Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Fundraising

by Jul 8, 2021

One of the crucial components of nonprofit hiring practices and fundraising efforts is a dynamic strategy around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). There is a significant diversity gap in nonprofit leadership; according to data presented by Nonprofit Quarterly, nonprofits are over 80 percent white-led. It is important for nonprofit organizations to actively diversify in regard to ethnicity and race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.

Incorporating different voices allows for a variety of perspectives to be considered and encourages new modes of problem-solving. In addition, diverse nonprofit employment fosters the creation of relevant and meaningful programming that can resonate with a broader range of people. However, board members and employees should not be added simply because they belong to an underrepresented group. A well-planned DEI strategy should be intentional about hiring, including, and recognizing employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Developing a strong DEI strategy with measurable steps is key to unlocking organizational potential and offers an opportunity for nonprofits to both embrace and reflect the diversity within their communities.

People of color are becoming majorities in communities across the United States: new census projections estimate that by 2045 the population of America will be less than 50% white. This means that to secure continuous funding, nonprofits must reorient their strategies to engage more diverse donor groups. Nonprofit boards, staff, and programming need to be more inclusive and embrace people from different backgrounds. Meaningful, actionable DEI strategies are increasingly important, and must go beyond statements of support and workplace conversations. Organizations need to communicate the concrete steps they are taking, as well as continue to reevaluate their success by constantly measuring the effectiveness of their efforts. Emily Teitsworth, the executive director of GirlVentures, demonstrates how this can be accomplished in her article Practical Ideas for Improving Equity and Inclusion at Nonprofits, which outlines specific steps that both nonprofit organizations and individual board members can take to address DEI. Although a fundamental overhaul of organizational practices can seem costly, it is important that organizations continue to reproject their return on investment, as short-term costs will be overshadowed by long-term benefits. This process should be communicated transparently to each nonprofit’s community and donor base.

Fundraising efforts also often lack attention to DEI. White donors are significantly overrepresented in donor pools and direct response fundraising typically aims to engage white donors at higher levels than non-white donors. In order to reach diverse donor communities, traditional fundraising techniques will need to be adapted. Nonprofits must recognize that philanthropic practices often vary between different groups, so cookie cutter approaches toward fundraising are ineffective. In Blackbaud’s report, Diversity In Giving, research indicated that “donor priorities, values, and habits differ somewhat [between] specific ethnic or racial donor sub-groups.” Lack of understanding of differences in giving priorities and habits means that nonprofits are failing to reach all potential donors who might be willing to give. According to a joint study from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, on average, Black households donate 25 percent more of their income annually than white households, and that rate is increasing. Blackbaud’s surveys of Hispanic and African American donor groups indicated that they would be interested in donating to more nonprofits if they were contacted more frequently by fundraisers in meaningful and appealing ways. People of all ethnic and racial identities are already highly active in philanthropy, but nonprofits are largely failing to engage with diverse communities through current fundraising efforts. In order to better reach these groups, fundamental changes must occur in fundraising strategies. These changes should aim to make fundraising more inclusive, and engage a broader range of people with different backgrounds and life experiences.

The future of America is increasingly diverse, and nonprofit employment and fundraising should reflect this. Diverse organizations benefit from the broad range of knowledge, ideas, and perspectives held by board members and employees. This allows them to create programming that works effectively for people with a wider set of views and needs. Diversity within nonprofits will also foster more robust fundraising efforts that will appeal to a larger portion of the population. Implementing meaningful DEI strategies is vital for nonprofits to stay relevant and continue to serve their communities in innovative and authentic ways.