WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
EPISODE 12: Moving from Transactional to Transformational: How to Re-Imagine Volunteer Engagement with Breauna Dorelus
“I think the institution of volunteerism has allowed people to be able to easily connect and disconnect to the hard stuff, and to injustice. It’s easy to go in and pack these 15 boxes and say I now feel great about myself.
– BREAUNA DORELUS
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
I talk to the Founder and Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, the brilliant Breauna Dorelus. She is an advocate for voices of color and her work is centered on uprooting harmful volunteerism practices based on the principle that transformational service must help instead of harm.
Is the volunteering you are bringing into a community helpful or hurtful? Breauna and I talk about white supremacy and its relationship with voluntarism, how to truly partner with a community, and the deep-rooted biases that need to be cut short in the nonprofit world.
Join this very real conversation with Breauna on true advocacy, co-liberation, and dignified partnering. I had never looked at these issues so clearly as I did during this episode. I am sure you will feel the same way.
Breauna Dolerus is Founder and Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause. Her work is centered on uprooting harmful volunteerism practices especially in black and brown communities based on the principle that transformational service must help instead of harm.
I couldn’t agree more with this mission. Breauna brings to the table the tough conversations the nonprofit community needs to have around the deep-seated white savior complex, racism, and other biases.
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NON PROFIT SHOUTOUT
Connecting the Cause is a volunteer engagement consultancy. We support volunteers and the organizations that lead them effectively identify and uproot harmful service practices so that dignity and respect lead instead of pity and power.
Mallory: Welcome everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Breauna Dorelus. I have been such a fan of your work for a long time at Connecting the Cause. And I’m just so excited for everyone to get to know you today and learn from you. So thank you for taking this time.
Breauna: Yeah, I’m super excited to be here. Thank you so much. I know when we originally connected, there were some sparks, so I’m definitely glad to be here today.
Mallory: Yes. Yes. I feel you and I are exploring some of the same fundamental questions around community building and relationship building and impact drivers in this sector. I do it with the fundraising hat on, and you’re doing the volunteer hat on, and there are so many places that they’re overlapping so I’m excited for us to explore some of those concepts today.
But let’s start with just folks getting to know you a little bit better. What brings you to this work, a little bit about who you are and what this moment in time is like for you.
Breauna: Yeah. So I came to this work by way of experiencing service in my own life. From my mom and my dad who are serial connectors and servants for their communities and being raised and seeing that and then my mother just nurturing that need for me to be connected to community in my own life. I remember one of those instances she just kept seeing over and over again that I kept gravitating towards National Geographic books in the line and the grocery stores and she was like “ What is this?”.
Fast forward model, she put me in the Model United Nations and got aunts and uncles to come together to fundraise and give me money to be able to go and travel and study abroad. All the way to be able to have my own experiences there.
I came into this work really wanting to make a difference, but then also realizing that oftentimes when we try to make the difference, we end up perpetuating a lot of harm in the process.
And so that same trip that allowed me to go, and my community raised me up and allowed me to be there, unfortunately, it’s the same thorn in my side, where I caused a lot of harm. I’m in a position now of that being something that catapulted me into the space of service. But now through Connecting the Cause and my work in the nonprofit sector, I want to champion community center volunteerism instead of volunteers-centered organizational-centered volunteerism.
And so that’s a lot of the work that I do now in consulting and connecting with individuals, identifying those harmful practices in volunteerism, and when it comes to organizational strategy as well. I’m a mamma, I cling heavily to my faith, I’m a thrifter.
Mallory: Love it! We have so much in common. I don’t know if you want to share more about your personal experience. I wanna invite you to if you want to, but either on that level or more of the macro level, what are some of the most common practices we see in volunteering that cause a lot of harm to the communities that they are “intending to be in service to”.
Breauna: Such a good question. So we often talk about the nonprofit sector and its mission of doing good and giving back. And oftentimes what we don’t talk about is that certain things had to be taken away for something to be given back. So when we think about that and we look at volunteerism, we use volunteerism as a mechanism to give back, but oftentimes we are stripping away what we are intending to give that dignity, that respect, a helping hand.
And so if you look at volunteerism right now in these spaces, when you think about volunteer articles, it’s a “Top three reasons you should volunteer” or “Top three ways volunteering can be important to your health”. And all of it is very self-centered honestly. You’re going to meet friends. You’re going to get cool swag. It’s going to help you with new skills.
