Right now, many nonprofit leaders are at a loss for words. What’s the right thing to say? What’s the wrong thing? Racial injustice isn’t a part of my organization’s mission – is it right to weigh in?
As a team dedicated to serving nonprofits affecting social change, we feel it important to speak up against racism and violence. It is also our responsibility to listen and amplify the voices of the black community. We won’t pretend we have all of the right answers. We’re learning, too. Listening. If we know one thing – it’s that silence is no longer an option.
Here are a few things we’ve heard from our clients this week:
- “I don’t want to say the wrong thing.”
- “I’m not qualified to speak on this.”
- “I don’t want to make any political statements.”
- “I don’t know what steps to take or how to take action.”
- “This is the arguably the hardest thing I’ve ever faced as a leader.”
These reactions are completely natural and demonstrate a level of healthy vulnerability, recognizing you may not have all the answers right now. Not knowing where to begin may feel like the most difficult part, but regardless of your mission, your nonprofit organization has a voice and [hopefully] cultural principles your team stands for.
Tangible steps your organization can take:
- If you’re not sure how to respond, listen. What are fellow organizations sharing? How has your local community shown up in response? Create a safe space for internal discussion and invite your staff and other stakeholders to express how they’re feeling in this moment. Hear what they believe the organization’s role in addressing racial injustice is. When you’re considering what messages you want to share externally, don’t operate in a silo but equally as important, avoid creating a watered down, vague marketing soundbite. Be real. You’re not authoring a copy for a billboard, you’re addressing a complicated issue with your supporters and beneficiaries.
- Share resources. What resources are you able to share that may benefit your local community right now? If you’re not guiding supporters to give to your mission, are there others you’re willing to recommend? We are all faced with the economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, but we are all in this together, so don’t hesitate to guide your supporters to partner organizations or reputable nonprofits who are on the frontlines of racial injustice.
- Avoid prolonged silence. Instead of saying something just to say something, take the time to consider how the current events may intersect with your work, and focus on what you can do to serve your community in response. Maybe you don’t have the perfect action plan, but acknowledge this challenging and defining moment. If you haven’t yet addressed this issue on behalf of the organization, start with addressing your colleagues as an individual leader.
Over the weekend, donors took to social media. Thanks to collective activism and a matching donation Twitter trend, the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund received $1.8 million in 24 hours and the Minnesota Freedom Fund raised $20 million in just four days in comparison to their 2019 revenue of $110,000.
We’ve said it before, but the concept speaks loudly here: Making a donation is most often an emotional response:
“It’s a literal investment in the movement to dismantle the racist, violent systems that oppress black and brown people, low-income communities, and immigrants,” said Brooklyn Community Bail Fund Executive Director Peter Goldberg. “It also shows a real hunger for change and the many different ways we can achieve it by working together.”
Transforming your mission or rerouting the purpose of your organization is not the goal here. Consider how you can leverage your nonprofit community, connections, skills and knowledge with the tools you already have to make a positive difference, and use the following examples and resources as a guiding light.
How nonprofit organizations and leaders are responding to George Floyd’s death and protests for racial equality:
- “We believe in the power of people to create positive change, and we stand for the Black Community in the U.S. in the fight for justice, equality, and an end to systemic racism.” — Mercy Corps, Twitter
- “In solidarity, we speak up, show up, and stand up for those who face inequality. We stand against systemic racism. We stand with YOU.” — Project Koru, Facebook
- “We’re inspired by those protesting for accountability and change, even in the face of the pandemic… While now is a time for grief and anger, it is also a time for resolve. It is a time to meet anguish with action.” — the Obama Foundation, Email
- “Racism and discrimination have no place in our society, and Greater Twin Cities United Way mourns the death of George Floyd alongside his family and our community… we can only achieve this vision if we all, together, strive toward equity and denounce racism and violence.” – John Wilgers, President and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way, Public Statement
- “Recent events make it clear that all of us – every one of us – need to work harder to overcome hatred, racism, mistrust and injustice. We will do our part to ensure that voices of the black community are heard. We will do our part to advocate for meaningful change and healing.” — USA Basketball, Instagram
- “Over the next six weeks we’re going to dive into the topic of white privilege and advocacy. There are many kinds of privilege, but for the purpose of this series, we are going to dig into white privilege and what to do about it…complicity is no longer an option. It’s time we joined the fight.” — Dressember, who launched a six-week series on white privilege and advocacy
- “Working together is at the core of our mission at Friends of Trees and we are committed to being a part of the solution. Friends of Trees stands with our Black colleagues, partners, and community members while promoting antiracism. We commit to educating ourselves and our immediate communities on how to become better allies in the fight for justice for the Black community.” — Friends of Trees, Facebook
- How to Make This Moment the Turning Point for Real Change by Barack Obama
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice by Corinne Shutack
- How to Talk To Your Family About Racism by Rachael Cargle
- Collection of Articles: The 1619 Project by The New York Times
- Talking About Race by The National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Campaign Zero – A comprehensive package of urgent policy solutions – informed by data, research, and human rights principles.
- Podcast: Code Switch (NPR)