Tag Archives: Diverse Philanthropic Traditions

Acknowledging Traditional Territory

First peoples have existed for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans settlers. It has been their custom to acknowledge each other’s traditional territory, and this protocol still exist today. It is important to recognize that Frist Nations, Métis and Inuit have unique relationships with Canada. They hold sovereignty over their traditional territory and are diverse groups with their own histories and culture.

For example, my mother was born in Shoal Lake #4, whose territory extends between the Province of Ontario and Province of Manitoba. Shoal Lake #40 is part of Treaty 3 and of Ojibway heritage. It has been over 100 years since Canada expropriated Shoal Lake #40 reserve land and the City of Winnipeg built the aqueduct which displaced the community to a man-made island. It has been over 20 years since Shoal Lake #40 has been on a boil-water advisory. The boil water order was issued by Health Canada and it requires all community members to boil the water before consumption. When I speak at schools in Winnipeg to raise awareness, many students don’t realize the significate burdens that Shoal Lake #40 carries in providing Winnipeg with fresh water. In recent memory, nine people have died crossing the water or thin ice to access homes. Thankfully, after many years of advocacy and resiliency, in June 2019 Shoal Lake #40 will open their all-seasons road. This road will save lives and restore an economic future for the community.

Acknowledging Indigenous peoples’ territory is a small way of showing respect and recognition of Indigenous people. I encourage philanthropic organizations to reach out to Indigenous people in a respectfully way by including Elders and knowledge keepers to understand the traditional territory where their offices are located and work together in developing proper acknowledgements.

For example, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Manitoba Chapter at Winnipeg events acknowledges the Treaty one traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree nations and the homeland of the Métis. My sincere hope is that we can move beyond acknowledgments and together find meaningful ways to support the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.

Sharon Redsky is AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

AFP Fellowship Mentorship Experience

I joined the 2018 AFP Fellowship program to increase my knowledge in fundraising and for the mentorship opportunity. I was fortunate to be mentored by Joan Blight, who has over 30 years of experience. Over the past 7 months, Joan and I met several times and I am grateful for her guidance. We decided to share our mentorship experience by answering the questions below.

What was the reason you agreed to participate as a mentee/mentor for the 2018 AFP Fellowship?

Sharon: For me, the mentorship was the most appealing part of the program for my professional development. I was excited to learn that Joan Blight would be my mentor. She is a well respected professional/fundraiser/leader and has the strategic and corporate experience that I hoped to learn.

Joan: I seek to learn more about Indigenous culture and what we can learn from one another about philanthropy. The Indigenous population is under represented in the field of fund development, so I welcomed the opportunity to mentor Sharon, the only Indigenous fellow in this program.

What has the experience taught you as a mentee/mentor?

Sharon: Through this positive mentorship experience I learned how valuable good governance is for organizations in achieving their fundraising goals. A good example of this, is having the board and leadership clearly committed and engaged. With Joan’s wealth of knowledge and insight, I felt that I could have used many more months to spend time learning from her.

Joan: There is a real difference between mentoring and directing. Sometimes it is a very fine line. If a suggestion I offered was not accepted, I learned to leave it alone.

How can diversity and inclusion be encouraged in the sector?

Sharon: I believe we can learn so much by including diverse perspectives and voices into the work of the philanthropic sector. Mentorship is an important way in developing valuable connections. In this fellowship, I have met many talented fellows who are working for the advancement of diversity and inclusion. I would like to see the more opportunities for mentorship and leadership development.

Joan: I think we need to listen and learn from Indigenous people and new Canadians. Are they interested in this sector? What is their passion? Are Indigenous individuals interested in working in Indigenous-led organizations? non-Indigenous-led organizations? What about new Canadians? What is important to them in the workplace?

Ways of encouraging diversity and inclusion:

  • through formalized means such as presentations to organizations’ senior management and engaging human resource personnel
  • through “shared learning” presentations to professional associations such as AFP
  • through mentorship opportunities such as this one
  • through networking with colleagues

Sharon Redsky is First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40 and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

What does Truth and Reconciliation mean in the philanthropic sector?

As a relatively new member of the Association of Professional Fundraisers, I wanted to gain better insights on how the philanthropic sector understands Truth and Reconciliation. It was through a small questionnaire that I set to do so, and I am grateful to all the participants who completed it and shared their responses with me. This blog presents two of my project’s key findings.

