Time to Speak Out: Guest Post from Emma Lewzey


<Emma’s photo from last week’s protest in Toronto>

It’s been way too long since I posted something here, but I’ll be honest. I’ve been struggling to find words and pull them together in coherent sentences that aren’t just long strings of curse words.

This is why I’m so grateful to be part of my sector – because while I may not be posting here as much as I’d like (don’t worry, I’m gearing up!), I have had incredible conversations with so much fundraisers and sector friends who, like me, are trying to make sense of this world. 

One such fearless fundraising friend is Emma Lewzey. Emma is a proud fundraiser with a deep commitment to working towards social change. She’s been helping organizations like yours build and grow successful, sustainable fundraising programs since 1995. Emma co-chairs the AFP Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy, a unique program that works to build a pipeline of fundraising leaders who reflect the diversity of our communities. You can find her on Twitter @EmmaLewzey.

Without further ado, I’m going to let Emma take it away!


Time to speak out, fellow fundraisers

I started fundraising over 20 years ago. Like many of my colleagues, I was your classic “accidental fundraiser.” I joined a national women’s health organization straight out of university, and our small staff team pitched in on everything – working with donors, organizing events, even writing emergency appeals.

I fell in love with fundraising. I was young, and idealistic, and I was gonna change the world! Chances are, that’s why you got into fundraising too – accidental or not, I’ll bet you believe that philanthropy can be a powerful force to make our world a better place.

This is why we can’t remain silent

No matter where you work, or what kind of fundraising you do, the time has come for us to speak out. Our rights are under attack – and for those of us who are part of marginalized communities, our very lives are at risk.

I don’t know about you, but this is not the change I’ve been working for.

We need to stand beside our donors, colleagues and neighbours

Granted – the racism, homophobia, ableism and sexism we are experiencing right now is nothing new. As many here in Canada have recently pointed out, the Islamophobia and xenophobia that fueled the terror attack on a mosque in Quebec City has not “crossed over” from the US because of Trump – it’s already alive and well right here at home.

But what feels new is the growing global movement for justice – people who have never considered themselves activists before are among the millions of people around the world joining the Women’s March, and spontaneously protesting the travel ban at airports. Heck, even scientists are planning their own march on Washington, scheduled to coincide with Earth Day.

So, how can we as fundraisers be a part of this movement for good?

Let’s educate ourselves to be better allies

If you’re a great fundraiser there are a couple of things you are probably really good at – deeply listening and lifelong learning.

These two skills are really important to meaningful allyship. There are some amazing resources out there to help you learn how to be a good ally, and understand more about the ways you can respectfully support marginalized communities.

For my Canadian fundraising friends, we have a fantastic chance to educate ourselves beginning with this free webinar series starting February 16 – The Circle, a network promoting giving, sharing and philanthropy in Indigenous communities, is offering training to help guide you and your organization through the process of taking that first step towards Reconciliation, and transforming our sector.

Protest – but understand why others don’t

I joined a protest in Toronto against Trump’s travel ban this week – despite the -15C temperatures, it sure felt great to take action and join the crowd, chanting and stomping, and waving our signs.

But as I was reading the comments on the Facebook page organizing this event, I was reminded that not everyone felt equally safe to participate – especially racialized people who are the targets of police violence.

If you have privilege (it could be your gender identity, race, sexuality and/or ability, just to name a few) and you are frustrated at a friend or colleague for not speaking out, check yourself. There may be a solid reason why they feel less comfortable than you about putting themselves out there – plus, this is a great opportunity to use those allyship skills you’ve been working on…

Put your money where your mouth is

We’re all about philanthropy, us fundraisers – so I hope you are looking at your personal giving as fuel for social change too!

Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Centre have all been in the news because of an unprecedented outpouring of philanthropic support – $24 million this past weekend alone for the ACLU, or more than six times the average amount of their annual online donations.

But please don’t forget the grassroots organizations doing important work right here in your local community – do your research, and see if you can share some of the wealth with a smaller organization that’s getting less attention. Shelters, community centres and social service organizations are doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to dealing with the fallout from Trump’s discriminatory policies.

How are you speaking out and standing in solidarity with your neighbours?

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. I’d love to hear what you are doing to make a difference in your community – share your ideas with us in the comments section below.