Fundraising Good Times: Equity and Public Policy

There is no way around it: 2020 is all about equity and advocacy. On the streets, in the news, and around the kitchen table the words “Black lives matter” are resonating. These three words are a call for equity, and the movement is an example of local and national advocacy.

While some of us are comfortable talking about our beliefs and our sense of “right and wrong”, others are not. Allison Grayson, director of policy and analysis with Independent Sector is right in the middle of it. We hope her words can provide guidance as you move forward into speaking your truth and advocating for self and others.

Grayson’s primary message is simple: Sitting out is no longer an option. “As a Southerner, it was deeply engrained in me that it’s not polite to talk about politics.  It just makes people uncomfortable. Often, this is the same way nonprofits view public policy and advocacy, even though it is proven to be one of the most effective ways to advance an organization’s mission. Now, staying silent is making a statement.”

But speaking up can be a challenge, especially if your organization represents a diverse range of constituents, donors, and volunteers with a broad spectrum of political affiliations. Grayson directed us to Ibram X. Kendi’s work, reminding us that “If we do not think about equity in our policy positions, we are choosing to perpetuate the status quo, including any inequity or systemic racism that is a part of it.” She made clear that equity shouldn’t be the only criteria taken into consideration, but it should be part of the process.

Sometimes we narrow the discussion of equity to issues related to nonprofit operations and programs, and forget that addressing equity is also about addressing systems change and policy so that the world we live in (in addition to our organizations) is more equitable. “Given that so much inequity is built into systems, addressing equity through organization design or service delivery, without looking at public policy is missing perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle”, Grayson shared.

At its core the issues of equity and advocacy can be summed up in this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”

As you work with your nonprofit, remember that advocacy cannot be separated from the people you serve. In fact, both equity and advocacy begin with how the people your organization serves are integrated into decision making in general, including decisions about public policy advocacy.

As the November elections approach, we remind everyone that voting is an important form of advocacy, and that nonprofits can engage in voter registration efforts and the work of getting out the vote. You are not being partisan when you share information about how and when to register, and how and when to safely vote.

You can always reach Grayson at

Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727.


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