A New Age in America: Incorporating Diversity in Philanthropy
America is in the midst of a dramatic cultural shift, but evidence suggests that organized philanthropy may be stuck in the past. As the nation becomes more ethnically and racially diverse, it is more important than ever to consider whether the fundraising playbook is due for an overhaul.
Ask yourself: Does your current fundraising effort reach the full spectrum of Americans who may support your mission? Are you speaking the language—literally and figuratively—of tomorrow’s donors?
We must begin to understand that fundraising channels we depend upon exclude some ethnic and racial groups that have the capacity and the ability to contribute to the nonprofits we serve, thus leaving a substantial amount of donor-driven income on the table.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation released a study showing that African-Americans give away 25 percent more of their income per year than Caucasians and 63 percent of Latino households now make charitable donations. People of color are also growing in size, and their assets are increasing as well.
When we consider this fact, we have to imagine the huge opportunity that we are neglecting to cultivate as part of our fundraising strategy. However, just pursuing a new channel of donors is not the immediate solution. The reality is knowing if your fundraising team has the cultural competency to reach all Americans who might support nonprofits.
The Power of Cultural Diversity
At a time when nonprofit leaders find themselves in an increasingly diverse philanthropic environment, understanding how to harness the power of cultural diversity is essential. According to best-selling author, Lilya Wagner, “understanding that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy is not the most effective approach when it comes to philanthropy and fundraising in today’s diversified environment.”
The key is for fundraisers to appreciate cultural norms and figure out the most appropriate approach to tap into prospective donors’ personal passion and affinity for your nonprofit.
Just as nonprofits had to imagine new ways to reach Millennials, you will need to create new campaigns—perhaps even new channels—to reach these new donors. Consider appending ethnicity and race so you understand your donors both today and five years from now.
If you want to remain relevant in the minds of donors and you want them to see your nonprofit organization as a viable charitable to consider, creating a targeted strategy that speaks to them directly may be beneficial to your bottom line. Over the new few articles, I will take a deeper dive into this subject. We will look at the return your organization can realize when investing in cultivating a more diverse audience; we will explore the actual giving patterns and wealth of multicultural audiences in this country; and wrap up with specific strategies to move to action in effectively reaching a more diverse prospective donor base.
Much has been written about the lack of diversity among fundraisers. However, it is suffice it to say a transformation of the face of giving must start within the profession of philanthropy and fundraisers. I look forward to sharing more of my insight and perspective.
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.