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Fundraising: I'm trying not to get nerdy and academic up in hurr...
I’ve been thinking a lot about the backlash that Ms. Sparks has gotten on Tumblr regarding her requests to help with MiniSparks’ gymnastics fees. Now, I should be upfront and say that I don’t know Ms. Sparks nor did I contribute to her Chip In fund ( I didn’t know about her until this whole brouhaha). However, I felt compelled to write something because the anger towards Ms. Sparks is something that has bothered me for days.
I should also add that I was a professional fundraiser for many years, writing grants for nonprofit organizations. I also managed a million dollar fund and over saw small grants to emerging organizations. I’m also writing my dissertation on fundraising (keeping it vague because I don’t want to be identified by my very specific topic). So, I see this from the perspective of a funder/grant seeker/academic.
People and communities fund raise for various events in a variety of ways. Community bake sales, grant proposals, corporate giving and individual donations are commonly used to fund programs, events and individual adventures. Some types of fundraising include detailed documentation to account for expenditures, while other types of donations require nothing at all. As a grantmaker, had I given money to an individual for a gymnastics program and part of the money was used for a pedicure, I wouldn’t have blinked–especially since said pedicure was a result repetitive training, which can be hard on the feet.
Why is asking for money for a child’s sports activities different when you are poor? If Ms. Sparks was a middle class white woman asking for funds for her child to participate in Olympic type training, would things have been different? If her fundraising events had taken place as a lemonade stand or a proposal to a charitable organization, would people have reacted differently? Why does her socioeconomic status bother a small sector of people?
Here’s a tip about requests for donations. If you do not believe in the cause that comes across your plate, don’t donate! However, don’t knock people’s attempts to raise money for causes they believe in. A cause can be a little girl or a movement for world peace. This is the American way, dating back to the founding of the United States of America. It is the generosity of the American spirit that moved Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 to remark that the United States was one of the greatest countries in the world.