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Article Published: 10 May 2022

Community-Centric Fundraising: Discussion Topics

It is important to take time to understand the principles of community-centric fundraising before jumping to action. The discussion questions posed here can help fundraisers, company leaders, trustees, and other participants understand the implications of the principles on your company.

  1. We ground fundraising for our opera company in anti-racism, equity, economic justice, and social justice.
    1. Who needs to lead (or be able to lead) these discussions?
    2. Who needs to be part of these discussions?
    3. How do we invite those who are reluctant into these discussions?
    4. What questions do we need to ask as part of the discussions?
    5. In what settings might these discussions take place?
    6. How can we make clear that our motivations are not political, but ethical and moral?
    7. How can White fundraisers use their privilege to dismantle current systems?

  2. We understand our opera company’s mission within the context of our collective community.
    1. What fundraising practices benefit our companies while negatively affecting our communities? What alternatives do we have?
    2. Who determines what negatively affects our communities? Are we working with our community?
    3. How do we ensure the “table” is big enough for everyone to have a seat at it?
    4. Do we risk the solvency of our own company in order to benefit the community?

  3. We are generous with and mutually supportive of our opera company’s fellow organizations, both within the opera sector and within our community.
    1. What do other organizations in our communities need from us? Have we asked?
    2. What must we stop doing to ensure that all of our partners have the potential to thrive?
    3. How can we communicate and encourage the reciprocity of this behavior from our peer organizations?

  4. We value all who engage in strengthening the community equally, whether artist, administrator, donor, volunteer, trustee, purchaser, or audience member.
    1. What can we do to appreciate each participant equitably?
    2. What practices should be rethought because they prize donorship over all else?
    3. How can we appreciate other participants while still showing appreciation to donors?
    4. How can donors be part of showing appreciation to other participants?

  5. We value contributions of time, talent, and connections to our opera company as much as gifts of money.
    1. What practices would we need to change to recognize non-monetary gifts equally to money?
    2. What implications would this have on how we recruit board members?
    3. How could a board member’s role as trustee be decoupled from their role as donor?
    4. How do we ensure that the contributions of other participants, including staff, artists, and partners, are equally valued?

  6. We treat donors to our opera company as partners in our commitment to serving our community and achieving social and economic justice.
    1. How might we practice having more difficult conversations?
    2. How can we prepare donors to engage in these conversations?
    3. What are some common scenarios when we might need or want to push back on a donor?
    4. How do we let go of donors who don’t agree with our choices, regardless of what they contribute?

  7. We foster a sense of belonging at our opera company, not othering.
    1. What fundraising practices further perceptions of elitism? Of hyper-intellectualism?
    2. How can those practices be reinvented?
    3. Does our deployment of artists in fundraising make them feel they belong?
    4. How can our marketing, community engagement, and artistic colleagues help in this regard?

  8. We invite donors to be part of our commitment to change by promoting the understanding that everyone in our community benefits from the work of social and economic justice.
    1. How can we demonstrate and communicate the benefits of diversifying input to our donors?
    2. How can we encourage donors to join us in this change and to examine their own privilege?
    3. Who in our community can help us in changing the expectations donors have?

  9. We see our opera company’s work in social and economic justice as holistic and transformative, not transactional.
    1. How do we convey that the company’s commitment to social and economic justice is not a peripheral initiative but rather central to the company’s goals?
    2. How do we recognize when accepting restricted funds from a donor may conflict with goals of justice and service to the full community?
    3. What implications does this have for how we write appeal letters? Or apply to or report to foundations?

  10. We recognize that our fundraising practices are rooted in a history of economic and social injustice and commit ourselves to making steps toward justice.
    1. Under what circumstances would we turn down a gift from a donor whose values are damaging to our company or community?
    2. How do we define the boundaries of those values?
    3. How do we begin conversations about the power associated with money within our company? I.e., who makes the decisions? Is there a minimum gift required to participate in the decision-making process?


This article is part of the report, Community-Centric Fundraising for Opera Companies, published by OPERA America. The report builds on the national Community-Centric Fundraising movement and was developed by a working group of fundraisers from the opera field.