Community-centred fundraising is all about putting the people you serve first. It is rooted in equity, collaboration and social justice to strengthen our communities. It’s changing how organizations approach fundraising and encourages the industry to raise critical questions about our work.
Sherry is a St. Louis based fundraising and communications professional with a master's degree focused in non-profit management and experience in operations, data analysis, campaign creation, securing major gifts, and leadership. She shares how we can shift our messages and mindset to align with the principles of community-centred fundraising.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Your community’s voices need to be at the center. It’s easy for people to let their bias’ influence their decision-making, and prevent organizations from making the necessary changes needed to move forward.
- Collaboration is key. Many organizations are working towards the same goal, so progress comes from collaboration. Shifting our mindset from scarcity to abundance can be powerful.
- Support your words with action. It’s not just about checking boxes, but showing that you are invested in making change within your organization. Representation is crucial, so try to have people in your community involved in decision-making.
Our Favourite Quotes
(2:28) So many of the funding sources get their finances and their funds through a capitalistic mindset, whether it be corporations or individuals that work within those. And I think that's a really scary thing for a lot of places to admit. And for some people, it's really hard to even imagine a world that would exist without that and how these spaces would continue to thrive and flourish without that existing.
(07:21) We should get to the point where we can have the conversation about how to make wealth more equitable and throughout different generations, different classes and things like that. But in order to do that, we have to come together and have great conversations.
(10:53) We tend to overwork underpay and just try to get by as much as we can because we are not for profits. And I think then we forget that we can also live in abundance and take care of each other and find enough in plenty of different ways.
Today we talk about how you could take a community-centred approach to your fundraising with Sherry Nelson.
Hi, and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcast. I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and as an innovator in nonprofit technology Driven is determined to help you get the most out of your software. We're happy to help you with your donor member or volunteer management, so if you're looking to unlock the power of your data, please give us a email@example.com.
Community-centred fundraising is a fundraising model based on equity and social justice, is about prioritizing the community over any individual organization and encourages mutual support between nonprofits. In our episode today, Sherry Nelson joins us to talk about how she takes a community-centred approach within her nonprofit and how to be mindful of the role capitalism plays within fundraising.
Sherry is a St. Louis based fundraising and communications professional with a master's degree focused in nonprofit management and experience in operations, data analysis, campaign creation, major gift and leadership. We are really excited to have her on the show today. So thank you so much, Sherry, for joining us.
Yeah, thank you for having me. I'm excited for our conversation today.
So can you start us off by kind of explaining what role capitalism plays in philanthropy? How does it impact the way that we fundraise?
Yeah, that's a big question. Really important. Obviously, it affects a lot. I think, first of all, it's important to acknowledge that capitalism exists and that it influences all that we do in our society, especially in the US. So of course, it impacts philanthropy. And a lot of the focus on philanthropy is building relationships and things like that. But it is founded in finances and money as well. One of the first ways that we think about capitalism is how it's related to money. So it's what keeps nonprofit going. It's the way that they exist here is that if we didn't have donations, if we weren't able to get those things, we would have to find other ways to exist. And so many of the funding sources get their finances and their funds through a capitalistic mindset, whether it be corporations or individuals that work within those. And I think that's a really scary thing for a lot of places to admit. And for some people, it's really hard to even imagine a world that would exist without that and how these spaces would continue to thrive and flourish without that existing.
But it's an important thing for us to do, to be able to think about those possibilities so that we can start making that change.
Yeah. You kind of have to understand how it works before you can begin to unpack it and understand how it impacts your organization specifically. And as organizations, we often strategize on how we can get more donations. It's very donor motivated. But what are other factors nonprofit can consider when making these big decisions? On their strategy?
Yeah. I think we need to think about bringing in the community and the people that are impacted the most or who the target population is, which maybe we should change those words also, but how their voices can be at the center and how they are involved in the decision-making process, instead of it being people in leadership or people who see a problem that maybe people that look like them created in the first place. I think a lot of it can be based in guilt, and that especially for white folks who recognize the problems that are going on, they want to do something to change it. But maybe then that the impact of how they're doing it isn't lining up with the intention that they had. And so there might be some sort of toxic behaviours that haven't been thought through, involved in how the work is being done. So if we can bring people in who are the most marginalized or the most impacted by the work that's being done, I think that can change a lot of the structure and be able to just have open, honest, blunt conversations about a lot of the problems that exist, a lot of the wonderful things that are existing, too, and the possibilities of places that have done the work and being able to create healthy environments and be equitable and things like that.