And so what we’ve done over the years, even in academia, when your professors say, “if you can volunteer for this organization, you will pass this class. If you give 30 hours”, or we do it in our corporate groups as our corporate social responsibilities. “We’re going to have a corporate day of service.”
And so in all of these little places along our lives, we have commodified volunteerism so that we use it for our own interests and not for the interests of the community. And so what ends up happening in that space? Number one, our volunteer and individual feelings of what makes us comfortable and happy come before actual community solutions.
At the end of the day, we have instances where even while we are volunteering, we have negative biases and stereotypes. We have certain communities, where racism implodes in those spaces. And so as you’re literally helping individuals, you’re also having very negative undertones with how you think they are. You think they’re a mistake. You are saying, I need to be saving you from yourself or I need to be in this position to be your hero.
And so we literally try to stop these systems from happening, right? We think about the educational system and the disparities there. We think about the criminal punishment system and the disparities in that. But as we are trying to literally say, you know what, this is a food desert. I’m going to go drop off food. We have become our own system of oppression because we go in and we have negative stereotypes about those that we serve and we click on that pity and that power and that privilege and then we also end up leaving them more codependent than more self-sufficient.
And that’s a lot of the ways in which we cause that harm and it’s all under that nice little umbrella of the white savior industrial complex. So that’s a lot of where I see that happening.
Mallory: Wow. There’s so much, I want to sort of unpack there with you. We’ve seen this, especially over the last 18, 20 months, organizations are starting to have a reckoning with a lot of the different practices that are happening inside of their organization. And when you have folks come to you saying, “Okay, we know there’s something fundamentally wrong with how we are implementing or executing our volunteer program”.
Where can they even start? Or maybe it is with a deeper look inside because this is something I see with fundraising. A lot of the time folks will come to me asking about how to implement community-centric fundraising practices, but the foundation of how their organization was set up is inherently in conflict with that. And there are some real underlying beliefs around why they should even exist as a nonprofit that are in direct conflict with that.
And so a lot of what I’ve been exploring in myself and with organizations is what is the first step to starting to change and come to terms with, and admit even to some of the things that are happening inside your organization. How do you start that process for folks?
Breauna: Yeah, that’s such a good question. Here in Atlanta, we have a population of individuals who don’t have a permanent address. We have a huge population of those individuals and when I’m talking to people in their first steps I think about when it comes to those that you’re partnering with — I use the word partnering with, I try to use not the word serve as much as possible, but just co-partnering with — if you see someone in that particular situation, what’s your first thought? What is your first initial reaction when you are driving and someone is holding up a sign?
Or what’s your initial thought when you see a black woman, who’s walking with their child and they’re at a bus stop and they’re waiting on the bus? What are your initial reactions when a client comes into your organization and they are looking for resources and you’re fiddling with your papers, trying to do the next thing?
What is your initial thought when looking and thinking about those that you’re partnering with? Is it anything from disgust? Is it a feeling of “you’re interrupting me”? A feeling of this is prohibiting me from going and moving throughout my day?
I remember at the dinner table when I was eight years old, my grandma said people who don’t have a permanent address, homeless folks are lazy and I carry that with me. What are those things that are in your heart? Because we have to understand at the end of the day, with our mindset we create policies and procedures out of biases and out of morals and the things that we feel. And so a lot of the things that have been constructed in these organizations come from individuals who have these particular mindsets about those that they’re partnering with.
So first it comes to what are your initial reactions? You have to deal with the fact that you think these people have some type of worthlessness. You have to individually deal with the fact that you pity them. You have to deal with the fact that a lot of the identities that you carry, a lot of the identities that you heard they’re against who they really are.
And so being able to recognize that and say, if I’m thinking this way, then in what ways are my decisions being rooted and being transformed in these ways, from what you know, all of these thoughts and opinions that I have, how have I made decisions based off of those things? And we see that throughout all of the different aspects of volunteerism to the different aspects of nonprofit work.
And so that’s where I asked people to start because if they don’t start where the heart is going to be a checklist and it’s not going to be a journey of reflection refinement is going to be a journey of, okay, I did this check. Somebody tell me what to do. Get whatever I need to get out of this and be done versus really doing the hard work.
