When I heard about the Rooted Retreat, I thought, what a brilliant idea, how can I support this amazing gathering. It was an entire conference for BIPOC women in the nonprofit and fundraising space. As part of our further commitment to leading in the DEI space, I asked JD Beebe if he wanted to co sponsor the conference and we joined in.
But I wanted to do even more. I thought about professional development budgets and how they had been slashed and I decided to purchase scholarships for those that wanted to attend and were limited by funding. We had 10 scholarships given out and our attendees were impressive. I asked a few of them to share their thoughts on the Rooted Retreat with you, in hopes that you would appreciate their observations, musings and being a part of a supported community of inspiring women. Here are their experiences:
"I was looking forward to the conference since it was first announced early this year. Attending a conference for WOC fundraisers was an experience I didn't want to miss. When my organization downsized due to COVID-19 and my position was eliminated, I was hesitant about spending the extra money. Hearing your offer during a FB Live was right on time. The UPROOTED conference helped me recharge and move into the next phase of my career."
Jahmaiah Lewis, MS
2020 has been an unusual year for us all. Our world has drastically changed because of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the racial uprisings after George Floyd’s murder. Before the first shelter in place orders in mid-March, I had just moved down from Brooklyn to Atlanta. Transitioning to a new city, navigating COVID-19, processing difficult feelings around racism in America all while onboarding at an organization in a development role remotely has been challenging but also rewarding. As I settle into this new phase in my journey, I have been making concerted efforts to network and build community within fundraising so I have the support that I need to stay in this space and help make a difference. The Rooted Retreat brought to life during these unprecedented times by Kishshana Palmer, CFRE, Founder of The Rooted Collaborative and CEO of Kishshana & Co., and her team came at such an auspicious time for me.
I have worked in the non-profit sector for the past decade and in development for half of that time. I used to consider myself an accidental fundraiser because I stumbled into the field when I sought a Corporate Membership Associate role at a key arts institution in Pittsburgh. I excelled the administrative work required to run the program. I am very proud that I was able to increase member engagement, building a strong relationship with a member that resulted in an additional gift that year. Looking back, that small win taught me that my efforts could make an impact and I was truly inspired. A year later, I would make a small one-time donation to a refugee who was street canvassing for a humanitarian organization and I left the conversation thinking, I would love to work for an NGO committed to identifying creative solutions. Six years later, I find myself in a new city, at a new job managing relationships with individual donor during a pandemic, at an INGO committed to saving lives and ending poverty, and I’m starting to wonder if this was “accidental” at all?
The Rooted Collaborative designed the stay at home retreat to gather in community and ground women fundraisers of color in best practices in development, leadership, management, life, and wellness. The Rooted Retreat was a 3-day packed professional and personal retreat with sessions led by or keynotes featuring exceptional professional women of color. The Rooted Collaborative has created an incredibly special experience, from a Master Class on Fundraising to sessions on philanthropic justice, donor communications, and conquering fears, to special keynote speakers who have succeeded in their fields, to an ally track curated to white development professionals, to special morning workout sessions and virtual dance breaks. It was such a timely opportunity build community virtually with women of color in the fundraising space.
I left this retreat more aware of what is holding me back and more aware of my purpose in this moment. I left this retreat with new grounding and confidence about what I have to offer in the philanthropic space and inspired to press forward with purposeful intention. With The Rooted Collaborative’s support I know that, “I am the seed. Planted. Watered. Growing. Blooming. Fruitful.”
Gems & Takeaways from Uprooted: The Rooted Retreat that resonated with me the most:
1. In fundraising, we must balance the head and the heart, the science and the art. We use the art of storytelling to connect with donors, but we must also analyze the data and develop strategies to ensure that we’re reaching donors with the greatest capacity and reaching them in the ways that matter to them. There are many stories we should tell and master along the way: the organization’s story and place in the world, the kind of work and its impact on populations served and our own stories of commitment to serving causes in need.
2. Many of us have been taught best practices around donor centrism and were offered a new perspective for engagement. The “because of you” themes used in donor centric communications helps fuel systemic injustice. We often frame those in need as victims and those who can help as saviors. Instead, we should help donors experience the joy of giving by helping them feel a part of a larger giving community. Those who need their help are also a part of the larger community too. Donors can partner with organizations in having an impact. Giving is an opportunity to connect community needs with resources and donors.
3. Preparedness is key in communicating with donors. Building scripts to navigate challenging conversations can be a helpful tool in having meaningful communications. It is okay to ask questions of donors when trying to understand their perspective and offer new perspectives if their views are not in alignment with the organization’s. Of course, these conversations must be tactful and that is where the preparation comes. Difficult dialogues can lead to breakthroughs and deeper relationships.
4. In the workplace: Learn to speak up and ask the tough questions. Doors can open if you speak up. It can be challenging at times deciding when to ask tough questions or when to share perspectives that differ from the group. Asking the tough questions and speaking up can be difficult but can be rewarding too. Diverse voices are important in groups to avoid groupthink. Speaking up by asking questions or sharing different ways of viewing an issue or a solution, shows that we are engaged and thinking about solutions in the workplace.
5. On Vulnerability and Authenticity: Black women and women of color must be careful when being vulnerable and authentic in the workplace. Challenging moments that lead to vulnerability or authenticity in a woman may be viewed as incompetence or being overly emotional while vulnerability and emotion from someone like a white man can be viewed as self-awareness.
6. On Fears: We must push past fear to find courage and elevate past fear to achieve our career goals. There are 5 types of fears: The Procrastinator, The Dreamer, The Self-Sabotage, The Jane of All Trades, and The Quitter. Understanding which types we experience most often can help us strategize actions that we can take to push past our fears. (Note to self: I fall into The Dreamer type.)
7. On Black Women in Fundraising: Black women tend to struggle with perfectionism. We struggle with belonging and feeling capable. Many of us have great work experience and have advanced degrees and/or certifications and still experience self-doubt. We must remind ourselves that we belong and that we are capable. We are exactly where we need to be.
8. There is community here, community among women of color in fundraising. Although we may work on teams that are predominantly white, there are Black women and women of color fundraising for nonprofits across the country experiencing similar challenges. These challenges have made this work tough at times, but we all care about this work and know that our presence is important. Community within the field among women of color can provide support and help shine the light on who we are and what we are capable of.
9. On working from home and self-care: Some of us may be feeling more accessible to our jobs because we are working from home and wondering whether the workday ever ends. We must manage our energy in addition to managing our time. It is helpful to identify times of focus and deep work and shut off notifications to make that time productive. Self-care must be one of our priorities during this time.
I was honored to be a sponsor of this event and help provide these brilliant scholarship recipients with an amazing experience. I look forward to continuing to find ways to support BIPOC in our industry and beyond.