So I think that the first step is just acknowledging and being courageous and open to trying something different and be willing to fail, because I think that's going to come into it a lot. And being scared of failure is a part of capitalism, too, because we think everything needs to have an output or some sort of financial. What's the word?
Yeah, like a benefit
Yeah, exactly right. Productivity and all of those things. So if we can just let people be and think and slow down and not look at the bottom line all the time, I think those would be great ways to be able to do that.
Yeah. You have to have a balance when it comes to everything, like taking into consideration that at the end of the day you are working to serve the community but also appreciate that you also have to fund everything. So you do have to consider what your donors are doing. So do you have any tips on how to maintain that balance?
Man, I don't know. It's hard. I think. Yeah. Finding that balance is really important. I would say reaching out to people who you admire who are also doing the work because nobody can do it alone. I think a lot of what the themes are of what we're talking about and how to move forward is being able to do the work together because we can't like the system is set up so that if we work individually, we're not going to make it. And so in order to move forward. Community is the answer, because that's what's been taken out of the equation for so long and how capitalism has been thriving and how the goodness words are so hard, how there's been such a separation and differences of wealth.
I think theoretically, as a society, we're ready to be able to or we should get to the point where we can have the conversation about how to make wealth more equitable and throughout different generations, different classes and things like that. But in order to do that, we have to come together and have great conversations instead of having this whole well, the upper class is going to donate and serve to people who don't have that, and we're just going to feel better about it by funnelling our money through nonprofit.
And I think that a lot of people don't have that mindset. I will say that I think that there are people who are definitely not donating so that they can get the tax write off or so that they can feel better about themselves. I think that a lot of folks really do intentionally want to be able to provide that support from the bottom of their heart, not transactionally or anything like that. But I think it takes a lot of work to get there and to understand how things are set up so that that's not usually the case. Yeah.
You always have to be cognizant of how you are not only making decisions, but communicating, because I've spoken before on community-based fundraising, and there's a big discussion on the language that you're using because how you refer to people can have such an impact on how we think about the work that we're doing. So there's so many factors that go into it, and you should really have to think about how you are being mindful and making change within your organization and within your communication strategy.
Oh, for sure. Communication is such a big part of it, too.
The first thing obviously, you have to do whenever you're making change is to shift your mindset. So how can organizations shift their thinking to be more community-focused? What are some things that they can show people that they are serving, that they are being represented in their decision-making process?
I think when it comes down to it, a lot of the organizations are serving the same people. It's just they're trying to focus on one part of the puzzle of what's missing in their lives or what the problem is there. So for us, where I work at Piano, for people, it looks like music, and then how that can translate to helping them with mental health or communication or in school or whatever that might be. But other people, the people that we serve, are also not having resources to maybe good food outcomes or they don't have great access to financial literacy or even equitable income. And there's a lot of other places that do that work, too. So how can we as organizations come together to realize that the problem is greater than all of us and we can together do this work and create something that can help these people in a more holistic standpoint? And instead of coming at it like we're going to have to find all the funds and figure out all the problems and solutions on our own, realizing that we're not the only ones. And I think another big thing is switching our mindsets from scarcity to abundance and knowing that there's not just, like this small piece of pie out there that we all have to fight for, but there's like plenty there's enough and we can do it together.
And that's a big mind shift of just realizing that there is more out there. And especially for nonprofits, we tend to overwork underpay and just try to get by as much as we can because we are not for profits. And I think then we forget that we can also live in abundance and take care of each other and find enough in plenty of different ways. I think it's literally about showing them, like, showing them that people that look like them, that people that represent them are on the board, are on the staff and throughout the organization. And I think lately that there's been a lot of conversations about Dei and how places can put into place policies and things like that. But I think for a lot of places that can be just words and there needs to be action plans and tangible steps that are shown that work is being implemented not just in this pocket of work that's being done in Dei, but that it's throughout the whole organization and that people are being held accountable to doing that as well, because people are used to just seeing those boxes checked, and it not being actually something that is prioritized.