Philanthropic sector has a role

I was pleased to learn that all respondents to the questionnaire felt that the philanthropic sector does have a role in contributing to the work of reconciliation. When asked if they felt satisfied with the philanthropic sectors current action, many felt that more action is required. They also identified the need for additional education and awareness. However, an important step is learning the truth of Canada’s role in the creation of residential schools and a deeper understanding of the long term impact this has on Indigenous people and communities across the country. It is my hope that individuals and organizations will make this kind of education a priority. Many resources are accessible from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Reconciliation Canada and the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Impact Investing and the recognition of Indigenous voices

Most participants identified as impact investing and the recognition of Indigenous voices as an areas where the philanthropic sector could make the biggest impact. Building on this, is the rise of Indigenous led organizations across the country who are responsive to community needs and provide cultural appropriate services. There is a great opportunity to bridge the work of Indigenous led organizations with the philanthropic impact investment efforts. A good example is the Winnipeg Foundation, who distributing 1.3 million in reconciliation grants to 20 projects that are Indigenous led and some that demonstrated authentic engagement with the Indigenous community. In addition to foundations, many individuals contribute in meaningful ways, one such person is Jennifer Roblin. I met Jennifer while working at a non-for-profit and was inspired by her genuine generosity. Her contributions are not only financial, but she invests her time and energy collecting and distributing winter clothing for Indigenous children and youth living in Winnipeg. While these are just a couple of examples, there are many other ways to contribute to reconciliation, I compiled some in a list in my project’s full report. The report can be found at http://www.afpinclusivegiving.ca/resource/philanthropic-sector-truth-reconciliation/

Reflecting on this project has renewed my efforts in building relationships between the philanthropic sector and Indigenous led organizations to elevate the work of reconciliation.

Sharon Redsky is First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40 and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

How Would You Go About Broadening Your Donor Base to Reflect the Diversity of Your City or Region?


One of the gifts of the AFP Fellowship in Diversity and Inclusion was to attend the AFP Congress in Toronto – the largest AFP conference in the world. And what a delight to find myself talking about the Fellowship to an AFP Toronto fundraiser I had never met, who then introduced me to her friend and AFP member, Tricia Johnson, Major Gifts and Planned Giving Officer for the Ottawa Food Bank. Wonderful! Some kind of AFP magic at work?

Coming from the second largest food bank in BC myself, we immediately began a conversation about how we are engaging diverse donor populations and agreed to keep our conversation going post-conference, both of us inspired that somehow, among 1000 attendees, we found each other.

Now March, a few months later, we checked in with each other and I asked Tricia about the plans she has for diversifying her donor base.

I started just by asking, ‘Who are your average donors?’

“Observationally, our average donors are pretty much ‘text book’. Our average donors are 60+, generally local, from Ottawa, they are mostly Caucasian, but their ethnic background varies, so they may have roots that go back to Poland, Italy, England, Ireland, French-Canadian etc. I don’t really keep track so this is just my general observation. And it is not uncommon when I’m talking to people that they can make reference to their faith. Our donors are not as affluent as I found in the Arts but definitely well educated.”

“I would like to have our donors be reflective of the people of the city. Visible minority groups or Non-whites account for 24% of the population in Ottawa. So it would be good to see within our donor base 25% representation of people who are non-white.”

“At AFP Congress someone did make a case for tracking ethnicity and religion, but we don’t track it here right now. So I couldn’t say where we are at right now but its not yet reflective of the diversity of the city.”

Who would you like to have participate more fully as donors?

“One of the groups that I’m working on engaging, and you and I talked about it in Toronto, was that people of the Muslim faith which are actually pretty diverse ethnically, they have a really have a strong affinity with our cause, they have a common call to feed the poor, it is a tenant of their faith. My main consideration is to diversify our donors where I see there is a natural fit.”

Tricia is interested in Muslim communities not just because it is a larger identifiable group in Ottawa that is not yet involved much in the Ottawa Food Bank, but particularly because she sees that they and the food bank could share her organization’s vision of “providing food to people who need it.”

I ask her, What are some considerations as you seek to engage with the diverse Muslim community to build on what may be aligned values or intersecting interests?

“Well, I think its going to take time for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us, I’m still learning where the common grounds are and the places where we might do things differently.”

How do they get to know us and how do we get to know them? What are some approaches you are taking?

