bit more resources to succeed as a Black fundraiser. So, he directed me to AADO where I met this network of Black fundraisers. I am confident that if it wasn’t for Brian and another mentor, Ken Miller, I don’t believe I would’ve been able to see where I fit within this industry. It’s about resources and helping fundraisers of color, especially young men, find a network that believes in their success.
AFP: What can individual fundraising colleagues do?
Beck: We must continue to push forward. The next leg of this race will not be for the faint of heart. It will require some bumpy conversations with people in leadership. It will require the entire profession to stand in solidarity with the BIPOC community.
Brewer: Recognize that our experiences determine our perceptions. Just because you don’t hear something the same way that I do, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There’s a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird that says, “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.” The key word is “people.” An individual can do amazing things, but sometimes those amazing individuals become a group and do really stupid stuff.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: Individual fundraising colleagues can do what my boss Brian Pinto did for me. Be a resource or direct young men fundraisers of color to resources that can assist them throughout their careers.
AFP: What are your thoughts on allyship?
Beck: Allies can continue to help fight the good fight to help diversify our sector and be those voices for us when we are not present in the “decision rooms”—especially allies that hold executive leadership roles. We need them to help us thaw the “frozen middle,” which is where all the change happens. And help to educate their peers on the importance of this work.
Brewer: An ally is very important, as long as the ally understands what being an ally means. Being an ally doesn’t mean we are looking at you to solve an issue. Being an ally means you understand your role is that of support—to be of service and to not be silent when you see an injustice.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: Allyship is a helpful tool I believe we’ve successfully created through MOCID—Men of Color in Development. The ability to build relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability is how young men of color who are fundraisers will develop the proper skills to be a successful driving force for the next generation of development officers.
AFP: What are your perspectives on being authentic, e.g., accurate to self, facial hair, head hair, dress?
Beck: I am very proud of our profession when it comes to this. You see more and more BIPOC people being true to who they are as it relates to their style. When you can enter into an organization being “you,” it sets the tone going forward and allows for meaningful and authentic conversations from the start because everyone knows who and what their colleague stands for.
Brewer: You’ve got to be who you are, and now it’s a little easier. Before the pandemic it was beginning to change, but now we are so much further. Andre, Chris, and I joke that we all have facial hair. Not long ago, we would have been judged and looked over because of that. Now it is not as big of a deal. We would tone down the color of shirts or suits we might wear. Now, you’ll see men wearing brighter colors with a lapel pin and colorful pocket squares while wearing a blazer that’s a shade of purple. And no one, or at least most people, would think he’s less capable because of it.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: My perspective is simply this: Be yourself. You’ll raise a lot more money by aligning yourself with an institution and a cause that will allow you to be yourself. Working in this industry requires passion and countless hours of “other tasks as needed.” We can’t be effective if we show up as a shell of our true selves.
AFP: What concerns you for the fundraiser of color today?
Beck: We have to address the issue head-on and be willing to have those bumpy conversations. I am extremely proud to be part of the change. #togetherweallwin
Brewer: My concern is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: I am worried that not enough people of color are aware of our profession. As we evolve as a society and as wealth is becoming more of a diverse landscape of demographics, more fundraisers of color must also be a part of that change.
AFP: What positive signs do you see in our sector for the fundraiser of color?
Beck: Organizations have come to realize that all dollars matter. BIPOC communities are letting their voices be heard, taking a stand, and taking more control over what organizations are allowed to come into communities of color. We want to know, what is in it for our community?
Brewer: This article is in Advancing Philanthropy.
Forbes-Ezeugwu: A positive sign I see in our sector for the fundraiser of color is that our industry is as diverse as it ever has been. The national conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion has reached corporate America in a very mainstream way. It will only open the doors for more fundraisers of color and have them succeed within our industry.
Ken Miller, CFRE, is president of Denali Fundraising & Grant Consultants, and a board member
of AFP Global.