five fallacies of fundraising with Nicole McVan and Tanya Rumble

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We love busting myths in this podcast and in this episode, we are diving into more fundraising fallacies and why most of them are actually harmful for our beneficiaries, donors and relationships in our sector.

Here to share their Five Fallacies of Fundraising are Tanya Rumble and Nicole McVan. These two have been showing up on virtual stages for a while now and I’m so excited to have them on the podcast to share their framework and how it can help organizations and fundraisers.

Together, Tanya and Nicole created a Community of Practice as a dedicated space for collective wisdom focused on dismantling harmful aspects of philanthropy and discuss the harmful “best practices” that were taught to us, and continue to perpetuate in fundraising and philanthropy.

Tanya and Nicole's Five Fallacies of Fundraising:

  1. Wealth is built by the smartest and most capable people. In fundraising, we often think of white donors pictured with a racialized person or community member who's benefited from the funds that they donated. As fundraisers, we need to acknowledge the structural advantages that allowed donors to build their wealth and debunk the myth that they gained it only based on merit because this narrative creates more harm and deepens inequity in philanthropy.

  2. The donor is always right. The donor-first-at-all-cost mentality essentially gives away all of the power and creates zero or very limited boundaries for the individual fundraiser and for the organization. If we continue to please and follow our donors it will be difficult to feel a sense of control and can have a negative impact on the direction of our program and mission.

  3. Donor centricity should trump everything else. Fundraisers should not subjugate ourselves, keep donors away from work and give away our power. Donors, by and large, don't want to be on this pedestal. Oftentimes it's the charity themselves that creates these recognition grids for donors. This fills the sector with unrealistic expectations from donors and later on drains the resources of the organization for stewardship and donor recognition.

  4. Beneficiaries are deficient and need a donor to save them. Saviorism is when we center ourselves in the story instead of our beneficiaries. As fundraisers, we need to take an asset-based lens when we talk about our communities and beneficiaries that have identities that have been structurally disadvantaged from time immemorial, and we need to be thoughtful about how we position those.

  5. Resources are scarce, and we must fight each other for funding. Charities and fundraisers are worried about losing donors because our sector is built on a scarcity mindset of there's never enough, and we're constantly having to go out there to earn the money to be able to survive. But the reality is there are tons of folks out there who think about your charity in a different way.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

Post your favourite quote on social media to share with us!

“We're not fundraising for fundraising's sake. We're fundraising to make a difference. And if we miss an opportunity to connect with the hearts and minds of our donors, to help them understand how they could change the behavior, not just give money, we're missing a massive opportunity to move our missions forward.” - Nicole M.

“What we tend to do is when we talk about our donors, we talk about all the things, the triumphs and things that they've overcome as a way of diminishing their structural advantage and the privileges that they've benefited from. And then when we talk about our beneficiaries, we talk about them in a way that's not very dignified. That seems to exploit all the things, the structural disadvantages and systemic barriers that have been in their way, and doesn't really adequately talk about the systems of oppression that they've personally experienced. And so we need to flip that around and talk about all of our stakeholders with an asset-based lens that really shines the light on all of the things, all the community assets and benefits that they have working together.” - Tanya R.

Resources from this Episode

Nicole McVan | LinkedIn

Tanya Hannah Rumble, CFRE, MFA-P™ | LinkedIn


Cindy W.: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm really excited for today's conversation because we are diving into some myths or fallacies around fundraising, and I've heard our guests speak before and they are phenomenal, and I just want to know, yeah, clap my hands or show yes to everything they say.

So we're going to have so much fun really busting down some of the power dynamics that a lot of people assume exist in fundraising. And our role as nonprofit workers and fundraisers in deconstructing that power because we are not powerless. I think that's one thing I've taken away from listening to our guests in the past.

We definitely don't have all the power, but we can take action. Yeah, let's dive in. My name is Cindy Wagman and I'm your host of The Small Non-profit podcast, where we bring you practical down-to-earth advice on how to get more done for your smaller organization, you are going to change, we're just here to help.

