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Asking for a Friend... I'm Tired of Being a Token

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Asking for a Friend (the Field)... is NCG's Advice Column for the field of Philanthropy. Submissions are open to the philanthropic community and the NCG team will respond. Want to join the conversation? Submit your question below! While we can't get to every question, the NCG team will work to respond to questions as we're able.

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Conundrum: I'm Tired of Being a Token

Submitted Tuesday, May 16, 2023 

Hi Friend, 

As a member of a marginalized community, I keep getting tasked with playing the “educator” or “teacher” in my institution. I’m a member of the communities we aim to serve, but I feel uncomfortable serving as a spokesperson or ambassador for my communities. I hold authentic relationships with these grantee-partners outside of philanthropy and feel pressure to represent the MULTIPLE perspectives of my communities. Help, what can I do? 


Tired of being a token 



Dear Tired of being a Token,  

I get it. You are working within philanthropy to be in service of your communities AND you cannot be the default teacher for all of the things. First off, thank you for working within philanthropy, a field not historically designed for marginalized communities to thrive within. Secondly, I hear your boundaries rising up around this burden of representation. Of course, you cannot solely represent the multiple dynamic needs and perspectives of your communities. 

Instead of individual staff members serving as proxies to communities, foundations MUST offer staff at every level, political education spaces to nurture learning and connection. Maybe an affinity group or trainings led by community groups could support you in your boundaries AND bring more investment in community-based organizations. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow here for the foundation from those they aim to serve. How can you shift this responsibility to the institution and also offer community groups you trust resources for their efforts? Finally, how are you hoping to grow in your time there? What are your learning goals? Trust your purpose in this field and root yourself in that. 



Qurratulain “Q” Sajid, Senior Director of Public Affairs, Northern California Grantmakers

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