Mallory: Yeah. Wow. There are so many pieces of that for us to unpack, but I want to go back to something you said, actually at the very beginning around the critical distinction between volunteers solving a problem versus society causing a problem and us collectively in partnership committing to fixing that problem or the root cause of that problem, right?
Like this really critical understanding that something has been taken away and that solutions and partnership need to be rooted in that history, in that acknowledgment, in that unlearning process. You and I haven’t talked about this before, but so much of my coaching work is really rooted in what you’re talking about, which is this cognitive behavior loop.
This idea that every time we show up, every time we take an action We’re doing it because of a set of thoughts and beliefs that we hold, and everything that we feel in fact is also related to thoughts and beliefs that we hold. So even when you said disgust, or even if people feel anxiety because they feel interrupted and they have so many other things to do, that anxiety is connected to a belief that you’re holding about that person who interrupted you.
And I think the way you’re pushing people to unravel that is so critical because the action is problematic in the sense of the harm that it’s causing. Just changing the action is just the performative part of it. And that’s going to mean that we go onto the next thing and we are going to create another harmful practice and it’s not going to be until we can unwind further that we can make change that is fundamentally rooted in that partnership.
Breauna: Yeah, absolutely. I think we talked about this a little bit, that empathy piece, and that connectedness part. The institution of volunteerism has allowed people to be able to easily connect and disconnect to hard stuff and so to injustice.
It’s easy to go in, pack these 15 boxes. I now feel great about myself. I got the t-shirt. I got the high-five. Let’s go out for drinks later and then I can sleep it off. And I don’t even remember what happened the next day. All I know is I feel this high, but did you get a change of heart? Was there a transformation of understanding that now you can carry with you, that you can infuse into your lifestyle because now you know what it means to experience this peace that you’ve never experienced before?
I always to nonprofit organizations, if your volunteers can not go back to the kitchen table, cannot go back to their workplaces, cannot go back to their family reunions or their bar friends and when something comes up about a particular group of people and they’re able to say, “Wait a second, that’s actually not true. The real issue is this”. And they were able to do that because they were able to unlearn by being able to interact with the training and orientation of your organization, you’re not doing it right. And we’ll stand on that forever.
We have too many opportunities as non-profit organizations to talk to people in ways that no one else can right now in the world, there are millions of people who are in training or orientation or a volunteer opportunity. They are right there for the work to get started. What are you doing in that moment where you have these hundreds of thousands of people’s attention? Are you being able to actually tell the truth and say, listen, these black and brown communities are hurting because of these systems. Not because they’re mistakes, not because we have to understand the root of these issues. And why are you here? Are you here to be happy or are you to co-liberate?
And what a change they can have in their mindset! Say, “Listen, I don’t want you to go back and say this thing about this community and this thing about this community, I want you to go back and tell the truth. And then here is the truth”.
And for them to be able to communicate those truths and say now you are an advocate and you go spread the truth about those that you’re connected with now, and you advocate for them. And what a difference it would make! We are squandering an opportunity to be able to change lives within the volunteers and of course, the communities that we serve.
I got in the soapbox!
Mallory: No! I’m here for it and oh, God I think every day I ask myself a fundamental question around whether capitalism can exist and not cause the harm it causes today. Because I think about what you’re saying and I’m imagining these corporate volunteer days or weeks or whatever and I’m like, but what happens when everyone starts to tell the truth?
What happens? Does it fundamentally break capitalism? And so then will these companies and these people who are really benefiting from capitalism, and not to say that I am not one of them, continue to push past that discomfort for co-liberation?
And I think, and please tell me if I’m even out of line and asking this question, but I can imagine that what happens then is such a heavier burden is put on black and brown leaders particularly to be the only ones that are telling the truth in those situations. And then it continues to perpetuate the exact same power dynamic.
Breauna: Yeah, no, that’s real. And I think that is why we need these spaces as a Breauna, as a Mallory, to be able to call people higher and say, no, it is not their responsibility to put this on black and brown communities, while also realizing that we are where the solution’s going to come from. At the end of the day, I want to be the one to communicate my truth out of my mouth and I want you to be able to take that truth and communicate it to your folks.
