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I am a little over a week into my fellowship at the Triangle Community Foundation, and I am still excited to come into work every day! Honestly, any office that offers a free yoga class to make time for self care immediately has my heart – but more importantly, there has been tons of learning and honest conversations around equity, community, and the future of the organization. My first assignment is a written report on ways TCF can expand and improve how they share community knowledge with donors and other stakeholders. I think this is something all nonprofits should really be exploring, and is especially relevant given some conversations happening in the sector right now.

If you follow along with nonprofit happenings at all, chances are you’ve stumbled across the Nonprofitaf blog (if not, you are missing out and need to get involved ASAP). Recently the blog featured a post about donor-centrism in fundraising and how it perpetuates inequity in communities. The blog ended with a call for nonprofits to instead turn to community-centric fundraising as the answer to this problem (and a follow-up post included what this kind of model might look like). While I believe discussions of equity are vital to all nonprofit organizations as they determine programming, funding streams, change models, and everything in between – I also think this setup of donor-centric vs community-centric fundraising might be a false dichotomy. These approaches do not seem mutually exclusive, and need to be effectively combined in order to raise the most funds and create the biggest impact possible.

I also believe that donor education is one of the many important tools nonprofits can use to begin bridging the gap between donor-centric and community-centric models of fundraising.  Donor education has the potential to empowers donors’ understanding of the problems affecting their communities, create connections between more stakeholders, and potentially inspire even more flexible giving and therefore greater impact. This is why exploring donor education opportunities over the next few weeks seems more than well worth my time and energy. TCF is a partner for donors that informs, connects, and inspires – and they’ve been doing this in a variety of ways from Triangle Donor Forums, to What Matters Luncheons, to Bus Tours around the community. The purpose of my project is to help TCF continue to bring value to donor’s philanthropy through their expertise, and help them emphasize their ability to change the donor process from transactional to a partnership that involves the community too.

However, based on the research I’ve already started of peer organizations, the possibilities for sharing community knowledge seems endless -from Youtube series, to podcasts, to community reports. To me, these efforts to educate donors seem like a way to value both foundations’ donors and the community even more. Rather than treating the donors as piggy-banks or elevating them to “heroes,” these organizations are respectfully inviting them to be partners with the foundation, as well as those in the community they are serving, to create bigger and better solutions. It seems donor education can even open up the door to even more exciting funding opportunities, such as co-investment and other options for funder collaboration.

Again, I encourage you to check out the recent Nonprofitaf blog post if you have not done so already to join this equity conversation. Thanks for following along with my PWE adventure so far and I’ll be back again next week with more!

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