“There is a Muslim food bank in our community that doesn’t serve only Muslims but offers a wide variety of halal items and is run by Muslim elders in the community. I reached out to that food bank and let them know that we are looking for people we can work with in the community who can act as Philanthropic Advisors.

These are people who are onside with us, who want to see us increase our reach in the community and they can help us with introductions. And sometimes through observation, they will help me navigate things to be aware of when interacting with people with cultural norms different than I might have.

For example, I didn’t necessarily realize that it’s a bit taboo, for a man and a woman to shake hands, they prefer not to touch, but of course, I’m very North American, and I’m generally pretty outgoing and so when I meet people, I put out my hand to shake their hand and show that I’m open and I’m excited to meet them.”

I ask Tricia to tell me more about her Philanthropic Advisors Group and how she hopes to engage with this group.

“We created a group called Philanthropic Advisors Group because it sounds way better than ‘Major Gift Committee.’ No one wants to be part of a Major Gift Committee or, when I’ve had those before, they haven’t been that effective. So seeing them as ‘philanthropic advisors’ it kind of puts the onus on me to make sure that they are equipped with knowing what we do, why we do it, some of the projects we are fundraising for —focusing on that education as opposed to just the door opening aspect of what they can do. I really want them to think about who would be predisposed to supporting our cause, not just find who has deep pockets.

Tricia says this project is “in its nascence.” So far she’s got 5 people who have shown interest in being her philanthropic advisors group and 2 of these are Muslim – one from the Muslim food bank and one from a mosque working on a committee that brings together people from all the mosques in Ottawa-Gatineau and they are both very engaged. Others in the group who she hopes to engage around diversifying with other less seen donors include, “a person who is Caucasian married to a person of Indian descent, another is a woman who is in the tech sector and involved in another fundraising group which is young, diverse and dynamic.”

So, Tricia has her plan on how she’s aiming to further diversify her community of donors:

  1. Reaching out to a food bank and a faith based organization who serve the populations we want to reach and involving/equipping them as philanthropic advisors.
  2. Reaching out to mosques and being present when they present gifts of cash and food to us.
  3. Subscribing to mosque newsletters.
  4. Subscribing to newsletters from The National Council of Canadian Muslims. (NCCM) is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization that protects Canadian human rights and civil liberties, challenges discrimination and Islamophobia, builds mutual understanding, and advocates for the public concerns of Canadian Muslims.
  5. Paying attention to connectors in our community—especially if they are part of a visible minority.
  6. Paying attention to donors in community who are women and have non-French or English names.

What are some of Tricia’s challenges and observations about making a conscious effort to broaden the diversity of her donors?

Her first thought is, “Not wanting to make any cultural faux pas that could cause deep offense.” She wants to create opportunities to engage people who are often overlooked but is “sensitive to tokenism and wary of making superficial assumptions.”

And of her process she says, “Generally my approach has been casual and somewhat inconsistent – but inconsistent meaning that it is naturally evolving, because I’m not trying to force it and I don’t want anyone to feel targeted because of their ethnicity.”

I’m just at the beginning of things now and I believe it is a bit of a slow process and although it may seem that that is a challenge, I believe it is better to take the time and kind of get to understand people and let them get to know you as well.“

Relationships do need to evolve and you can’t force or rush it. So sensitivity, openness, authenticity and a genuine interest in the people we wish to invite to join us in a common goal is surely the way.

My sincere thanks to Tricia Johnson for sharing her observations and experiences as she takes a thoughtful approach to broadening the diversity of the donors who support her cause.

The Ethics of Photography in Fundraising and International Development Work

As an industry that uses photography to tell stories and raise funds, do some of our practices do more harm than good?

I enjoy photography. Not the act of taking photos per se but the act of studying them once they have been taken. My favorite type of photography is portrait photography. That is, photos of a person or a group of people.

As a child, one of my favorite pastimes was flipping through National Geographic magazines. I favored the editions that featured photos of people more than the ones that featured photos of animals and plants. I would stare at the images of the people on the pages, and wonder what their story was, and what it meant to see the world through their eyes.

Growing up in Kenya, this is what the world looked like through my eyes. For the most part, life was uneventful. I would wake up, go to school, play with my friends during breaktime, come home, do my homework, eat supper, play with the dogs (and the puppies if a new litter had been born), and then go to bed. I would repeat the same routine the next day with slight variation- sometimes I would wake up late, and consequently, I would get to school late, and that often meant a rough start to the day. But for the most part, things were routine.