I’m not saying that I want to be responsible for your people. I want to know that you are co-dreaming with me. It’s about coal dreaming, coal liberation. It’s a recognition that I am not the only one that is suffering from white supremacy. You are suffering from that as well. And you’re perpetuating it by not being able to tell the truth.
And that is the thing about communities and keeping community at the center of service, is the fact that the decision-making, the solutions, I’m talking about volunteers, the way we should do orientations, and training, I want to be able to put that in the hands, to be able to drive that, and get paid for it. We’re just asking nonprofits “Can you come in and talk to this group? Can you come in and help these white folks get it together?”
Yeah, I can do that because I do want my truth to be heard. And I also want to be compensated and paid for my knowledge and my skills, my gifts, and my experiences like you would do anybody else who was actually in that position.
And that is one thing I want to see more of. I am such an advocate for black and brown voices in every part of the nonprofit process, not just the ones who are given to us all the time. I want to see us in CEO positions, I want a black or brown person to take over my spot when I leave. Who’s in the talent pool that I can go ahead and start cultivating so that that can actually happen and take place.
I want community leaders to come in and be the trainers and the orientals of my volunteers. And I want to be able to pay them as a contractor, on staff or whatever the case may be for their work. There’s a real integration there that I feel really needs to happen so that when we think about capitalism, and when we think about doing in a way that’s harmful capitalism, in a harmful way is not paying for what they’re worth.
I want to play the black and brown for what they’re worth. So you need to pay me and you need to see that my talent and taht my skill is worthy enough, and I can be plugged into all aspects of this process. And that’s where the solutions are.
Mallory: I could not agree with what you said, and I want to go back to something you said, at the beginning of that, and really challenge people who are listening to this to reflect on this.
If when you said the piece around the community members coming in and leading the volunteer program, if folks had a reaction to that around doubt or capability or anything like that, here’s your first belief to start checking.
Breauna: Yep, there it is.
Mallory: Yep. So you need to pause this podcast and go there? You need to go there right nowbecause that is at the core of this question and it’s certainly something I’ve heard and watched in action. So I hope we’re challenging people today to start looking at that now.
Breauna: Absolutely. And right now, I’m going through just the characteristics of white supremacy as it relates to volunteerism.
And one of the characteristics of white supremacy is this sense of urgency. This sense that we have to hurry up and recruit, or we have to hurry up to put butts in seats, or we have to hurry up and make decisions for the community or they’re going to die. Like we have to hurry to do these things instead of what the communities are really looking for, what communities like mine are really looking for.
And of course, we’re not a monolith, but in my experience, there has to be baked in time and relationship building and trust, and understanding. And all we want to do is just be very transactional, how many people can we get to come and show up for this thing versus who’s already doing this and how can we build relationships with them to get to understand what they want and we just provide the hands for their dream?
The flip side of all of this is moving towards nonprofits and volunteer programs, being in a space where we are a resource center for the community’s dreams. And all we do is we create programs and strategies and we have hands to build up and prop up whatever they want to do.
I look at non-profit organizations and if the community says this is a community organization, versus some nonprofit over there, you haven’t done the integration and the relationship-building necessary for the community to recognize you as a part of their ecosystem. And I think that’s a big issue as well.
Mallory: And you know what’s so interesting about what you’re talking about right now is some of what you were describing in terms of what you want to see and the relationship-building process and the questions and the nurturing. That is how nonprofits are talking about taking care of their top donors. They have those skills, they have plenty of skills to not be too urgent. So actually the reflection here of these two things up against each other is nauseated for me to be thinking about now.
It’s like everything you just said, I’m like that’s a major gifts program.
Breauna: Wow. Which brings us to the hard truth that they don’t care.
That brings us to a hard truth of seeing the community as something that can be discarded, that corners can be cut, “we’ll give them what we can”. And in this space, we’ve talked about this before. A lot of volunteer managers have this heaviness about C-suite only wanting to come in and think about volunteerism in a way that can potentially be the next donor out of this group of people.
Is there anybody in here that’s connected? Is there anybody here that’s in corporate? Is there anyone in here with old money that we can then cultivate through the volunteer program and be able to cultivate them to be a top donor? And so oftentimes other individuals in the organization look at volunteerism as just a pit for potential. And for board members to come in and have a little transactional volunteer moment and they still feel connected to the community on like a board day or like a board day of service.