So with that, it is such a pleasure to welcome Tanya Rumble and Nicole McVan to the podcast. Tanya works at advancement at the Toronto Metropolitan University and is the mom to a very energetic two-year-old. And Nicole is the VP of Philanthropy and Marketing at the United Way of Greater Toronto. They're also the first-time coach for their son's little league team, which I love. And I had to confirm what little league was because my kids are not into baseball at all. So Tanya, and Nicole, welcome to the podcast.

Nicole M.: Thanks so much for having us. We're thrilled to be here.

Cindy W.: I'm so excited about this conversation. I've been watching what you two have been doing in the sector. I feel like this is a long-overdue conversation on our podcast. Let's start with what you've. I've heard you present the five fallacies of fundraising, but before we dive into those tell us a little bit about what is a huge question? So I'll let you answer how you want, what got us here? What are some of the challenges that people in our sector are facing or frustrations that have led to you doing this work?

Nicole M.: Yeah I'll take that. So Tanya and I both are full-time fundraisers who have been in the sector for, 10 and 20 years and grew up learning how I grew up in the sector. And learning some best practices in air quotes. And we used to work together. We don't anymore, but we've always stayed connected. And so a few years ago through, in front of our chats, we were just talking about how challenging we find fundraising in terms of some of the myths that we have been taught.

And so really this work that we do together is just unraveling that. And we really come from a place of love for philanthropy and the belief that philanthropy can change the world and like anything that you love, you want to keep making it better. And that's, that's how we come to this work. And so we have five fallacies that we've codified and essentially there are things we've learned over time that are actually pretty harmful to donor relationships, to the sector, to the humans in it. And we give presentations, we run a community of practice. We do a lot of work around making sure that people understand this and think about tangible ways to change the way we work for the better.

Cindy W.: Thank you. So before we started recording, we were talking about one of the fallacies. So I want to start with that one if you're okay with that. I don't know if you usually present in a specific order, but this one is timely because there's a lot going on in the world right now. And organizations have a history of, feigning neutrality, like we can't speak up about this. And that's one of those fallacies that organizations must remain neutral. And you say that's absolutely not true. So let's talk about that. What happens when we are neutral?

Tanya R.: So I think, Cindy, as you said, there is no such thing as being neutral. Everyone has a point of view, a perspective, and a position that they'll take. And I think that if our, if the charitable sector was inherently neutral, then we wouldn't have made meaningful gains on things like food security and poverty alleviation over the past 40, 50 years. And so I think a lot of organizations, their origin story, and they were started at of this idea of taking a position may be at the time it was a radical position.

But even if you're working on something that can be seeming as like universally worthy as like heart disease or education, every institution has values that drive the way in which they're delivering on their mission. And so I think for a lot of organizations, they forget that and they don't remember like their initial like origins and what started them, which was taking a position on something saying, we can do better on this.

We can change the world. We can change this cause, we can change the base of this disease. And so they tend to focus their position statements only around their mission, but then when it comes to social justice issues or human rights abuses that feel adjacent to the mission are not directly tied to the work they're sadly silent.

And I think the most recent example of this would be the massacre in Buffalo on the weekend. And president Biden actually referred to it as white terrorism. He said it was white terrorism and so people were happy that he named it terrorism, but I found that hugely problematic.

The idea that its white terrorism means that terrorism inherently is not white, but having to name it as white terrorism means that all acts about all other acts of terrorism are committed by black and brown folks. That's hugely problematic in and of itself, but beyond how he responded to it. I think there's this idea that very few people acknowledged me as a racialized black woman, as a colleague, a friend, and a peer. Whereas two years ago, I was constantly getting text messages and people checking in with, how are you doing George Floyd, Ahmod Arbery. Like every time there was a tragedy and the shooting of an unarmed black person, I had friends and colleagues reaching out. That's not happening anymore.

