Can Philanthropy Learn From Social Movements Like #BlackLivesMatter & Efforts To Stop Anti LGBTQ Laws Like Bill 1523?

Imagine if institutional philanthropy could be strengthened by the kind of mutual trust that social movements are getting by matching fundraising strategies with movement building principles. Nonprofits and foundations should consider different ways to build connections with increasingly diverse people who also focus on news and movements which are not always mainstream. Strong citizen organizations and movements are based on shared identity, collective experiences, and a strong organizing framework.

It seems that there are three key lessons which fundraisers should consider when engaging diverse donor communities if some of the more potent social movements are to serve as an example for future growth.

Lesson 1:

Connect with the emotions of a news story or a policy change to leverage action:

Networks like #BlackLivesMatter have built without governance policies and practices. Often, they aim to gather people with shared values around a common theme. Ultimately, they change what society thinks about issues like race, gender, justice, and poverty. The authenticity of these groups builds the kind of urgency and outreach which mainstream philanthropy shops lack. This new breed of social activists captures all of the energy of the most effective bottom-up movements.

Lesson 2:

Use technology to reduce the time and costs of collective action:

Institutional philanthropy must seek to facilitate collective action especially under challenging conditions. Digital ties need to be forged that link connected people preoccupied with information to social change. When digital technology is used to lead the way to a future where everyone benefits, it becomes possible to raise a tide which lifts all boats even when some boats seem to have holes. Mobile is at the centre of these campaigns and we have not even scratched the surface of mobile’s potential to change the world so inclusive fundraising should examine the opportunity which digital technology creates for connecting with diverse audiences.

Lesson 3:

Understand the power of a hashtag:

The hashtag symbol (#) allows people to gather behind a common agenda instead of simply throwing ideas to the wind. The hashtag also allows people to be a part of a larger conversation and a symbol of advocacy. While some have argued that hashtag activism is activism for a lazy generation (also coined ‘slacktivism’), movements like #BlackLivesMatter have proven effective in maintaining the conversation and mobilizing the community to action. While hashtag activism is on the rise, work is still required to deepen an understanding of the return on investment for organizations when it comes to making the connection between online activism and actual results.

As philanthropy examines ways in which underserved and under-represented communities can be empowered, we need to consider ways to serve the public good while being responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity.


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