And so it’s sad to hear and to see these characteristics of cultivation are there you’re just deciding to put it in a place where capitalism reigns and not in a place where your mission is actually supposed to be helping those with who you are partnering with.
Mallory: You and I have talked a lot about that before. What is the appropriate way for volunteering inside an organization to be separated from development, to ensure that decisions aren’t being made in that way, or, you really are committed to community-centric volunteerism, that is it’s likely not overseen by your development office?
And there is likely a real strong conflict of interest line there. And that’s a decision that your organization needs to look really hard at depending on the type of organization that you are in, and the work that you’re doing. There are some organizations that have different dynamics in terms of what they’re able to provide for volunteer opportunities that don’t do harm to the communities, that are rooted in the local community, in the same way. And so just to say that there is that diversity amongst organizations, and I’m an advocate just to call myself out here with certain types of organizations.
I do believe volunteer opportunities should be a benefit of sponsorship. Not in the situations you and I are talking about, but I work with a lot of healthcare-related organizations where the recipients of care benefit from certain materials assembled, or they benefit from certain cards being made or things like that, things that are in service of the community being served by the organization where I think there is a way to build in volunteer opportunities.
Not that it’s transactional, for me the reason why I want to include it in a sponsorship level is because I’m also really tired of companies coming to nonprofits, asking for volunteer opportunities constantly, and not thinking that the organization needs to be paid for their time and all the people who set up that volunteer day deserve to be paid for that time.
And it’s you know what it took to put that together? You need to see the benefit. Let’s talk about the benefits to your company. Let’s not pretend here that you’re doing us some favor. This is a mutually beneficial partnership and in order to put it on, yes, this serves our organization in this way, and it’s also really serving your company in this way.
So here’s the way to make it actually feel like a partnership. And part of that is you supporting our organization so that we can do all the work around it and we’re going to charge really well for it.
Breauna: Absolutely. I think that it’s so important for and for organizations to be able to tell the truth. I’m such a big proponent of just telling the truth in all aspects. Tell the truth to your volunteers and training to the community when you actually got rid of a volunteer opportunity, because it was harmful.
Tell them why I got rid of it. And be remorseful about it and apologize about it. Tell the truth to corporate groups and when corporate groups want to come in and say, “Hey, we have this day of service with this many people coming and we want these shots and we want to come in with these types of things” and be able to see you know what that’s amazing. Thank you so much. Let me communicate with you how that can fit into our overall mission, but let me also communicate the things that may not fit in our mission that I want to let you know upfront to see if this is something you still want to do.
When I was doing a training with the corporate group one day I was asking this corporate group, I want you to go and ask the organization, what is it that you need from us in order to effectively serve number one and number two, how can we make it happen? Those two questions. And then from the nonprofit standpoint, these are the list of things that our communities are in need of right now and these are the areas that you can meet those needs.
So both of them coming in strong. From the corporate side, we have all these resources, we have open hearts, tell us what it is. And then from a nonprofit standpoint, being strong and firm is what we’re looking for so that marriage can take place. And I think that it’s high time for us to stop cuddling people for their money.
Somebody asked me the other day, how do we communicate these metrics when that’s what the grants are asking for? When is that what the sponsor is asking for? while also telling them it needs to be different metrics. And I’m like, y’all what’s happening in my world of oppression and community-centric volunteerism is that we are flying a plane and trying to rebuild it in the sky, as we speak.
For the life of me, I want the world to pause and just blow up the plane and we start over from scratch. But that’s not our reality right now. So what does that mean? It means instead of communicating all the time “We need this from the community and we need this for the community and we need this”, being able to change the way we talk about communities in an assessing and dignified way, and be able to say these communities have these particular gifts, talents, skills and if we partner with them, then the outcome will be a, b and c. Instead of this just a deficit based on what they are trying to hear.
And not all money is good money. I would rather start off with five good solid, impactful opportunities that are solution-based, where communities have communicated “Yes this is what we want”, who’ve given us feedback on it and there is a relationship than 15, 20 different areas for people to plug in because we’re in a scarcity mindset and there’s no impact being made.
Dwell that list down, make sure it’s good to go, and build from there. That’s that, that sense of urgency that’s coming out. That sense of paternalism, that we have to have all these different options, but no! Just scale it back and know that we’re taking community out of community work, that’s what we just keep doing over and over again.
