Fundraising and Membership

Please note: Many of the statements made throughout these materials, but particularly in this section, are generalizations about the behavior of a group as a whole. While it is always risky to make such generalizations, they can be helpful in breaking down basic barriers of understanding. Because staff members in organizations often identify lack of understanding as the most significant impediment to effective fundraising in communities of color, we must examine these practices - and recognize the limitations of generalization. Keep in mind that, as with white donors, donors of color will have individual and specific concerns about their gifts, different motivations for giving, and a variety of levels of contribution.

As you begin to develop and expand inclusive practices in fundraising and/or membership development, you will want to identify the potential benefits of these activities for your organization.

Before proceeding, give some thought to other ways that creating a more diverse and inclusive fundraising and/or membership development strategy could help your organization.

Complete Benefits of Inclusive Fundraising and Membership Development Efforts.

It is a persistent myth that people from communities of color are less generous and less involved in their communities than white Americans. This couldn't be further from the truth. All cultures have deeply held beliefs about individual obligation to the broader community. In communities of color, where individuals have often worked together within the context of racism in our broader society, community connections have often become even stronger.

When people of color give charitably, they often do so through less "traditional" vehicles - methods that do not register in studies by the Foundation Center for Giving USA. (See Bibliography: New Ventures in Philanthropy) However, in the context of each community, these practices are usually based in meaningful traditions and deep-rooted beliefs. These vehicles often involve giving support directly to people in need. In Asian-American and Latino communities, many more-recently immigrated people send billions of dollars in "remittances" back to their home countries, to help family members and to build housing, schools, churches, and hospitals. (See Bibliography: Salmon) Many donors of color also give through numerous membership and community associations traditionally associated with specific cultural groups. Research shows that some preferred charitable vehicles among communities of color include (See Bibliography: Council on Foundations):


  • Family and friends
  • Mutual aid associations
  • Emergency aid, loans, human services
  • Faith-based institutions
  • Churches, temples, mosques, etc.
  • Fraternal, cultural, and social organizations
  • Professional, occupational, and business associations
  • Tribes, tribal organizations, and funds
  • Community organizations and funds
  • Civil rights/social justice organizations
  • Cultural/community centers
  • Health clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes
  • Historically black and tribal colleges

The breadth of this list speaks to the impressive tradition of giving and social involvement in communities of color. Research also shows that giving and social involvement changes depending on a person's current stage of life, and that there are generational differences in giving patterns.

For example, some evidence shows that older African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans more often focus their giving on their respective ethnic communities, whereas those born after the enactment of Civil Rights legislation in the mid-1960s more often focus their giving on a broader community not defined by race or ethnicity. ( See Bibliography: Mottino)

Jessica Chao, author of the chapter on Asian-American philanthropy in Cultures of Caring, has developed a helpful continuum to identify how individuals within communities of color generally change their giving behaviors, depending on whether they are in the survival, helping, or investing stage. (See Bibliography: Newman


Of course, the list and diagram here present simplified compilations that do not represent the characteristics or behaviors of all members of diverse communities. However, as your organization reaches out to people of color as potential donors and members, keep these trends in mind.

This text provides information about giving in communities of color at an overview level. As you consider the various sub-groups of donors and potential members with whom you wish to make contact, build gradually toward researching the giving and community involvement behaviors of each targeted group.

Among the resources used in compiling this section are two books that offer in-depth examination of the giving and community involvement behaviors of African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos: Cultures of Caring, published by the Council on Foundations, available for download at; and Opening Doors: Pathways to Diverse Donors, by Diana S. Newman, John Wiley & Sons, available for purchase at Additional information, contacts, and resources are available through the web sites for affinity groups of philanthropists and funders in each of these communities:

Complete Analyzing Information.

Complete Developing an Action Plan for Fundraising and Developing an Action Plan for Membership.


Why Inclusive Fundraising Practices Matter 

Fundraising Strategies to Reach Communities of Color 

Why Inclusive Membership Development Practices Matter 

Membership Development Strategies to Reach Communities of Color


Visit Discussion Forum Notes: June 9, 2011: Culture of Giving: Connecting to Donors and Volunteers of Color