by Felicity Gordon, Relationship Manager, National Emergencies Trust
The first thing that hit me about the #BAMEOnline conference was the incredible energy. Normally I get an afternoon slump and perk myself up with a coffee but as soon as I tuned in at 12noon I was hit by Martha and Cam’s laughter, opening up the afternoon with confidence, openness (it felt like even as a spectator you were in on a friendly chat with pals) and high energy that immediately sucked me in. As a person that comes from what would be deemed ‘white privilege’ I was eager to listen, learn and take action points away from the day – and I was not disappointed.
Before discussing two (of many) of my takeaways, I want to state that I have to admit I had feelings of sadness, anger and frustration when I was listening in, this was not towards any of the speakers.They were all powerful, positive and inciteful, it was towards my own continued realisation of the scale throughout the day, of the breadth of issues existing around racism, inequality and discrimination within the charity sector. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to take part and go to this conference as it has fuelled my understanding of potentially how but also my want to make change and take action within my role as a fundraiser.
To start, I enjoyed the openness about the irony of the conference name after discussions throughout the sectors on moving away from coining the term ‘BAME’. It was discussed that language isn’t perfect and how If we are talking about a particular community – then mention that particular community?!
Two of my key learnings from the day mainly revolved around storytelling.
I logged into the “I know you got Soul: Storytelling and You” hosted by Esther Kwaku which was inspiring. As a fundraiser, one of my favourite roles is as the storyteller, helping donors see their impact, helping them understand and feel how they are making a difference. Esther’s session gave me a new perspective on this part of my work. I was made to think further into the “role you play as the gatherer of stories” and the responsibility as the “holder of the experience you are relaying”. Some pungent stories were shared about how instead of cruising with the usual approach of using empathy and the struggles to inspire in the story, the use of tenacity, courage and adaptability of the beneficiary instead was just as powerful and most importantly, authentic. A story I found interesting around serendipity (if you don’t know the backstory behind Martin Luther King’s line ‘I have a dream’ then give it a quick google) and how often stories can be told in a scripted, robotic manner where actually sometimes when serendipitous moments happen and we tell stories with our hearts, letting our minds flow, it can create more insightful, connecting, and empowering moments. I look forward to putting the above into practice. Apart from that, it’s made me excited again to meet in real life, some of the incredible beneficiaries and change-makers throughout the UK that have been a part of The National Emergencies Trust’s journey so far and it’s Coronavirus Appeal and encapsulate their stories myself.
How can Fundraising support the anti-racist movement? This discussion was eye-opening.
Donors are incredible in the support they provide, and this discussion did not say anything against this but challenged the way that we, as fundraisers, work with our donors. The donor dominant system, how traditional fundraisers learn how to be subservient to donors, connecting them to things they care about, but now, can encourage and help create change with our donors against racism and the disparity in the sector. It was mentioned that “fundraising is a form of activism” and with this I do agree. The conversation encouraged us to think about how, as fundraisers, some of our traditional practices should be examined, big topics mentioned such as the ‘white saviour complex’ and how we can change our practices to help tackle not only racism but the equality and work within the sector. One of my biggest takeaways was a comment by Vue Lee on empathy. It was discussed that as a sector we have forever used empathy as a driving force for connecting with donors and raising funds, but in the light of creating meaningful and actual change in the system, we should aim to use justice in our approach. The poignant points were made that – “just because you can’t empathise with something it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support it”, and how we should project more justice in our work and less empathy. This hit me as a realisation. Back to the ‘fundraising is a form of activism’- it enabled me to envisage that this form of projection and storytelling might be the way to engage, and not just fix short-term problems with funds but highlight issues and use the power and generosity of donors better to create actual change within the roots of the world’s issues today. A thought-provoking question and point that arose was: How can we as fundraisers change the way we work and step away from the mass of storytelling around (as mentioned in the discussion) “pornography of pain”, to then use storytelling to “build assets, build power and build joy”? I say this in the context of racism and inequality however, I do feel it could be spread further.
I feel these are just two small snippets of what was a truly enlightening and energising conference. The speakers opened topics and spoke with passion and engagement, the chat box was pinging with not only serious discussion points but also laughter and comments which aided in making you feel like you were amongst a massive group of friends. There was also a strong feeling of togetherness and support which during a conference where you are all miles apart, looking at screens, is a rare thing to achieve. I do feel that because of BAMEOnline I have a better understanding and knowledge of how to action and make change. I will definitely be booking a space for next year, which, if it’s in person (fingers crossed) I can imagine it being even more powerful.
If you missed out this time, you can still watch the BAMEOnline Conference on demand. Tickets are available here: https://www.fundraisingeverywhere.com/product/bameonline2021/