What also came to be routine were the visits from the wazungus. They would visit the school and they would sing and dance with us. They gave us sweets and toys and they told us stories about snow and thanksgiving. They took photos of us, and with us. And then they went away and a new group would arrive and we would do the same song and dance with them. They all left with photographs of us, but few ever took the time to learn our names and hear our stories. Perhaps to them, it didn’t matter who we were. Perhaps to them all those young smiling faces in the photos were all the same – different people yes – but all the same, and for this reason our stories didn’t matter. Or perhaps they didn’t need to know our names and our stories because they weren’t important or relevant. Perhaps they thought our stories would be too painful to hear or that they would challenge their preconceptions of the African child. Perhaps all these, some of these, or none of these thoughts run through their minds when they took photos of us, without our parents’ knowledge and without their consent.

Months after they left, I thought about them. I wondered what they did with our photos and what stories they told– those who knew nothing about us and the lives we lived.

My thoughts on taking photographs

People much wiser than I have written far more eloquently than I could on this topic. I have provided a few links to their articles below. For what it’s worth, here is my two cents on the subject. Never assume you have the right to take a photo. You don’t. Always ask for permission first.

Talk to the people you are about to photograph and get to know them. Who are they? What are their stories? Understand the power dynamics inherent in development work. Respect the dignity and privacy of the people you are about to photograph. If you are travelling for work and are required to take photos of the beneficiaries of the program, always give them the option to opt in and opt out of having their photo taken. Always be transparent about how their photos and the stories they share will be used. Before taking a photograph of a child always ask the child and the guardian for permission before you take the photo. It’s a small courtesy and it shows respect.

Further Reading:

Taking Photos – or Requesting them? The Ethics of Travel Photography

Ethics and Photography in Developing Countries

Photographers Without Borders – Code of Ethics

Water Aids Approach to Ethical Image Use:

The ethics of using images from Humanitarian aid NGOs

Ethical Photography Guide

When You Shouldn’t Take that Picture

Jonea Agwa is a Fundraising and Communications Coordinator by profession and a proud African woman by heart.

Truth and Reconciliation and Philanthropy, AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow perspective

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada over a six year period heard testimony from over 6,000 Residential School Survivors from across Canada. In 2015, the Commission released their final reports and 94 calls to action. It is estimated that 150,000 Indigenous children attended the 80 residential schools in Canada. My mother as a young child was forcibly removed from her community and placed in residential school until she was 16. She passed at the age of 49 and I know that she had never fully recovered from her experiences of residential school. Although my family has been directly impacted by the legacy of residential school, we are still strong and resilient. I see this strength and resiliency in Indigenous communities all across Canada.


Left to right: Ry Moran, NCTR Director, Sharon Redsky, AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow, Joan Blight, Strategic Philanthropy and Laver Simard, NCTR Project Manager.


I do believe that the truth about Canada’s history with Indigenous people is important to share and we all have a role in reconciliation, including the philanthropic sector. As stated in the Honouring the Truth Final report, that reconciliation must inspire Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share.

As an AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow, my goal is to encourage the philanthropic sector to support Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and build a better future for the generations to come. I am encouraged by other AFP fellow members, who have shared with me what their organizations are doing to respond to the TRC’s calls to action.

Wondering what you can do, here are a few suggestions. Be an ally with Indigenous people in addressing inequalities and create spaces for voices to be heard, provide resources or help fundraise for Indigenous led initiatives, and promote the work of Indigenous agencies. Another other way to support the Truth and Reconciliation is to financially support the National Truth and Reconciliation Centre, which was created to preserve the memory of Canada’s Residential School system and legacy. Not just for a few years, but forever.

I had the pleasure to visit the NTRC, along with my AFP mentor Joan Blight. We met with Ry Moran, Director and Laver Simard, Project Manager. I learned so much about rich history, the sacred reasonability to hold onto the truth and their vision the future. As I travel this journey, I will continue to learn and be inspired by spirit and intent of the Truth and Reconciliation.

Sharon Redsky is AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.


Yom Kippur’s Universal Lessons

Children going back to school, brightly coloured falling leaves and shorter days are universal signs that summer has ended. For the Jewish community, the fall also brings with it a new year. Jews celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year in September or October,the exact date varies from year to year as the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle. Rosh Hashana is a time of celebration and renewal, of wishing friends and family a good year ahead. The traditional greeting is “Shana Tova” which literally translates from Hebrew as a “Good Year.” Family meals include apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey to signify the hope for a sweet year.

