Advancing Philanthropy

Fundraising Tools: Coalition Building — Three Insights to Take You Closer to Equitable Funding

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Making the case for coalition-building to advance social change

Since 2020, the world has changed drastically due to a myriad of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a racial reckoning that was long overdue, as well as climate change and its impact on communities worldwide. Now, we are approaching an election that will have a profound impact on equity issues nationwide.

In the light of this ongoing upheaval, fundraisers need to be cognizant of how we can best build coalitions with funders, partners, and supporters to address the complex social issues we face today.

At Echoing Green, we practice social innovation as an approach to problem-solving that allows people across society and sectors to come together and solve some of our greatest challenges. Over the past two years, we have been increasingly involved in conversations that highlight a shifting tide in the role of philanthropic giving. Corporations and foundations are asking, “How can we meet this moment? How can we be better partners?”—and meaning it.

This moment in philanthropy provides us and other organizations with a significant opportunity to co-create the best future possible for all actors in our ecosystem. Here are three actionable insights that can move us toward significant change in the philanthropic community.

1. Be Bold In Your Asks

As fundraisers, we play an active and central role in ensuring that the billions pledged in racial equity funding flow to the leaders and organizations best poised to disrupt the status quo and usher in a more equitable future. We have the catalytic opportunity to guide organizations and partners in the redistribution of resources that have historically been inequitably distributed. It is important to hold our organizations accountable about where money and resources should flow and who needs to be at the table when these decisions are made.

It is up to us to be bold and make the asks that move us closer to meaningful change and social progress. This includes factoring in the long-term needs that advance the mission of our organizations, as well as the short-term needs that provide us with the operational capacity required to deliver on this mission.

As an intermediary organization funding early-stage leaders, Echoing Green is in regular conversation with both sides of the philanthropic landscape—organizations on the front lines of global challenges and large philanthropic actors such as corporations and foundations. We are, in effect, a connector of worlds.

In 2020, Echoing Green launched our Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund (REPF)—our largest fundraising campaign to date—with a bold vision to raise $75 million to build on our core work to find, invest, and connect some of the world’s best emerging social innovators. When we met our original goal of $50 million two years earlier than anticipated, we decided to double down on the momentum and raise our goal to $75 million—funding that will ensure that visionary social innovators and their communities are resourced with the funds to thrive. It was a call to action for both Echoing Green and our partners to be bold by giving boldly.

2. Be In True Counsel With Fundraisers Of Color

For those of us who are BIPOC fundraisers, the professional is oftentimes personal. This work can be immensely rewarding, but it also is challenging and draining. We come to our work as fundraising professionals but also as individuals who often experience and understand the underlying issues.

Black fundraisers and fundraisers of color often have the difficult job of convincing donors of the importance of tackling issues that intimately and disproportionately impact their own communities, including racial injustice, education inequity, and health disparities. Furthermore, there is the mental toll of code-switching and being in fundraising rooms where we face bias.

Now is an ideal time to rethink how we do business in fundraising rooms. White fundraisers and donors must make true space for BIPOC fundraisers—and their programmatic counterparts—to be the experts in the room. These professionals connect with the work far beyond the key performance indicators (KPIs) and dollars and will fight for this.

When we adopt an abundance mentality and collaborate across sectors to invest in Black leaders, we can create the coalitions needed to best serve our communities and create real, meaningful impact.

At the heart of this effort is taking an honest look at the diversity of your fundraising team. Do BIPOC fundraisers at your organization have allies in the workplace, or are they often facing internal barriers to equity? If your fundraising team is diverse, it is important to ensure that BIPOC colleagues are treated as thought partners and decision-makers, not just note-takers. When they are challenged by funders, it is essential that allied colleagues have their backs and reinforce the legitimacy of their messaging inside and outside the room. Ultimately, this is about providing BIPOC fundraisers with the tools, resources, and support they need to set themselves—and their organizations—up for success.

3. Embrace An Abundance Mentality

After the summer of 2020, Black-led organizations saw record levels of corporate pledges and charitable donations as the world reacted to heightened calls for racial justice. While some progress has been made in moving more financial resources to Black leaders and other leaders of color and their communities, we’re seeing support for racial justice work slow.

The retrenchment that we’re witnessing is a byproduct of the scarcity mindset that too often takes root in philanthropic communities. Scarcity mindsets in philanthropy lead to perceived limitations in funding and the belief that there are not enough resources to sustain the work of multiple organizations or multiple issue areas. Scarcity mindsets promote the idea that there aren’t enough seats at the table for all of us, and thus hinder the collaboration and coalition-building that will pave the path forward for a just world.

Embracing an abundance mentality, however, disrupts the traditional practices that restrict giving and instead leads to catalytic grantmaking. When we, as fundraisers, operate from a place of abundance, we can be bold and accountable to the communities we serve by asking for the unrestricted, long-term, and multiyear support needed for organizations to not just survive, but thrive.

This year, Echoing Green launched our Invest in Black Leaders storytelling campaign——to feature the stories, insight, and impact of the Black leaders in our network who are building thriving communities in the U.S. The campaign, which is composed of a short documentary and report, highlights the abundance of potential that is right in front of us and ready to be nourished. The ethos of the campaign is simple and applies to other organizations’ efforts: When we adopt an abundance mentality and collaborate across sectors to invest in Black leaders, we can create the coalitions needed to best serve our communities and create real, meaningful impact.

Anyone familiar with the fundraising process knows that timing is everything. Currently, we have the potential to catalyze true change by acknowledging that we are in a moment of reckoning on all levels. There has never been a more appropriate time to be bold, expand our approach, and invest in our shared dream for a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.

Alexis WilliamsAlexis Williams is senior director of development for Echoing Green, a global nonprofit that supports emerging social entrepreneurs.

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