Diversification of the Fundraising Profession: Nonprofits’ Role

Feb 27, 2017 | Fundraising and Giving, Philanthropy Journal, Resources

Diversity and inclusion are no longer obstacles to be overcome. Instead, they should be viewed as an opportunity to reflect the diversity and richness in the communities served.

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Clarenda Stanley-Anderson

The reality is that the face of wealth is changing and with these changes, the face of fundraising must change as well. The Census Bureau projects that by 2043, the United States will be a majority-minority nation and, by 2060, the non-Hispanic White population will make up only 40 percent of the total population. The growing multicultural nature of a global society requires nonprofit organizations to understand the diversifying fundraising profession to ensure the satisfaction and retention of its top development talent. Yuha Jong states in her article, Diversity Matters: Theoretical Understanding of and Suggestions for the Current Fundraising Practices of Nonprofit-Art Museums that “when the different giving patterns of diverse groups of people and needs for diverse fundraising practitioners are acknowledged, fundraising practices should evolve with them to reflect diverse views.”

At a 2013 Diversity and Inclusion Summit, the lack of research about diversity within the fundraising profession was identified as the number-one identified need. The resulting 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Survey Report, led by the Association for Fundraising Professionals, sought to answer many questions including the number of individuals from diverse communities who are practicing philanthropic fundraisers, with an emphasis on ethnicity. What relevancy does that have to nonprofits in 2017 and what can organizations do to further the conversation?

A few interesting findings from the report included:

  • In response to the question “In your professional opinion/observation, how has the number of ethnically diverse fundraisers changed since 2001?” about a third (37%) of those responding said they think the number has increased, four percent felt it has decreased and 59 percent feel it has stayed about the same.
  • In response to the question “Do you feel that inclusiveness is a priority for your organization?” a majority (89%) indicated they feel that they are treated fairly in the organization. Responses indicated that a higher percentage of White than people of color feel that their organization is inclusive and that they are treated fairly. Those who are 65 and older felt more likely than those of other ages to say they are treated fairly and their organization is inclusive. Respondents under age 25 were least likely to feel that they are treated fairly.

In The Philanthropic Planning Companion, citing a 2010 Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund survey, Entrepreneurs & Philanthropy: Investing in the Future, the authors state “Entrepreneurs are consistently more charitable than other high-net-worth individuals. Entrepreneurs are individuals for which 50 percent or more of their net worth comes from a family-owned business or start-up company. They are far more generous than those individuals who acquired wealth by inheritance, investment asset growth, or investment in real estate.”

The same year the Association of Fundraising Professionals and its partner organizations determined that research about the diversity of the fundraising professions was sorely lacking, a PBS article discusses the “new rich.” The article goes on to say “growing numbers of the U.S. poor have been well documented, but survey data provided to The Associated Press detail the flip side of the record income gap — the rise of the “new rich.”

Though research demonstrates that by race, whites are three times more likely to reach affluence than nonwhites, the “new rich” is different than the older generations of wealth, which are traditionally Republican. The “new rich” which makes up more than 1 in 4 voters is now a more politically divided group; better educated and less white and male than in the past, according to Election Day exit polls dating to the 1970s.  The approach to diversity in philanthropy must be multi-layered. People are apt to develop a rapport quicker with those they can instantly find something in common with which has been largely why many fundraisers match the primary demographic in their portfolio. However, are organization’s doing their donors a disservice by not giving them the chance to connect with someone different than them? How can an organization maintain a sustainable balance in its fundraising program? What can nonprofits do to help ensure that they have fundraisers who reflect the changing face of wealth while furthering the diversity and inclusion conversation?


Many nonprofits are asking themselves if there are opportunities to become more inclusive and diverse and if the outcomes will increase effectiveness. Boards and organizational leadership have to take a deep, hard look at missions and ask themselves if they are doing maximum good to the most people while maintaining mission integrity.

Jennifer Chandler shares in her article Nonprofits, you are the Champions for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity that “while 64% of the country is white, according to the US Census, 89% of CEOs and 80% of board members participating in BoardSource’s national survey (as reported in Leading with Intent) are white. Those data also demonstrate that the larger the nonprofit organization, the more likely the board chair is to be white, over 40 years old, and male. National data also show that a glass ceiling still exists for women leaders of nonprofits, as well as a significant gender pay gap.” To address this, organizations can ensure that they work strategically to diversify boards but steer clear of adding board members simply because they satisfy an underrepresented group. As Chandler states, “conversations about diversity must move beyond “checking-a-box” on a board matrix, because diversity is not just about gender, or only skin deep.”

In the article, Diversity in Fundraising: Embrace It! Here’s How, fundraiser Jennifer Phillips writes that to “educate your board and executives on the investment required to make their vision a reality. Project and re-project ROI; provide long-range forecasts; and communicate, communicate, communicate.” Leadership should be prepared to have the difficult discussion about overhead costs associated with diversity and inclusion strategic goals. A quality effort will require an investment of time, talent, and resources. It is leadership’s responsibility to be able to articulate the importance of diversity and inclusion to other members of management, boards, and to fundraising staff.

Supporting Talent

The 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Survey Report demonstrates that eighty-one percent of respondents cited training opportunities subsidized by their employer as an advantage they enjoy. Organizations should make every effort to provide diversity and inclusion training opportunities. As the research on diversity and inclusion continues to grow and evolve, it is important to continuously sharpen skills and expand knowledge. Support to attend conferences, take courses, and join professional associations providing special opportunities to develop skills.

If resources are limited, organizations can look into webinars, partnering with other nonprofits for joint training opportunities, and fundraising mentors. Another option is to partner with a for-profit entity that may have diversity professionals on staff and is willing to “loan an expert” to a nonprofit and provide valuable diversity and inclusion training.

Some organizations are thinking outside of the box to diversity their fundraising staff. Fundraising apprenticeships provide direct recruitment opportunities for nonprofits seeking to diversify. Others are identifying transferable skills in current staff members and are underwriting significant amounts of fundraising training to “grow their own” fundraising talent.

Organizations should be careful to not pigeon-hole diverse fundraisers. For example, just because a fundraiser identifies as Asian-American does not automatically mean that the fundraiser should be assigned to work with Asian-American donors. Leadership should work to align constituency assignments with fundraiser’s strengths, interests, and organizational priorities.


Through the employment of innovative and inclusive fundraising strategies and adoption of organizational diversity and inclusion strategic goals, nonprofits are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in the diversification of the fundraising profession. Diversity and inclusion are no longer obstacles to be overcome. Instead, they should be viewed as an opportunity to reflect the diversity and richness in the communities served. Fundraising, at its core, centers on a desire to do good. During tough conversations about diversity and inclusion, leadership has to remember that philanthropic motivations are universal – giving to fulfill a need or bring about a change. As the nation becomes more diverse, it is this shared belief and commitment that serves as the unifying thread.

Clarenda Stanley-Anderson, M.Ed., CFRE has helped nonprofits raise more than $50 million over her decades-long career. She currently serves as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement for Shaw University. A firm practitioner and proponent of donor-centered and relationship-focused approaches, Clarenda brings an entrepreneurial, fresh perspective to the profession.

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