And I'm not saying people don't care about me or that they, want to support me, not bad at all, but I think that, the public attention and the momentum around this work are completely shifted. And so folks, organizations who posted a black square, or how to position on the shooting of George Floyd are I've moved away from that and have absconded their responsibilities around responding to the ongoing tragedies that impact black, brown, trans queer folks, Muslim folks, Jewish folks anyone who has an identity, that's more marginalized.

And so neutrality is not a thing. And one of the things I always say is that charities, even if they're volunteer-run, their mission is delivered by people. Even if their focus is on animal welfare or climate, they are only able to exist because of the people that deliver those programs and services that advocate on their behalf. And so remaining neutral and not having a stance and not responding when there's Roe V Wade and reproductive white rights are being curtailed, trans rights are being curtailed all over the US. Black folks and brown folks are being massacred.

There is no such thing as neutrality. What you're actually saying is we don't care. It's not relevant enough for us to say anything. So you're not being neutral. You're just actually, saying that your position is not to weigh in because it doesn't matter enough to you and it's, not important. And so therefore the folks that are impacted by those tragedies and those human rights abuses are also not important to you. I know Nicole has more to say on this.

Nicole M.: And I think to tie that back to philanthropy and why we talk about this is a lot of charities and fundraisers are worried about losing donors. Because our sector is built on a scarcity mindset of there's never enough, and we're constantly having to go out there to earn the money to be able to survive, especially small.

I think the small nonprofits maybe don't have large reserves or endowments, but the reality is there are tons of folks out there who think about your charity in a different way. If you post there are a lot of folks not giving to art organizations because they don't think that we're bold enough and strong enough.

And so shifting from that scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset is really critical. When we look at a fallacy like this feel the courage to be able to public post public policy agendas do advocacy as part of your donor engagement events and learn how to talk to your donors about these critical issues.

As a queer person, if a charity who is not specifically. Supporting the LGBTQ plus community, but supporting human rights comes out and talks to me about what they're doing or why they care. I'm going to be a lot more interested in their organization than if they remain neutral on that. So that's it's a difficult one for organizations to work through, but it feels probably the most essential given the times we're living in right now.

Cindy W.: Absolutely. And I think, I've definitely witnessed that scarcity mindset that you talk about and the fear. And I always tell organizations, like not, everyone's supposed to be your donor, and the more that you're clear around who, who is your donor? The more you can confidently step into that position of speaking out and speaking up, but it's hard. And I, we're talking to, obviously our listeners, sometimes they're executive directors. Sometimes there are people who have, the who are in a position where they can decide to make a statement or not.

And other times we're working in organizations where we don't feel like we're in a position. And I know you both have talked about that before that we don't always have to be in a position of traditional power to be able to speak out. Now, we might not be able to speak on behalf of the organization, but what are some ways that we can make shifts or, lead within the organization to get to a place of understanding that this is actually our role as an organization.

Nicole M.: Yeah, absolutely. And I think some of those shifts occur if we look at another fallacy, which is the donor is always, which is my personal favorite, because it's so incorrect.

I think as we look at, how we shift our culture and our practices, looking at this one it's helpful. So this kind of donor first at all cost, mentality essentially gives away all of the power and creates zero or very limited boundaries for the individual fundraiser and for the organization. If you're constantly retelling yourself to meet the requests of a donor this is where we slide into a couple of things.

One is as an individual fundraiser, it's extremely difficult to feel any sense of control. If you feel like whatever the donors asking for, you have to deliver, whether that's a program that actually is more adjacent to your mission than actually supporting your mission, or whether it's, creating recognition or engagement opportunities that your organization wouldn't do to satisfy the needs of a donor.

And then the other piece here is around the mission draft. And for nonprofits, as Tanya said, everybody started with a purpose some type of goal in mind. And so many nonprofits, say, try and put themselves out of business by solving this problem. Well, when you come at it from the donors always you're essential, you're saying we're happy for you to help direct our mission.