Mallory: Everything just like everything you said. One of the things I also just want to say around that grant funder piece is if you’re an organization that you’re really committed to community-centric fundraising principles, community-centric volunteerism, then it’s time to have some hard conversations with your funders.
And I don’t mean that you’re going to your funders and you’re blowing it up. I think there are actually plenty of ways. There are tons of big funder institutions that are making grandiose statements about their commitment to anti-racist work and all this stuff so now’s the time for those organizations, those foundations, that you are a strong partner of that you’ve been getting multi-year funding from that you’re getting to sit down with your grant-officers and say, “Hey, we’re learning over here about X, Y, and Z. And one of the things we recently learned about is that the metrics we’ve been reporting on around blank are actually causing harm to our community in this way. Can we talk about that with you? Can we explore that with you?”
“We know you have to answer to a board of trustees. We know we’re flying a plane in the air, but let’s talk about what you need as the grantor and how we can find something so that we are giving you information that you need to report back to your trustee. But also, let’s just figure this out together because we’ve heard you say over and over how much you care about this. So let us be your partner in figuring this part out too.”
I’ve heard so often recently people tell me that they have strong relationships with their funders, but then when I pushed them around having this conversation, they’re like, “Oh no”. And I’m like, so tell me how you define strength in a relationship. What is the definition of strength and a funder relationship?
That needs to really be looked at because if you can’t walk into this conversation around co-creation to achieve a goal you’ve both set, which is to make your practices more anti-racist and more community-centric. If you can’t open that conversation, is it a strong relationship?
I wouldn’t say no. Like I don’t have strong relationships in my personal life where I can’t talk to them about a problem I’m having.
Breauna: Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting that you’re talking about this because this is in the same way we think about building strong community relations. Because that is such a foundation for effective community building.
I’m going to do it one day, which is a new word for like volunteer? Because I feel like it’s gotten so inundated with a lot of heaviness around it. I think at this point in time, organizations have gotten so big on cash. So we have this great relationship with this community leader. Okay. So what are their top three goals for their community?
How are you partnering with those goals? What is it like for your volunteers to be hands-on when they have a community, can you call on your community partners to be able to help them with that? Can you use your resources and your Rolodex of people to be able to respond to their call? What does that look like?
And I’ll never forget I was working at an organization and we had a tutoring program. And it was caught wind that a woman in the community also had a similar type of program that she was running at a local church. The first reaction to hearing that was what is she doing? What’s going on? Can somebody come over there and see how she’s running it?
We’ve asked her multiple times to come and volunteer for us, but she hasn’t volunteered yet. It looks like we are serving the same demographic. And so I don’t want to have any conflict of interest. Like all this stuff came up and my first reaction was, why does it matter? Like why does it matter that she’s doing this? And they call it “on the side as” if this is not her own community and she’s meeting a need in her own community? And we look so much at community as like a conflict, as like we’re in competition with them. “Oh, this community group is getting all of these little black and brown kids to come to their war day, but we can’t get anybody to come to ours.”
This weird dynamic around autonomy of choice that I’ve seen in the past where I can care for my community any way I see fit and no one doesn’t, it doesn’t look like a formal volunteer program. 70% of people around the world are not connected to a formal voluntary program who are actually volunteering, which means they are going out on their own without someone telling them to and are making local and neighboring and belonging connections, community connections, and their handling each other with care.
And it’s not coming from this sense of I have this organization that’s filtering through to tell me. It’s a very westernized thing to have to go through an organization to figure out how to give back. So I’m wanting to, even through the use of nonprofit organizations, break down those barriers of red tape that the nonprofit sector has set up of how you’re supposed to volunteer, the way that you’re supposed to do it, because all of those best practices that are happening are barriers for black and brown communities.
Best practices are best for people who don’t look like us. Like people who do not look like people where I come from. So at the end of the day, it is creating these silos of saviors, instead of just this dispersement of this ecosystem of care. And so having to break down those barriers and say, and don’t take all that.
All of these policies and procedures are, how can we keep the volunteers safe from the communities, like how can we make sure that we’re not liable for this particular thing or that particular thing? When at the end of the day, this is hard stuff, this is justice work, and you have to have the right heart posture to really become that co-dreamer.
