A Message From Andre Dowell: Black History Month and Fundraising
I appreciate Black History Month because it gives Americans an opportunity to learn more about Black history, engage in traditional festivities, and attend enriching experiences.
This month allows me to reflect on the past and be hopeful for the future. It is a reminder for me of how far we've come as a country, and a special time to reflect on those who have come before me and what I’ve been able to accomplish—educationally, personally and professionally—because of their work.
What does Black History Month mean for me … and you?
On the one hand, it reminds me of the opportunity before us to change the narrative and be more inclusive, and on the other, it is a firm reminder that there is still so much work to be done. February serves as not only a time to acknowledge and discuss past mistakes, disappointments and embarrassments, but it also serves as a time to make a commitment to correct course for the future. It should serve as inspiration to us and motivate us to continue to build a better world.
I use this time to challenge myself and others to celebrate the past achievements and impact of philanthropic organizations that strengthen diversity, inclusion, and equity in our society. And it’s a great time for you to consider how you can get involved and offer your support to various organizations and causes throughout the month and all year long. Throughout February, I challenge everyone to join in the celebration and become active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram—you name it! Share posts highlighting African American contributions, culture and their impact on our society. You should also consider including a nonprofit that supports diversity, inclusion and equity within your philanthropic portfolio. Supporting these efforts goes so far in advancing these initiatives and bridging the gap, and creating avenues for success for Black people and people of color in the profession and our society.
Throughout history, you’ll find that Black people have been leaders in influencing change in the philanthropic sector and our communities for decades—from Whoopi Goldberg, past ICON keynote speaker, to Wes Moore, this year’s ICON keynote speaker, as well as iconic figures such as Oprah Winfrey. They have served as philanthropic pioneers and have made a significant impact not just here in the United States but throughout the world.
This month reminds me to strive to strengthen diversity, inclusion and equity in the profession. Fundraising organizations must build and retain diverse boards, leadership teams, and development units, and create inclusive fundraising initiatives and practices that engage all donors and professionals. One of the benefits of inclusive fundraising is that it provides organizations with opportunities to engage new communities and constituents who can provide the organization with different viewpoints and perspectives.
As the engagement officer for regional development at the University of Georgia, I continually endeavor to develop and maintain diverse donor engagement. Even though I am early in my fundraising career, I am fortunate to work with donors whose philanthropic missions are committed to furthering institutional diversity and inclusion and ensuring we can provide tailored support to all our students. Engaging with impactful donors of color inspires the university community to be one that is inclusive and welcoming for all.
This month—and every month—I am extremely thankful for the perseverance of the Black leaders in the fundraising sector who paved the way and created a space that allows me to have a career as a young professional in this field. Some of those leaders have served as my mentors, providing authentic support and guidance to ensure I am effectively developing as an emerging fundraising professional. This is why representation at all levels matter. Intentional mentorship cultivates new, elite leaders, and I am truly appreciative to have the honor to be a part of this high-achieving industry.
As our society becomes more diverse, organizations must continue to engage donors from different backgrounds, races and ethnicities. Inclusive fundraising is imperative for mission-aligned organizations. A shift toward furthering those inclusive fundraising ideals is necessary because it will enable organizations to connect with the communities they serve and meet their constituents’ needs. Inclusion allows you to seize the chance to diversify and maintain diverse funding channels.
Creative and innovative development professional, Andre Dowell has a passion for higher education and strives to make institutions stronger. His career aspirations include assisting with the development and engagement initiatives that help further the institutional mission and vision while creating a diverse experience that strives for the constant pursuit of excellence.