And it's good to get input from stakeholders, but oftentimes donors come to our organizations because they believe in what we do. And they're looking for advice and expertise on how to deliver some of that impact. And so it's actually a much better relationship with a donor, if you set boundaries if you set expectations and you're able to have real conversations to say, that's a very interesting idea. It's not actually something we're going to pursue. And here's why. And you can do that on our mission side. But the example that I think a lot of fundraisers know about is this idea of a donor saying you should run a gala event and we know how expensive families are. We know like how much work they are.

And we also know they don't have the best ROI there are reasons to do them, but they're not necessarily the best. And so being able to say no to the gala, being able to say no to a restricted program that isn't going to help your mission with. Can actually build much stronger relationships with donors than just giving in.

So that's a really important one. And that was one is we talk about how do you make that shift? It has to, you have to ensure the leadership is 100% behind you before you move into that as a fundraiser. And so this starts with boards, CEOs leaders of fundraising departments to say, I've got your back. If you need to send no if you need to walk away from something, I am willing to do that with you and stand beside you on that journey. And that's a really core element. So fundraisers don't feel like they're out swinging in the wind. Yeah.

Cindy W.: Amazing. And I'm going to plug you, usually, we don't plug things until the end, but you have both of you have a community of practice that I think, one, there are resources to help work with and have these conversations within your organization, bring them out to the community of practice, having listened to podcasts, episodes, or webinars, or, conference sessions that you've been at just to get that conversation starting started. There are, you don't have to go from scratch. There's already, this conversation has ha has been had in the sector. So we'll link that in the show notes, but I highly encourage everyone to participate.

Tanya R.: I think the reality is we need a lot of small actions and we need lots of folks, and stakeholders engaged in this work. Like it's going to take a multifactorial approach to actually address, oppression. And like these systemic barriers that exist in the profession and the practice of philanthropy. And so our community of practice was born out of that. It's like space because often when we're in our workplaces, we may not feel like we actually have the support to have these conversations. We need brave spaces where we can talk about, like the wild and crazy profession of fundraising and the specific dynamics that are right for Prussian, when you have money and you have one person who wants it and needs it. And another person with that resource, like that is just a dynamic that is, a perfect storm for oppression, for sexual abuse, for trauma, for other forms of harm and oppression.

And so we created that community of practice as a way to create space to have these dialogues where I think it's often really difficult to have them in your work culture. And you need that, you need the collective wisdom, frankly, also to work through these big weighty challenges and also to sustain the momentum. This work can feel isolating I think these conversations can feel isolating. You want to find people that want to be in the community that is equally invested in this work. And I think that what will help sustain this and move this work forward is the collective.

Cindy W.: Yeah. And you mentioned small steps, which I think is also really important to keep in mind. These are big, as you've also mentioned, big issues, big things that need to change humongous shifts in our sector. And sometimes that can be really overwhelming where we feel frozen in not taking action. And I definitely think a lot of people can relate to that. And I'm sure in my experience, I've also done that where something just feels so big that you don't know where to start.

So let's talk a little bit about how to. Aside from the community practice, like where do we start if we see, for example, that donor is always right. We start to have those conversations or maybe it's not, going from zero to 60 zero to 160 seconds, maybe it's, let's start with one piece of the puzzle.

Tanya R.: I guess I would say that for folks who are not living with visible identities, like the privileged to turn this work off and to walk away from it is a privilege. And if you're in a black-around body or you have an identity, that's both marginalized and visible. You have no choice, but to continue this work. And so I think that's my call to action for those, whose intersectional identities are less visible or who have a lot of structural advantages to think about how you can be in solidarity. And I think that. Nicole and I both focus on the systemic, but, but also the individual actions that folks can take.

And so I think one thing related to the beneficiaries need saving, which is one of the five fallacies that we codified is if you are a fundraiser that works directly with corporations, foundations, or individuals, and you present grant applications, letters of intent and proposals to donors for consideration, have you read that and written that in a way where you dignified your beneficiaries. You've written in a way that's completely defensible that if they were to read that the person that would ultimately benefit from the funds being raised would read it and feel quite okay with how they've been positioned. We tend to like the stories of poverty porn and leaning into the, all the things that people have had to overcome.

