As nonprofit consultants, we’ve been paying close attention to the evolving national dialogue around police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and systemic racism. But, to be honest, while we’ve seen quite a few personal and professional solidarity statements, we don’t see nearly enough honest introspection. Us included. We keep asking ourselves, how can you not be self-reflecting considering what it means to be anti-racist?
But, we see the intention - we see you. We see you putting a Black Lives Matter banner on your Facebook profile picture, we see you posting books by Black authors on your Instagram and we see you promoting Black-owned businesses on LinkedIn. We applaud your interest in civic engagement and are very excited about the newfound interest in budgeting for mental health, homelessness programs, diversion and criminal justice programs. “Vote!” you tell us. “Boycott!” you chant. But hear us out, because we’re here to tell you – This is just the beginning, and it’s not even close to enough.
We’ve been part of this awhile, and if you’re really serious about erasing systemic inequities, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you better suit up and do better. Because at this point, we’re calling on you to do more than just proclaim, we’re asking you to roll up your sleeves and dig into the hard work of social justice, one donation, one day, one decision at a time.
We agree there are big policy changes that need to happen, but it’s going to take YOUR help on a daily level, across all social systems, to make real, meaningful and progressive change. Just like some thought civil rights started the day that congress passed laws, there will be some that see social justice as someone else’s job. We’re here to tell you, it’s not. Ending systemic racism is our responsibility, it’s your responsibility, and it’s just getting started.
Put down that TikTok history lesson, it’s time to get to work:
We need to volunteer in our community.
Show us a nonprofit cause, and we’ll show you one that desperately needs volunteers. Go ahead. Pick one. Whether it’s mentorship to school children or packing bags of essential hygiene products, we know there is a huge need for volunteers in the community.
Can’t leave the house? No problem. There are donor calls you can make, phone banking you can do, and donations you can solicit. Really. Visit VolunteerMatch or LAWorks, volunteer at a local home, or call the senior centers and see if they need errands you can run. Do not wait for someone to come to you with opportunities to volunteer. Create your own.
We need to donate to LOCAL nonprofit organizations.
Pick another cause, and we’ll show you one that struggles to find individual donors. More than 83% of nonprofits have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and we will see that number continue to increase as donations stagnate and fundraising events continue to be cancelled. These individual local organizations, including after-school programs, programs for the disabled, mentorship programs, mental health organizations and countless others, run the risk of severely contracting or even closing. These organizations provide critical services to low-income, disproportionately Black and Brown communities.
Your donations are critical, and every dollar matters. So yes, donate to the big name causes, but also consider donating to the small ones too, because they are doing the grassroots work that needs to happen.
We need to get civically involved at a local level.
There has been a sudden increase in interest in city budgets, but little understanding about how those work with county services, federal contracts, state budgets and federal legislation that impacts all of the above. Attend your neighborhood council meeting. Join a community action group. Heck, just read some of the city, county and state budgets.
Then, ask critical questions, propose solutions, and be honest about the barriers. The more our civic leaders see us as problem-solvers and not just critics, the more we can accomplish together.
We need to increase Black and Brown leadership in the nonprofit sector.
This is a moment of self-reflection. If nonprofits have not made a meaningful effort to increase the diversity on their Boards of Directors and Executive Teams, we need to ask why not. We need more than a lip-service commitment to materially increase the number of Black and Brown leaders in our sector, and we need to challenge the inequitable hiring requirements that disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities (we’re looking at you who require masters degrees and internship experiences).
We need to challenge the soft-bigotry in fundraising.
The things “donors” won’t like is the strawman argument for dismissing every single bold move we make as a sector towards anti-racism. While there are certainly professional norms for institutional and major donor cultivation, we owe it to ourselves to call out those practices that are unnecessary and inequitable.
We need to make bold statements knowing it may (and should) ruffle some feathers. And we should vehemently argue with those who stand in our way.