And I said this before, being a co-dreamer does not mean, I know you by your needs, it’s I know you by your goals. I know you by your strength. I know you by the things that you want to do, and you don’t even have to be excellent at anything that makes you so spectacular. I want to partner in whatever makes you you and have you do that well. And so that’s what that has to look like as we break down these non-profit walls.
Mallory: Everything you just said about co-dreaming is what you’re doing with your donor. There is some stuff to really look at here and I just really want to encourage people because I think there is so much that you said, and so many opportunities for people to look at themselves first, as you said, and then at their organizations.
Not all money is created equal. If you are in a position in your organization where you believe that the money you are taking is causing harm to the community, that is your mission is intended to partner with, you have to look at that and you have to make some real decisions. And there are a lot of decisions. In my opinion, it’s not just taking the money,or not taking the money. This is where I really think the nonprofit sector can be. To foundations. Like I really do believe in, especially these big nonprofits, need to be advocating for this sector-wide change around a lot of these different things.
I had a great conversation with a program officer at a foundation recently around the way that grant-making falls into the same desperation cycle as poverty. And so what does that mean in terms of scarcity mindset? That whole piece around when we don’t know where we’re getting our next meal or when we don’t know when we’re getting our next funding, what that actually does to break down individuals, communities, organizations in that scarcity mindset, let alone the triggering and the trauma that it causes.
And so I think there are some really big things for us all to be looking at that are so deeply interconnected. But I just want to go back to what you said before, inviting you to share all the ways that folks can connect with you is like the, tell the truth, like love that as the core foundational piece to all this.
Breauna: Yeah, absolutely. I think as you said earlier, it’s really interesting that the conversation has gotten to this point of really understanding these discrepancies in between the two. I think as a takeaway, a reflection of what this looks like, if you’re able, and these organizations and fundraisers are able to cultivate and build relationships and cater to, and listen to, and co-create on this side of the donor, but it’s not happening on the side of communities, that middle piece as to the why is like the crux of all of this. That is the crux of Connecting the Cause.
That’s where I would love for people to think through and explore on a personal level, but also professional level because the very thing you’re even raising the money for you’re not cultivating on the back end. So what’s the purpose? What’s the purpose of the cultivation, on that front end, if you’re not even getting the right solutions?
So in all actuality, the money that you’re getting is coming into a solution that’s just not based in truth, that’s not based in community and that’s not based on the mission. So where does the money go? If the money’s not going there, where is it going? Yeah, let’s leave folks with that question.
Mallory: I want to make sure folks can find you. Tell them all the things, how can they work with you?
And then I invite everyone at the end to share a nonprofit that’s really near and dear to their heart but I know as someone who works with many nonprofits, if you don’t want to do that, if there’s anything you want to inspire folks to do in terms of how they look to give in their local community, what to look for in organizations, you can be more general too.
Breauna: Yeah. Yeah, of course. So definitely my work is at https://www.connectingthecause.com/. I do a lot of my stuff, honestly, on Instagram @connectingthecause and you can reach me at Breauna Connecting The Cause.
I also have a new membership community called The Renewed where we are consistently uprooting and identifying ways that we’ve been oppressive in the volunteer system and ways to change the future of volunteerism. So that’s what we’re doing there.
And I think, I would say as a leaving thought of people being able to connect organizations, I think that it is so important to be able to connect with on the ground, rash roots, black and brown led organizations that are actually doing the work. And if you do not know a black or brown-led organization doing the work, then I implore you to find one. Because they’re out there and they are present and they are active. And that goes into more work around what it looks like to build up your relationship, to help with unlearning, to help with a deeper ecosystem with care.
I do not want to be the individual that’s like “here are five people that you can, go and find in your place”. I want you to find them. I would say investing in leaders who are so close to the solutions that they can touch them, that they are living them, and reach out to everybody.
Mallory: Thank you. And thank you for this conversation and for all of the work that you’re doing.
Breauna: Yeah, this was great. I feel like there needs to be like a part 2 and 3!
Mallory: I know, we should just do a series!
Breauna: We scratched the surface. I know, but thank you so much for having me, and thank you for your work in the fundraising space. We need people in the HR space and fundraising and like all these different areas, to be able to change the tide. So thank you for your work too.
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