And so we really need to take an asset-based lens when we're talking about particularly communities and beneficiaries that have identities that have been structurally disadvantaged from time immemorial, and we need to be thoughtful about how we position those. And what we tend to do is when we talk about our donors, we talk about all the things, the triumphs, and things that they've overcome as a way of diminishing their structural advantage and the privileges that they've benefited from. And then when we talk about our beneficiaries, we talk about them in a way that's not very dignified. That seems to exploit all the things, the structural disadvantages and systemic barriers that have been in their way don’t really adequately talk about the systems of oppression that they've personally experienced.

And so we need to flip that around and talk about all of our stakeholders with an asset-based lens that really shines the light on all of the things, all the community assets and benefits that they have working together. Cause it's often truly those connected to the cause most deeply and most closely that have the solutions. They're the ones that come up with the programs and services that we're raising funds for but we don't adequately attribute that and talk about all of the resilience. And ideas and innovations that come out of the community that has been disadvantaged.

Cindy W.: Absolutely. That's such a great example. And is there, I, before we move on to some of the other fallacies I want to make sure we've really covered off the beneficiary's needs saving. Cause I think that's such a critical one. I don't want to gloss over it. So you mentioned it and I feel like Nicole, you want to add a little bit to that.

Nicole M.: Yeah, it's really hard for me to pick my favorite fallacy. Cause I feel, I still feel like this one is one of my favorites because as a white person, I see so much saviorism in myself. And I started fundraising right out of university because I wanted to make a difference. And I think so many people come to the sector because they believe that they want to see some change happen in the world, whether you come as a fundraiser or a nonprofit person, or as a donor or a volunteer, and that's really laudable.

But saviorism is when we center ourselves in the story. And it's this idea of like a. There are white saviors on there are donor saviors and like you name it and it's this, it's really harmful to center ourselves in this, and it essentially others than. The beneficiaries and this is one of the biggest challenges I would say for fundraisers, for donors is to remove the saviorism from the way in which you talk about the work, the way in which you read your communications, your social media posts, your proposals, all those things.

And to Tanya's point moving away from that single story of dire need or overcoming triumph and this, and moving to the systemic issues. Why systemically do we have an issue? Why do we have a higher proportion of indigenous folks in this country in the carceral system than other groups? Why is it that we have that?

And instead of talking about how someone has overcome something or someone needs something. Let's talk about those specific things. That's how we remove the saviorism. That's how we start to dignify beneficiaries. And that's how we start making real change because We're not fundraising for fundraising's sake. We're fundraising to make a difference. And if we miss an opportunity to connect with the hearts and minds of our donors, to help them understand how they could change their behavior, not just give money we're missing a massive opportunity to move our missions forward.

Cindy W.: That's so great. And I think, simultaneously you mentioned the impact that has on people we serve and their ownership of their own success in life. And I think that's also something that's really stuck with me over the years is donors, organizations, staff, we're all doing this work, but at the end of the day, people have, are their successes is ultimately theirs as well, or their growth or their changes, or, whatever. Outcomes we work towards, have agency too, which I think has always been important for me to think about. What's the next I know we're not in order or if there is an order, we're out of order, but we have two more fallacies and I want to make sure we cover them all because they are so important. What do you want to talk about next?

Tanya R.: My personal favorite is the myth of meritocracy. This one I'm very fired up about always because it's such a north American trope and it's everywhere. I, we love the, like a triumph of the human spirit that like we did it all ourselves, pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and it is like the completely false narrative of individual success, taking, not into account, all of the advantages that folks have working for them.

And so one of the things Nicole and I often do when we're working directly with teams is ask folks to plot themselves in their social location. And so before we do this exercise and we introduce ourselves, we ask people to think about how they typically introduce themselves in a professional context, and often what people tend to like glam on to is all the things that they've overcome and all the things that they've had to deal with in their life, but they don't tend to focus on all the advantages that they've had. And when you do the exercise of plotting your social location, you're forced to reckon with the fact that you've had a lot of advantages for most people in the work that we do. There are lots of things that we’re working on in your favor.