Ten days after Rosh Hashana, comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Whereas Rosh Hashana is a communal and familial celebration of all the hope and opportunity a new year brings, Yom Kippur is about looking backwards at the year that has passed and atoning for the sins and wrongdoing that we have all committed. It is a solemn day, filled with prayer, reflection and a 25 hour fast. It is by no means one of the most pleasant Jewish holidays, but I would argue, that in many ways it is one of the most crucial. In fact, according to Jewish tradition it is the holiest day of the year.

While many Jews bemoan fasting and the many other prohibitions Yom Kippur requires (religious Jews will not use electronics or drive, wash at all, use any lotions or perfumes or wear leather footwear), the central messages of Yom Kippur provide powerful opportunities for reflection that are applicable to everyone, not only Jews.

Jews spend the day in synagogue praying to God for forgiveness for the sins they have committed against God and the world. The liturgy makes it very clear that any wrongdoing that we have done against one another can’t be absolved through prayer, it must be remedied through action. Indeed, in the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Jews are supposed to reflect on who they have treated poorly that year and reach out to them to ask for their forgiveness.

Another central tenet of the holiday is that it is human to sin. Yom Kippur occurs every year because no one can possibly make it through the year without making mistakes and wronging others in the process. This serves as a yearly reminder that while we can always seek self-improvement, to err is human and the most important thing is to acknowledge our mistakes, take responsibility for them and learn from them. This is a lesson that has countless implications for every one of us, whether it be in our professional or personal lives.

This Yom Kippur, I took the chance to think deeply about the lessons I have learned over the past 365 days. This has been a momentous year, particularly because it was the year I got married. Planning for my wedding was such a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the people that matter most to me in this world. It also served as a powerful reminder that these individuals are what make my life meaningful and rich and the time I spend with them is precious. Rather than spending too much of my time on inane distractions like scrolling endlessly through Facebook or binging on Netflix, I am committing to spending more time with my loved ones this year. I also want to ensure that when I do have this privilege, I am fully present, not playing on my phone or thinking about what I will cook for dinner that evening.

Over the past few years, mindfulness has become very trendy in Western society. One could argue that Yom Kippur provides an ancient and longstanding example of the power of mindfulness. Yom Kippur is a reminder to the Jewish people and indeed the world that we all need to take time out of our busy lives to take stock of how we have treated others, ourselves and the world. In the words of well known psychologist, Holocaust survivor and writer Victor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Becoming a New Indigenous Fundraiser

I initially applied to this program to improve my leadership abilities: an ability I think is an essential skill, especially working with/in the Indigenous community.

When you choose to become something that only a few people recognize, it becomes a challenge. You have to put yourself in a situation where you stand out. And let me tell you, I am the last person who wants to stand out, but I believe if you stand for something you care about, then you are willing to put yourself out there. And that is exactly what I did.

On Thursday, March 20, 2016, I spoke alongside another fellow Mohit Pramanik in front of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Toronto Chapter Board of Directors at their retreat. We were asked by our Program Manager Sahar Vermezyari to speak about the impact that this Fellowship program has had on our lives professionally and personally.  I brought awareness to the fact that there are not many Indigenous Fundraisers in the not-for-profit sector and I expressed my enthusiasm for starting a new career as a, “New Indigenous Fundraiser”.

Ken Aucoin, my previous VP who is a current member of AFP, shared some information about this Fellowship program, and encouraged me to apply. He mentioned that there are not many Indigenous fundraisers, and this would be a great opportunity. Sarah Midanik, who is also a fellow wrote a blog called, “Am I Invited? Fundraising in the Indigenous Community”. Found on the AFP website here: http://www.afpinclusivegiving.ca/story/am-i-invited-fundraising-in-the-indigenous-community/.

Sarah says in her blog,

“Fundraising in the Indigenous Community does not get much attention, and Indigenous fundraisers are equivalent of the Beluga Whale- they exist but are a rarity for sure”

“I can personally count all the Indigenous fundraisers I know in Canada in one hand, and several of them are in this program”

I am proud to say that I am one of the several Indigenous Fundraisers that Sarah mentions in her blog, and l feel so very lucky to be a part of this Fellowship program.  As a younger fellow with less professional experience compared to some of my peers in the program, I was a bit intimidated in participating and contributing in a meaningful way. However, after attending my first Congress and participating in many webinars, I have come to the realization that there is just simply more for me to learn. There was nothing to be nervous about, and my newness to the field just meant that I had that much more to learn and gain from this program.

