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Equity in Fundraising: Why Every Supporter Matters

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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Happy National Coming Out Day!

By Kim Jackson, Building Bridges Intern

Today, on National Coming Out Day, I would like to start a dialog about bullying within the LGBTQ youth community.


…picking up your child after school. And when you ask them how their day went, they burst into tears. You ask what is wrong, and they tell you that one of their classmates told them that they don’t want to be their friend anymore because their moms are lesbians, and that being gay is wrong. They pick on her because one of her mom’s doesn’t fit into what society tells us a mom should look like; they tell her that 2 women cannot get married. This is a true story that happened to my daughter.

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Predators Gonna Prey: The Impact of Language Around Assault

By Amanda A Andrews

Author’s Note: Trigger warning this article will discuss sexual assault, and the language surrounding the subject is explicit. If this is something that may upset you please we warned and do what is best for you to take care of yourself.

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Holding Space for Intersectionality

by Amanda A Andrews

Social justice movements of the 20th century, like Women’s Suffrage or the Black Power Movement, were each radical in their own way. Each gave voice to groups that had been largely overlooked politically and socially by uniting under a common goal and a single identity.

However, new justice movements in the 21st century are up against more complex systems of inequality that require a new type of unity and action to dismantle.

Cue, intersectionality.

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Looking Back, Paying It Forward: Reflections from Liz Hamel

From Liz Hamel, Director of Programs

Dear Community,

With a full heart I’m announcing that I’m leaving my position as Building Bridges Director of Programs as of August 20.  As I make this change, I’d like to share some of my many emotions and thoughts with you.

Reflective & Grateful

Image with a quote from the blog post, overlaid on a background of the northern lights.

  • When I joined Building Bridges as a Summer Facilitator in 2014, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was questioning where I fit in the social justice world, my naturally conflict-avoidant self wasn’t fully aware of how powerful cross-identity spaces could be, and I wanted to be a part of social change rooted in empathy, healing, and inclusion, not shame, denial, or dismissal.
  • In Building Bridges, I found that healing community—I could be myself and all my identities were embraced, and I was also challenged and pushed to grow. A place where power dynamics and tension were named so that systemic inequality and oppression weren’t just “society’s” fault, but were playing out in the room for us (and me) to own. A space where youth were the experts on their own lives and weren’t fed the “right” answers, but instead encouraged to speak their truth, question, disagree, and explore the line between difference and injustice. I built connections with the most amazing people I may never have met otherwise, who shared so vulnerably and listened so intently, even in the most painful moments when developing empathy is the hardest. I knew I’d found a place like no other I’d experienced and one that represented the world I want to live in.
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“White Polite” Against the Fight for What’s Right

by Amanda A Andrews

Imagine the moment where you felt the most vulnerable. Now, imagine sharing that feeling in a circle of 20 people you’ve known for one week.

A green bar over a photo of paper bags labeled “Black, White, Latinx” says, Phrases like we’re all one race the human race or why can’t we all just get along both sound great, but don’t address any of the history that created the problem or the social systems that maintain them.

For some people that can seem intimidating or even impossible, but for Building Bridges that kind of vulnerability is in the foundation of the organization.

Building Bridges was founded in 1994 to facilitate transformative dialogues between Israeli, Palestinian, and American young women. Each summer young women would join together for a two week intensive to where they could open up about their identities and the social systems that influence their lives.

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Abandoning the Shield of Perfectionism

[Image description: A dark plum colored square background with a faded graphic of a multicolored hearts in rows across the center. In the upper left is a circular closeup picture of a young adult’s smiling face. Under a blue quote mark image reads the following white text: “I am so grateful for a radically real team who challenged me to recognize the impact of my words and actions as a person with so much privilege, get over my immobilizing perfectionism, and begin moving toward personal transformation. I am learning that the oppressive systems I hope to change must first be radically transformed within myself.” Underneath the picture and quote is blue text reading: “Tabea Meyer, 2017-2018 Facilitator and Social Work Intern” Centered at the bottom of the graphic is gold text reading: “Invest Now in Youth-Led Change!” To the right of that in the bottom right corner is the Building Bridges logo, a multicolored (green, gold, plum, blue) kaleidoscope circular shape made up of layered quote box shapes with the text “Building Bridges” in blue text across the center.]

by Tabea Meyer

Wearing perfectionism like a self-defeating and conscience-soothing shield, I have found it easier to explore outward than inward for the causes of systemic oppression. I have unconsciously protected my perceived vulnerable self with excuses that maintain the status quo and perpetuate injustice.  I abdicated responsibility for the trauma I thought others had inflicted on those with marginalized identities for generations, thinking myself somehow above reproach.  How could someone else have been so unjust? What kind of person could have those thoughts or make those policies hurting marginalized groups?

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Cultural Appropriation and Yoga

A flyer posted on a electric pole reads invites passers-by to call to share their thoughts on cultural appropriation.

by Laura Engelman, MSW Intern and School-Year Facilitator

At the end of November, Building Bridges will host a yoga event to raise awareness of our programming and to start a conversation with the larger community around issues of cultural appropriation, accessibility and inclusion.

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Impact Story: Gabriella Bauduy-Salinas

[Image description: A dark plum square background with a faded graphic of rows of multicolored hearts in the center background. In the foreground on the upper left is a cropped off circular closeup picture of a person’s face smiling. They have brown highlighted hair and brown eyes. To the right of the photo on the upper right is a blue quote mark image. White text on the right side of the image reads: “Building Bridges, I can say with certainty, changed my life in more ways than one. I had never had this sisterhood before, this group of like-minded young women eager to make positive changes in their world. This program inspired and motivated me to never stop making my voice heard.” Under the photo to the left of the quote is blue text reading: “Gabi Bauduy-Salinas, 2014-2015 Alum.” Centered at the bottom of the graphic is gold text in two lines reading: “Invest Now in Youth-Led Change!” To the right of that in the bottom right corner is the Building Bridges logo, a multicolored (green, gold, plum, blue) kaleidoscope circular shape made up of layered quote box shapes with the text “Building Bridges” in blue text across the center.]

Gabriella Bauduy-Salinas, 2014-2015 Alum

Building Bridges, I can say with certainty, changed my life in more ways than one. I had never had this sisterhood before, this group of like-minded young women eager to make positive changes in their world. This program inspired and motivated me to never stop making my voice heard.

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Impact Story: Jaala Hemingway

Participating in Building Bridges at the age of 18 changed my life in profound ways.

I felt connected to the other young women who participated in the program and empowered in my own abilities to communicate with others effectively and to be able to exercise more compassionate and strong leadership. 

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