But I think it's important to broaden that out. And so let's look at the systems of oppression that are at work rather than the individual experiences that each of us has because that's just an individual experience. And it's not the fault of someone who's been unable to overcome the many barriers in their way that are systemically in place for racialized differently abled, queer trans folks. It's not their fault if they can't overcome those, that is not a personal failing. That's actually the work of systemic oppression that is replicated in every aspect of our society in every institution that we interact with. And that is part of our daily lives and existence.

And so I think the myth of meritocracy is so important to this idea of fundraising and philanthropy. Because as fundraisers, we do tend to replicate the myth of meritocracy and the way that we talk about our donors, the way in which we talk about how their wealth has been built, and it has this ability to other, and I think we sometimes can see it as starkly, when we have a white donor pictured with a racialized the person or community member who's been benefited from the funds that they donated, that is like the myth of meritocracy right there. It's like not acknowledging that you had all of these advantages that allowed you to build wealth and be quote unquote, lauded as a philanthropist. And then you have someone that hasn't had those advantages working in their favor.

That is the quote unquote charity recipient. And so I think we have a responsibility to disrupt this narrative trap because it's a trap and it's not true. And so every time we write a story about a donor who has built their wealth from nothing came here with nothing. It isn't true, even if they're black, even if they're brown, that isn't true. We all have things that are working in our favor that have helped us along the way and structural advantage, we've benefited from, and then also structural disadvantages that hadn't worked in our favor. And so if we're going to tell stories, but anyone, our causes, our beneficiaries, our volunteers, our donors, they better be complete stories.

And so when Nicole and I introduce ourselves, we don't usually use our bios. So thanks Cindy, for not leaning into that. We talk about the things that make us who we are. So for me, I talk about the fact that I am a parent, I'm a mom, I work in higher ed advancement. I am racialized black. I'm a third culture kid, but I also talk about the fact that I have advanced degrees.

I own a home in the city of Toronto, and I have the ability to give back in a significant way and donate more than 10% of my income to charity. Like I have a lot of advantages. That I, that are working for me. And so how do we broaden that out to a more structural and systemic conversation? So beyond just me and the fact that I have all these different identities wrapped up in one, we replicate this through the practice of fundraising and philanthropy, with who we work with and how we work with them.

The kinds of stories that we tell about our work, with the kinds of stories we talk about, tell about our donors and our mission, and we actually need to stop doing this.

Cindy W.: Yeah, I have one experience for me that really highlighted. I think that I was working with a fundraiser, an individual who is indigenous working with an indigenous-led indigenous serving organization. And they were talking to a potential donor. And the potential donor is oh, where are you from, kind of thing. And they happened to be from the same community. And the donor was like playing, geography oh, do you know this? That we have so much in common and my client was like, you made all your wealth, like from nothing off the backs of my community, of the people in our community. And that I, that sense that w we share all these similar experiences and one person just got lucky and made it, and the other, might not have. And I just thought that was to me, really hit home this idea that even all the wealth that we have when we look at philanthropy and, this is a whole other like I could rant for a while on are, as an industry are focused on things like major gifts and prioritizing like larger size donations as this sort of be-all and end-all of what giving back looks like does harm.

Anyway. That's a whole other conversation that I've had on the podcast before and will probably continue to have, but this idea that like that person made it from scratch and has all this wealth that wealth comes from somewhere. And most of everyone's wealth comes off the backs of other people. So I found that experience really helpful.

Tanya R.: Cindy, I think you've made an opt point. I know you, we don't want to get too much into this, but this idea of democratizing giving and democratizing fundraising is really important in a conversation that's adjacent to the work that Nicole and I are doing, that we feel passionate about is that you have annual fund donors who maybe their gift is actually very personally significant to them.

