Why Inclusive Fundraising Practices Matter

Despite well-known shifts in demographics in the United States, most fundraising practices in mainstream organizations still target the "traditional" donor: wealthy, older, and white. Many fundraisers do not attempt to raise money from communities of color - even if they may spend much of their time serving such communities through their programs.

Engaging the support of communities of color is important for three main reasons:

  • The populations of communities of color are growing dramatically in the United States.
  • The wealth and influence of individuals of color is significant and expanding.
  • Generally speaking, organizations tend to respond to the needs of their donor populations, so by increasing funding from communities of color, it is conceivable that the organization's programs will refocus, also.(See Bibliography: Grassroots Institute of Fundraising Training)

Communities of color are growing faster as a proportion of the population than their white counterparts. As of the 2000 census, the African-American, Latino, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander communities represented 30 percent of the U.S. population. This number is expected to increase to 50 percent by the year 2050. (See Bibliography: Newman) Although all areas of the country won't experience these demographic changes in the same way, it is likely that they are affecting your organization, no matter where you are located.

Income levels, home ownership, education rates, and business ownership rates are all increasing faster in communities of color than in the population as a whole. (See Bibliography: Newman) Thus, in addition to displaying generous behavior at rates that approach and sometimes exceed their white counterparts, members of communities of color have often earned their wealth recently. In Board of Directors you will find a description of the growing influence of communities of color in philanthropic giving.

Recruiting donors from communities of color can also help you build a more stable funding base. When donors from a broad range of communities financially support your organization, you will be on much firmer footing when economic, political, policy, and program changes take place that affect your organization.

In a 2004 article in the Washington Post, (See Bibliography: Salmon) writer Jacqueline Salmon reported on the following recent major gifts from donors of color:

  • African-American publishing magnate John H. Johnson donated $4 million to Howard University's School of Communications in 2003.
  • Native American tribes have given a total of $35 million for the construction of the Museum of the American Indian.
  • Hispanic technology investor Alberto Vilar has given tens of millions of dollars to arts organizations (although business setbacks forced him to scale back some of his promised donations).
  • Jeong H. Kim contributed $5 million to the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering in 1999 for construction of the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, the university's first facility named after an Asian American.
  • In the past three years, Baltimore African-American money manager Eddie E. Brown and his family have donated $6 million to the Maryland Institute College of Art, $1 million to the Enoch Pratt Free Library and $5 million to help African-American children in poor Baltimore neighborhoods.

These gifts demonstrate that, as their wealth and influence grow, individuals of color are often very generous to organizations.

Charitable giving is an exchange of values in which a donor essentially says: "I value the mission of your organization, therefore, I give you my money. The value I receive in return is the accomplishment of your mission and your communication of that accomplishment to me." In this very personal exchange, organizations must respect the differing motivations and cultural backgrounds of potential donors. By respecting and honoring these differences, you can create more authentic and connected relationships with donors from communities of color, resulting in greater continued support.

Overview: Fundraising and Membership  

Fundraising Strategies to Reach Communities of Color 

Why Inclusive Membership Development Practices Matter 

Membership Development Strategies to Reach Communities of Color


Check out Policy Link's map of America's changing demographics (1990 to 2040).