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Equity in Fundraising: Why Every Supporter Matters

By Jenny Medrano

This post is the first in a series called DEI: Beyond the Buzzword.  Program Manager, Jenny Medrano shares insights and lessons learned while navigating diversity, equity and inclusion in her daily life.

To say that I used to be scared of asking people for money would be an understatement.

It would be more accurate to say that I hated fundraising with a passion. Or, that I felt like I was causing all of my Mexican family- dad, mom, and all of their ancestors living and dead, a lifetime of shame by begging. Or, that by asking for money I would literally be choosing my own death as I plummeted into a tornado of anxiety before each cold call (yes, I am EXTRA but it’s true).

The problem was, I used to operate from a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset. I was always asking from a place of “not enough” or “trying to avoid poverty” versus a place of “enough” and “actively enjoying my wealth.” This mindset was evident in my last job which required fundraising as part of the position. In that setting, we talked a lot about equitable fundraising, but that equity was more along the lines of how much each person on our team was expected to raise based on their given network. At that time, I felt relieved to know that I wouldn’t have to raise as much as others, but I still felt like I should apologize to anybody for even asking for money.

[Image description: Photograph of one person's hand putting a $5 bill into another person's open palm. Within the frame, the giver's red-and-black plaid shirt cuff can be seen, and the giver's skin tone is brown. The edge of the receiver's pastel patterned shirt sleeve can also be seen, and their skin tone is light pink.]

[Image description: Photograph of one person’s hand putting a $5 bill into another person’s open palm. Within the frame, the giver’s red-and-black plaid shirt cuff can be seen, and the giver’s skin tone is brown. The edge of the receiver’s pastel patterned shirt sleeve can also be seen, and their skin tone is light pink.]

It wasn’t until I started working at Building Bridges that my mindset around fundraising completely shifted. This past summer, I started practicing changing my perspective from scarcity into abundance and it has worked wonders in my personal life. So when Megan, my director at Building Bridges, asked me to create my own giving campaign this past October, I actually felt ready for the challenge. I decided that I would approach this fundraising effort with a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity and I would look at it as an effort where we had everything to gain and nothing to lose. I also wanted to be extra intentional about challenging my own classism as I raised funds, because I felt like, in the past, my biases towards supporters actually harmed my fundraising efforts.

This is why I made the following commitments of practicing equity as I fundraised:

  1. I aimed to be impartial to every one of my supporters. I would not prejudge my acquaintances, friends and family as someone who “probably couldn’t give” or “really should give” to my campaign, and I would ask and remain open-handed to any and all contributions.
  2. I aimed to be equitable in the gratitude I showed to each and every supporter, because in the end, they were all contributing to the abundance of Building Bridges, whether financially, relationally, or some other way.

Before I knew it, I was asking people left and right to donate to my year-end giving campaign, and I was having a blast! Mostly because I received all types of love, encouragement, and appreciation as I continued to pursue support. I also was continually surprised at the generosity that people showered onto me. There were some people who couldn’t give much or at all, but still sent love and affirmations, and others who ended up giving way more than I expected. But every time, I was able to cherish their response, because I had already told myself that I would be grateful for any support, in all forms.

Inevitably, I did feel past patterns of fear and doubt creep in during this process. There were days during the two-month giving campaign that I felt ashamed for having asked people for money through Facebook or text. And there were days where I felt like my ability to reach my full goal of $2500 would reflect my actual level of competence. But in those moments of scarcity, I challenged myself to reframe and think about how much I’ve been transformed through Building Bridges, and how much I wanted to share that kind of transformation with my friends and family.

There were also moments where I struggled to counter my own classist beliefs, specifically around how many times I asked a person for money. I found myself easily circling back with people who I assumed had the money and maybe just forgot, and then avoiding circling back with people who I assumed maybe didn’t have the money. That whole struggle was eye-opening and humbling in itself, especially as a DEI trainer. But every day, I continued to challenge myself in asking, circling back and reaching out to all the people that I sensed might want to support.

When my giving campaign came to a close on Christmas Day, I genuinely felt grateful for the growth that took place inside of me, and all the love I could feel radiating from my supporters. I also felt proud that I held to both of my commitments. Specifically, by asking as many people as I could from all class categories, and also by making sure to thank every person whether they gave much, little, or nothing at all.

In the end, I was able to raise $1,461. About 58% of my goal.

Now to some, this may seem like a failure, but to me, I see a win. Building Bridges is $1,461 richer because of all the generous financial support that was sent my way! And that’s just the financial gain. In terms of my own personal gains as the Shift Program Manager, I can tell you I am SO much more fired up about Building Bridges than I was before! I feel a new energy, spark, passion, and motivation to do my work, get organized, and plan long-term. And I know that is because I know I am not alone. Yes, I am part of a six-person team comprised of 3 staff members, 2 graduate student interns, and one alumni intern, but that’s not the whole picture. From the affirming messages, texts, Facebook post shares, and face-to-face encouragements I received, I know our team is actually around 4,000 people or more (if we include all our Facebook page followers J).

I’ve heard many organizations use the phrase “every $ counts” and I agree. But I would take it a step further to say that every supporter counts. Regardless of how much money they can or cannot give, if they are on social media or not, and if they contact us through email or on an old-fashioned landline.

We have a WEALTH of supporters at Building Bridges, of all classes, races, religions, ability levels, and generations, and EVERY supporter is highly valued. This is the equity/abundance mantra I will carry with me throughout 2019.

Interested in becoming a supporter of Building Bridges? It’s not too late! Become a monthly donor or give a one-time donation today!  Just click here.

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