It's a relatively large portion of their income and ability to contribute in a philanthropic way and they give unrestricted dollars your organization's lights on most major gifts in every organization I've ever worked for are so highly directed. And none of that funding goes towards organizational capacity, operating costs, or general needs to keep the lights on. That is the struggle. And so we laud the major gifts and the transformational gifts in our sector. But we don't at all recognize certainly our annual donors in the same way that give loyally and faithfully, whatever that amount might be, it's significant to them. And they trust your organization more than the person who's directing their gift in such a strategic way and is so involved in costs you so much to have them involved to the level that they are.

We also don't tend to value all the other contributions. So talk about diversifying our donor base basis.

Like I could go on a rant about that, but you ask folks to access and provide your organization access to new audiences, new communities. They don't make it into the annual report. They don't get listed as like your contributions, like giving us access to communities that we have not adequately served, not adequately. There are no line items that don’t get recognized in any significant way. And maybe we need to do away with annual reports that break down people's giving by amount anyways, like enough of that, we're all that donor walls. All of that is that valuable. Does that adequately recognize the contributions of many and many of those contributions? Invaluable like no amount of money, you could actually achieve the things that sometimes people are able to offer through their volunteer time, their connections, their ties, the advocacy, that advocacy that they do. And the fact that they're their key opinion leader and an advocate for your organization.

Cindy W.: Yes. Yes. Oh my goodness. Nicole, do you have anything to add, or do you want to bring us into the, I think we're at number five for the fallacy.

Nicole M.: Yeah, I can bring us the number five cause they are all interconnected. For sure. So number five is that donors belong on a pedestal and this one's a very visual one would you say? Cause you can imagine something out of reach and above, and it's this visualization of how we keep our donors at arms length and away from us and to Tanya's point this idea of subjugating ourselves and really keeping, our donors far away from the work and giving away our power, that the real, the massive challenge with this is that. Donors, I would say by and large don't want to be on this pedestal.

Oftentimes it's the charity themselves creating this like recognition grids and keeping them don't and like pumping that up instead of the donor, actually asking for that. And then now what we've filled is a sector that where donors can come to expect, this is who can throw the most elaborate recognition or stewardship event though they, therefore they shall, have the biggest donors and especially large versus small charities. You think about the resources that go into recognition and stewardship and applauding these major donors and how harmful that is in terms of the resources spent.

But also in terms of other organizations feeling like they have to keep pace, like keeping up with the Joneses. And we've got ourselves into this prisoner's dilemma of continuing to build this up. And what we really need to be doing is thinking about how do we move away from this? How do we bring the donors closer to the work? How do we redefine the relationship as an exchange and knowledge exchange and really push into this idea that donors like others want to be connected? They want to know and they want to feel, that what they're doing is making a difference. And the best way to do that is to have honest and real conversations not to put their name on a wall, and I knew some donors like that and I understand recognition is important.

But how do we rebalance that equation a bit? And I do think that the, one of the things we can do is think about how our conversations with donors are rooted in truth, and spending a bit more time on building the authentic relationship with the donor and making that connection is in the end, going to be a lot more sustainable and valuable to your organization than it is to not do that. And that's really critical.

And I've heard of an organization through our talks that talk to donors about scholarship funds. And instead the donor didn't want the scholarship fund named in their name, they actually wanted it named for the person who won it. And I love this idea that like the donors I don't want that. I don't want my name on that. Let's think of a different way to do this, where my gift can support you both financially, but also in terms of how you might reshape your thinking on this. So that's a really powerful one.

Cindy W.: I love that. Such a great example. We're running out of time and I do want to just shout out, that we have an episode of the podcast that airs almost right before this one with my friend Rickesh Lakhani, where we talk about having honest conversations with donors. So we deep dive into that quite a bit. I want to sort of wrap up coming full circle.

We talked briefly at the beginning and it's come up in a few things that both of you have said, which is subjugating ourselves, giving away our power, and our active role. In upholding these fallacies. And so any final thoughts on what and we've talked about what we can personally do, but any final thoughts on that, that we actually do have an active role in creating and upholding these systems. And therefore we can take an active role in dismantling them.

