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Martha Awojobi: There are tangible ways charities can dismantle institutional racism

23 Jul 2020 Voices

Ahead of next week's BAME Fundraising Conference, Martha Awojobi explains that there are practical ways to dismantle institutional racism that has rendered the charity sector unfit for purpose

As Black Lives Matter protesters marched throughout cities in the UK, and more stories shone a spotlight on the very real racism that black people in the UK are subjected to at the hands of British institutions, many white people began to finally see racial injustices in our society. 

Third sector organisations rushed to make statements about their commitments to tackling institutional racism in the organisations. A few were sincere, showed clear actions, and were a small glimmer of hope in what has been a very exhausting and distressing few months for black people. Many were carefully worded PR activities that avoided any real accountability and it was back to business as usual the next day.

We saw a report during lockdown that warned that one in 10 third sector organisations would close due to funding squeezes compounded by the Covid-19 crisis. And the sector is rightly worried about that figure. 

However, it is another figure that frightens me. Ubele Initiative published a report that warned that 87% of BAME-led organisations would close over the summer without immediate and urgent intervention by funders. Ubele’s research shows us that those who will be closing their doors will be disproportionately BAME led organisations. Institutional racism is alive and well in the third sector.

Funders need to address inequity 

#CharitySoWhite has been putting pressure on funders address inequity in the response to the coronavirus crisis. We wrote a live position paper that highlighted the devastating impact the pandemic was having on people of colour across the UK. 

We know that the organisations that are best placed to serve these communities are the very ones who Ubele Initiative warned could soon close. Alongside the paper, we wrote an open letter, calling for funders to ringfence 20% of emergency covid19 funds to BAME led organisations.

Some funders have answered #CharitySoWhite and other’s call to ringfence funding, but action has not been urgent enough and time is running out. 

Myths surrounding the of people of colour’s capacity to donate

BAME-led organisations cannot solely rely on the good will of ‘benevolent’ funders to survive. Organisations must learn the skills, build the networks and capacity that will allow them to become resilient. 

Fundraising is so much more than writing bids to white-led foundations. Because of the myths surrounding the of people of colour’s capacity to donate many organisations do not know that there are alternatives and there is are huge benefits to being entrepreneurial when it comes to income generation. 

We need innovation and imagination! The BAME Fundraising Conference will showcase the incredible ways that BAME-led organisations have thrived against the odds, and offer practical, tangible ways that organisations can dismantle the institutional racism that has resulted in a charity sector that is arguably not fit for purpose.

We will dispel some of Myths of Fundraising from Communities of Colour. Derek Bardowell, Kevin Amponsah and Umar Malik will be examining some of the stereotypes about BAME communities and their giving patterns that have left us with short-sighted fundraising strategies, undiverse pools of donors and fundraising teams that do not reflect the beneficiaries they serve. 

Fozia Irfhan, Mitali Sen and Lily Lewis will be discussing What It Means to Distribute Funding Equitably. Funders are still having conversations about ‘equality’ when they need to be thinking about equity and how it should inform their grant giving processes. Our speakers will talk candidly about how the legacy of colonisation, imperialism and capitalism is so deeply ingrained in charity and philanthropy and what it really takes to move from white saviour ideology to a racial and social justice lens of funding.

Beyond Black Lives Matter Statements 

We will speak to Mac Alonge and Fatima Iftikhar about the future of the sector as we Move Beyond Black Lives Matter Statements. We have seen a wave of statements of solidarity with black people in our organisations in the wake of George Floyds murder. 

Are these statements authentic? What does it mean to truly do the work of anti-racism in our organisations? How can we hold leaders to account to ensure that they stay true to their promise to dismantle racism? We will look at the practical ways that we can ensure that the future we build is anti-racist and leads to a third sector that we can all be proud of.

This event is for everyone who wants to learn how to do brilliant, creative fundraising, organisations who want to create truly inclusive cultures, fundraisers who want to be inspired by people who have bossed their careers, and leaders who want to be part of real structural change. All profits from the event will be shared between BAME-led organisation so get your ticket and join us for an unforgettable day with Fundraising Everywhere.

Martha Awojobi is a consultant, writer and campaigner. She is part of the #CharitySoWhite organising committee and is the conference curator for BAME Fundraising Conference taking place on 29 July 

Civil Society Voices is the place for informed opinion, and debate about the big issues affecting charities today. We’re always keen to hear from anyone, working or volunteering at a charity, who has something to say. Find out more about contributing and how to get in touch. 


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