Towards a justice-oriented approach to fundraising
With inspiration from The 10 Principles of Community-Centric Fundraising and The Revolution Will Not Be Funded.
At FoodShare, we orient our approach to fundraising in justice and equity. As fundraisers, this requires us to have an understanding — and to continue educating ourselves — on the systemic forms of oppression that underpin food insecurity: among them, racism, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, ableism, sizeism and patriarchy. When raising funding support, we have a responsibility to name the foundational issues behind the inequities we’re advocating to change, including seizing opportunities to develop materials and support conversations aimed at introducing folks to FoodShare’s approach, in particular our emphasis on justice, including food justice and body liberation.
We recognize that many of the social movements that have historically and continue to have the greatest impact on advancing social justice are forced to operate without adequate resourcing and with little support from more established charities that claim to be working on the same issues. We know that as a charitable organization there are limitations imposed on our work, but we are committed to prioritizing the mandates of movements for justice above our own job security and organizational budget growth. This includes using our platform to support policy changes and advocacy work that will lead to greater wealth redistribution for grassroots social movement work.
We look to our values to guide how we talk about what we do and the communities we collaborate with, what kinds of funding opportunities we pursue and how we invite funders into critical conversations. When seeking funding partners for our work, we prioritize working with donors that demonstrate a commitment to our values. In instances where funder requirements do not align with our values, we will be generous with our feedback and aim to create space for open dialogue to help our supporters move with us in our commitment to an equity and justice-based approach. We will never, as a result of funder pushback, work in a way that goes against our core values. Nor will we blunt our commitment to justice and transformational change to satisfy the mandates of any of our funders.
As a registered charity, we take our fiduciary responsibilities, as well as our commitment to our values as equally important, and a large part of that is ensuring that we are first and foremost prioritizing the communities (Black, Indigenous, people of colour, people with disabilities and people living on a low income) that we work alongside — including when we need to push back on what a donor is asking for if it goes against our core principles. We are transparent with our donors, and are willing to have difficult conversations in service of building stronger partnerships based on shared values that centre equity and justice.
In this way, we are communicating that the work of fundraising is an intrinsic element of — and not separate from — social changemaking. As we do justice work, we are guided by our strategic plan to prioritize growing unrestricted sources of revenue that can advance our commitment to food justice, support innovation and allow for more proactive resourcing of work. We will engage and educate our donor base on our financial goals and the importance of building secure and flexible funding to advance food justice priorities.
Part of bringing about economic justice is being transparent about the actual cost of doing our work — this includes not invisibilizing the people who perform labour at FoodShare by artificially emphasizing how low our core expenses are in comparison to our program expenses. Within FoodShare, we are modeling tangible steps that we and others in our sector can take towards eliminating income disparities that lead to food insecurity: by becoming a certified Living Wage Employer, providing a transparent pay grid for all roles across the organization and advocating for pay transparency within and beyond the sector.
This also informs how we authentically and meaningfully will thank our donors — by being open about the complexities and costs of doing transformational work. In this way, we thank them for their contributions to a greater community of individuals, organizations and groups working to advance meaningful change on the issues that we all care about.
At FoodShare justice-oriented fundraising looks like:
- Donors don’t own our work. As such, we are mindful about how donor support is recognized. Several years ago we decided not to put corporate logos on any student-facing materials that we develop. We do this to help prioritize safe, no-strings-attached learning environments.
- Not depending on volunteer labour. FoodShare has worked to reduce our reliance on volunteers in line with our commitment to provide meaningful employment for the work required in our operations (ie. packing produce boxes, farming tasks). We do this to push against the idea that frontline work is in some way “unskilled” and that charity sector workers should not be paid for their labour. When we do invite volunteers to assist us, it is always in line with our mission and operational priorities — coming alongside and supporting staff versus occupying a role we could otherwise pay someone to fulfill.