Nicole M.: I think we have the role. We are the starring character and the subjugation of ourselves. It's not the donor's fault. It's almost never the donor’s fault. It's us. And so in all of these policies, we're not harping on the donors or that we're harping on the five that we have built this sector to be harmful to ourselves, to our organizations, and to donors. And so we are at the center stage of dismantling this within ourselves. And there's a quote from indigenous author, Richard Wagamese, which I just love and he said nothing ever grew from the outside in. And this quote is for me, so powerful word, because oftentimes it can feel like largely intractable issues, you're not sure what to do, but the reality is to start with yourself in terms of how you dismantle the saviorism within yourself, how you dismantle the way in which you, other beneficiaries, where you put donors on a pedestal. Start breaking that down and taking these small steps and that's how cultures are reshaped.

And that's really what our work is about is. We want nothing short of full transformation of the sector. And we know it'll take a while, but we've got the time. We just need the collective power to do so.

Tanya R.: The only other thing I would add is I see, wealth advisors and bankers and those that like trade in money in a different context, having so much power, confidence and like social and political capital in our societies. And I wouldn't suggest that I would want to model my behavior or like use that as an avatar for the kind of fundraiser I would want to be, but like we have incredible power in each and every relationship that we broker, every connection that we have with a donor, regardless of the amount of money that they give, each interaction has an opportunity to be transformational.

Like you can see that in your own personal life, that sometimes by starting a conversation about what you're thinking about, how you're reflecting on the social justice issues and current events of your time you can shift the relationships that you've had over the long-term that maybe have been surface level, or you just have not dived into some of these deeper issues.

Use each and every exchange that you have with your donors and anyone that you work with, your beneficiaries, your volunteers, your board, your staff, and your colleagues, as an opportunity to share your values. And I think the more that we know about one another, the more we have an opportunity to deepen our relationships.

And I think we can often feel like we don't have a lot of power, especially for a not positional leadership roles. I think servant leadership is so important and I see it in action every day. And I had a colleague who posted something about the massacre in Buffalo yesterday that was so poignant.

And even you can use your social channels, make sure you have a disclaimer on there, your comments or your own, but he wasn't speaking to half of his organization. But what he had to say was so powerful. And I thought, yeah, You can leverage your social tools and your platforms to make a stand. And I know for a fact that my donors Google me and they see how I like what I put out into the world and make sure what we put out there is defensible.

It reflects your values and it will signal to the kinds of relationships that people can expect to have with you, whatever those values are.

Cindy W.: Oh, beautiful. Thank you. Thank you both for joining us. Where can our listeners learn more or connect with you? Obviously, find out more about the community of practice. What's the best way to do that.

Tanya R.: We are going to be launching our new name for the community practice soon. So stay tuned for that. The best way to do that is to reach out to Nicole or me via LinkedIn or to send us an email to and we can add you to our email list.

So you'll get news about our upcoming community practice sessions. We'll be launching again for the fall of 2022. And you can Google the five fallacies of fundraising and you will find, lots of our writing and presentations on this topic and connect with us and let us know what you think about the five fallacies. And thank you, Cindy, for giving us another opportunity to talk about something we're both very passionate about.

Cindy W.: Thank you for joining me. I'm also very passionate and I feel like I have so much to learn from both of you. So it's truly my pleasure. And of course, to our listeners, thank you for tuning in and for being part of our community, because I think we're at least striving to be quite vocal about what our values are. And especially to live that not remaining neutral fallacy and not uphold it. And I know that if you're listening to this, you share a lot of those things that we've been talking about in the values and want to create the sector that we see as possible. So thanks to you I'll and we'll see you next week.

Well, folks, that's it for today's episode of the small nonprofit. I'm your host, Cindy Wagman, and this show is brought to you by The Good Partnership. As a reminder, if you want more resources around raising more money for your small nonprofit, visit and download our free fundraising strategy guide. I'll see you next week.

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