Building a Community of Comfort: An Ethnographic Investigation of One Nonprofit's Engagement with Private Individual Donors

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2020
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Haverford College. Department of Anthropology
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Thesis
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Award
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eng
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Bi-College users only
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Abstract
When thinking about the various components of a nonprofit, it is likely that their direct service programs or advocacy programs will be the first components an individual imagines. However, there is another component responsible for supporting these various programs: the development office. Development offices exist to support the programs that nonprofits manage through fundraising. The funds that they raise are usually split into two categories: public and private funds. While public funds, like federal grants, are highly restricted in what they can be used for, private funds, like foundation grants and money donated by individual donors, are considered to be unrestricted in their use. This thesis will explore whether private funding from individual donors is truly unrestricted in the context of the Development Office of Welcome Home, a nonprofit in Washington, DC focused on provided supportive housing services for people experiencing homelessness. I will argue that although the Welcome Home Development Office staff considers donations from individual donors to be unrestricted funds, there are actually a number of pre-restrictions that they must meet to draw in new donors and maintain relationships with current donors. Then, I will explore how these pre-restrictions allow individual funders to influence the work that the staff at Welcome Home engage in by causing them to build relationships with donors based in a feeling of comfort. Finally, I will discuss how their focus on their donors' comfort implicates the Development Office in upholding structures based in power, like the charity model, while also perpetuating the homogeneity of their donor community.
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