So I think a big thing is creating a group of people to center that work and then bringing everybody in the organization together to do that. So those are big things. I think Besides just bringing the people to the table, there also needs to be conversations and work done so that they're not harmed in the process because we can bring people to the table and we should. But we don't want to have the same things happening where we have biases in the organization or have certain judgments for people who don't have similar backgrounds to us. And I think we need to be able to do those things. I don't necessarily have the perfect equation for how that is, but I think those are some steps.
Yeah. That's a really important step. Representation is so crucial to all of those things. Right. Like you mentioned at the beginning of your response, they need to see that they are being represented, and that means having maybe people who used your programs or use the activities on the board, as you said, or actually part in the room making those decisions. So I think, yeah, representation is super important. And speaking of the importance of bringing voices into your organization, how crucial is it to collaborate with other organizations when it comes to community-centred fundraising? You mentioned kind of not thinking in a scarcity mindset, and I agree. So how can we take that first step?
I think that one thing in general that we do is we see other people's successes as our failures and forget that we can both succeed and we can succeed together. So instead of thinking of like, well, if I work with another organization and that's going to take away some of our funds or some of the great work or recognition for us being able to be leaders in the work that's being done and bringing in other people, I don't think that people who are doing this work well can get there by standing alone. I think that it takes that commitment and it takes so much time and a lot of times that can lead to more long-term results. That may be short-term having deposits and things. But I think that it's definitely worth it. And that just because one person has succeeded in getting a grant or getting a large gift or getting a new program off the ground doesn't mean that another organization can't do the same thing and that they can't celebrate that it's not something where one person's success is taken away by someone else's. It's like together. And I think that's the scarcity thing, too.
And how capitalism comes into play is that we aren't just people who get their worth based off productivity. We get to get our worth from just intrinsically having it, but also by being involved with other people. And I think that there's such a great diversity in the work that's being done in humans in general and getting to pick up people's brains and know that there's other solutions out there can improve us from where we start on our own.
Before we go today, I'd love to give you some space. Can you explain how people can support Pianists for People?
You'Re doing so pianos for People is an organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. And we give free pianos and free piano lessons to anybody that wouldn't otherwise be able to have access to it. So we try to break down those barriers so that it's not just upper class kids in the county that are getting to have transformational music in their lives every day, but so that anybody can have that access, so we can keep music education equitable, using the piano as a gateway to other things as well, like well being, community, mental health, things like that. So ways people can support is donating a piano. We get them from anybody who is moving had a family member pass away. Students graduate and leave to go off to College Who don't live in the home anymore. So we get those and then we take them directly to one of our students or community members who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford one and we try to do that the day of because there are so many other things involved because pianos aren't transportable otherwise they can't pick it up like a guitar so that's that part there.
Spreading the word is always great as well. Just letting people know that we're here. You never know who you know that might be interested and want to know more about what we're doing. And of course, I wouldn't be a fundraising professional if I did say you can't also give a monetary gift Whether it be from a donor-advised fund, stock, cash check, whatever. We will take it all volunteering time is also great. We have a great group of teachers on board about twelve of them and they all have different specialties and different areas of music, whether it's jazz or theory, composition, things like that. But we're always looking for more people to get involved. So if someone is a teacher and wants to do a class one day or come in once a week and help in one of our group classes Making sure the new beginners are on the right keys or whatever it might be that would be great as well. And just following us coming to our events we have different piano slams and recitals and things like that so there's a way, however you want to be involved to do it and you can always reach out to me as well.
Our website is panelsforpeople.org and thanks for learning about us and hearing.
Thank you Sherry for joining me on the show. For those listening, you can connect with Sherry on LinkedIn or visit her organization Pianos for People by visiting links in our description box. And if you'd like to learn more about Driven in the past podcast episodes or join our newsletter and get our content delivered straight to your inbox. At the end of every month you can give us a firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to have you join the Driven family. Thank you so much for listening to th e fundraising super podcast. I will see you next episode.