Above all, I think it is important to acknowledge that this program really changed the trajectory of my career, and made me consider how a career in fundraising could be a rewarding life choice. I would like to thank the selection committee for believing in my potential and I would like to thank AFP and the Funders: the Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade’s Partnership Office. I have learned so much, and hope to continue to learn as I grow into a career in fundraising and fundraising as a, ‘New Indigenous Fundraiser”. I want to help my Indigenous community invest in their communities, their organizations, to help educate, and overall increase awareness of the importance of fundraising. Without basic fundraising skills, many great Indigenous organizations close down because of the lack of basic fundraising practices.  This program will help educate me, and support me to become a leader in the Indigenous community. By choosing this program and a career in fundraising, I am that much closer to reaching my goal of standing out, making a difference, and most of all helping out in a meaningful way.

Am I Invited? Fundraising in the Indigenous community

When I sat down to write this introductory post to fundraising within the Indigenous community, I realized that it’s actually a rather challenging topic to discuss. I mean, I could give a few recommendations for best practices (Coles notes version: be culturally aware and respectful, share success stories, and make ‘the ask’), or share success stories of projects I’ve been involved in, but there really isn’t any proven model of success. There isn’t a long relationship and established practice of fundraising within or for the Indigenous community, and to this day there still aren’t many organizations doing it.

The conversation actually goes a little deeper than best practices and is a bit more complex than I initially realized. Fundraising in the Indigenous community doesn’t get much attention, and Indigenous fundraisers are the equivalent of the beluga whale – they exist, but are a beautiful rarity for sure. I can personally count all the Indigenous fundraisers I know in Canada on one hand (and several of us are in this program!). This obviously creates another set of challenges when fundraising within the Indigenous community. Non-Indigenous fundraisers tend to have to overcome skepticisms about their motivation for advocating on behalf of a community that they do not necessarily belong to. This can be a real challenge to their success and this can make it challenging to attract top fundraisers to positions within Indigenous organizations.

I think a major part of what makes fundraising in the Indigenous community interesting is that Canadians at large have never been invited to participate. Historically, Canadians have not been invited to engage with Indigenous issues, nor were they asked for help or support. I mean, even the terminology surrounding the Indigenous community can make Canadians feel uncomfortable. Aboriginal, Native, Indian, First Nations, Status, Indigenous -What’s the correct terminology? (For those of you actually wondering, Indigenous is currently the most politically correct choice these days and in this context is defined as the First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada). A lack of knowledge and the fear to ask can be such a huge barrier to fundraising.

Canadians have lacked an awareness of issues within the Indigenous community, but this is changing. Public knowledge around Indigenous issues is deepening and includes the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada. With the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canadians are learning about residential schools – a piece of Canadian history that has not gotten much attention. With the launch of the Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Canadians will soon be educated about the horrific national tragedy that has a count of over 1200 victims. With more awareness of the social injustice and inequalities within the Indigenous community, Canadians will want to be involved, and they will want to help.

As such I would say that the keys elements to fundraising within and for the Indigenous community are to nurture conversations, connections, and relationships among Indigenous communities and philanthropic organizations.

Fundraising efforts must recognize deeply rooted injustices and model respect for First Nation, Inuit, and Métis cultures, practices, and institutions. This can be as simple as ensuring that campaign marketing materials are sensitive to cultural appropriation and stereotypes. For example, just because it’s Indigenous, it doesn’t mean it should be a feather or teepee. There are many different identities and cultures of Indigenous people in Canada. It can always be helpful to go a little deeper to actually help share knowledge and inform donors about the rich history and culture of Indigenous people. Additionally, it is always beneficial for fundraising efforts for Indigenous organizations to be done in consultation with Indigenous people.

In conclusion, and I think this can really be applied to all fundraising efforts, there is never any harm in making the ask. Whether is be for more information about the culture, for help and support, or for a donation- it’s all about making the ask.



