In his recent blog, nonprofit leader Vu Le wondered if nonprofits and philanthropy have become the “white moderates” that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned about in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Le called out fundraising philosophies and practices “centered entirely on making donors who are mostly white feel good about themselves” as one example of white-moderate behavior in our sector. His line of questioning also is meaningful for fundraising’s cousin: volunteerism.
Often volunteer activities center the volunteer over the participants, community, or organization that are supposed to be the reason for serving. Volunteer comfort, convenience, and priorities supersede mission. We need to do the challenging work of finding the place where volunteer interests intersect with the needs of our participants. For this roundtable, we'll read this blog post by Sue Carter Kahl, a self-described "white moderate" of a "certain age" and discuss her experiences and perspectives as it relates (or not) to your organization's volunteer engagement strategies.
How does power and privilege affect your work with volunteers? We have an opportunity to learn from our peers who mobilize community in ways that are not labeled as volunteerism nor based on bureaucratic or human resources models. Community organizers, activists, and grassroots groups are bringing far more diverse people together to make change than many nonprofits with formal volunteer strategies. What can we learn?