The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples (2015)


Do It Yourself Philanthropy of Remittance

Last summer my brother and his friend were walking home after a long day’s work and they were approached by a peer to peer fundraiser in downtown Toronto, might I add one of the many that we get inundated with throughout the year. He asked them if they would consider sponsoring a child in Sub Saharan Africa through a monthly giving program. Keep in mind that both my brother and his friend are both originally from West Africa. So they looked at each other, laughed and said “Sorry we are both sponsoring children in Africa on a monthly basis…”, the fundraiser was pleased with that answer and thanked them for their efforts. If the fundraiser, delved deeper he would have found that this form of philanthropy is more of remittance and not rooted in the conventional form of giving through a registered charity. Remittance is when a foreign worker transfers money privately to individuals in their country of origin.

Later that evening my brother told me the story and we had a long conversation about this experience. You see, I came to Canada over 15 years ago from a small West African Nation where 48.4% of the population lives in poverty(1). People like me, my brother and his friend sponsor our families or neighbors sometimes weekly, monthly or simply when the need arises. We don’t rely on World Vision or other like minded charities to distribute our donations because we believe we know where it is needed the most. In fact the 2013 Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances states that over 80 percent of all development assistance with the developing world is through private financial flow; through Corporations, Foundations, private investments and remittance. Through research they found that remittances continues to rise along with other private financial flows and in the United States alone they are actually three times greater than government assistance(2). Therefore, it’s important to keep this in mind when we are targeting certain demographics that might still have ties to their country of origin.

This may be a band-aid solution and it could continue to create a culture of dependency. I cannot be certain that the money I send really tackles the root cause of the problem and I do sometimes wonder if the programs which registered charities fund in places like Africa, are more beneficial in the long term than my short time financial fix. However, to me, the reality is that there are more pressing matters; housing costs, education or healthcare, that remittance helps solve when immigrants, like me, send money privately due to our personal connection and understanding within the society(ies). Remittances in some of Africa’s poorest nations account for 20 percent of their GDP(3). In certain communities it has improved infrastructure and provided basic necessities overnight, and this instant transfer of funds is what communities in need rely on daily.

Thus, it brings me back to the topic at hand. How do charities, specifically International NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) speak to donors who already have ties to the developing world? Especially those donors who feel they would be wasting their time and money sending a cheque in the mail, or signing up for a monthly program? Development of policies that consider diversity and inclusion in fundraising efforts is integral in these cases. I attended AFP Toronto’s Congress this year and had the privilege of sitting in on many sessions that focused on storytelling and communication with donors in order to raise more funds. Although, the presentations were insightful, and addressed the importance of storytelling to build a connection, there was never a mention of understanding the role that global migration is playing in changing the face of philanthropy. The 2011 National Household Survey showed that Canada was home to over 6 million immigrants, and like me, most would have ties to their country of origin(4). This means that all charities are at the risk of losing support from these communities. According to the 2012 World Bank Statistics report on remittance, it is estimated that $24 Billion in remittance left Canada and this did not include unofficial numbers(5).

In Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, she highlights the importance of development agencies to work with their local and international governments in order to reduce the transfer costs (“taxation”) of these financial flows. She explains that in the United States “For every US$100 sent to Africa, only US$80 gets there – the middleman takes the rest”. This higher taxation costs are a worldwide problem and actually discourages remitters in sending more money. In another remedy to help ease the burden, she suggests developing innovative technology to cheapen and hasten the speed at which people send and receive money. This has proven to be successful in Kenya when a mobile phone based transfer system, M-Pesa, was setup to give people the ability to transfer huge sums of money privately. Although, this was a local initiative it could also be applied globally.

However, the most important approach to consider when building a fundraising strategy is knowing your targeted donor audience, having a conversation, understanding their priorities, and what motivates them. Then instead of “reinventing the wheel” with more mindless approaches to fundraising, the charity world should look to leverage support and ideas from these demographics who are already actively engaged in their own “do it yourself” form of philanthropy. The fact of the matter is charities should not turn a blind eye. It may have its caveats but remittance will continue to fuel the economies of developing countries. It would also help if the organization ensured diversity in the key decision makers who are implementing these strategies in order to ensure a deeper understanding and engagement.


  1. http://data.worldbank.org/country/gambia (2015).
  2. http://www.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/1229/2013_indexof_global_philanthropyand_remittances.pdf (2013), 5.
  3. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1288990760745/MigrationandDevelopmentBrief24.pdf (April 13, 2015), 23.
  4. http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/index-eng.cfm (May, 2011).
  5. http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/06/20/24b_left_canada_in_2012_heres_what_happened_to_it.html (June 20, 2014)