How to Connect with Affluent Donors of Color

The number of wealthy people of color is growing rapidly in America, but many nonprofits still haven’t developed the approaches and strategies needed to bring more of them into the donor fold, donors and leaders say charities brought together by the the Chronicle for an online briefing.

One of the keys is to know your potential donors and their values ​​before asking for money. While that’s almost always good advice for fundraisers, it’s especially important for those looking to build a more diverse donor base, panelists say, because those donors often come from very different backgrounds than the wealthy. white donors that fundraisers are used to approaching.

“Don’t rush it because you really want this to be a relationship that’s going to last a very long time,” says Mona Sinha, a major donor and chair of the board of directors of Women Moving Millions, a group whose members pledge to donate $1 million or more to efforts that help women and girls.

Sinha, who was born in India, was joined by Brenda Johnson, regional director of development for anti-poverty nonprofit Year Up, and Hali Lee, founding partner of Radiant Strategies, a philanthropy consultancy. The session “A new era of more inclusive fundraising? was moderated by Margie Fleming Glennon, Director of Learning Products and Writing at the The Chronicle.

Read on for the highlights or watch the video to get all the info.

Take the time to understand donors

Lee, whose company recently helped produce a report featuring feedback from 113 wealthy donors of color in 10 cities across the country, shared the story of an interaction that went wrong because the CEO of a small nonprofit didn’t do her homework before moving on to a request for money.

The donor, a successful lawyer whose family immigrated from Mexico, said he started the meeting expecting to be asked about $25,000 and was prepared to give a $10 gift. 000 dollars.

After giving him his pitch, the executive director demanded $500, Lee said. The donor responded with a stunned look, and the fundraiser quickly lowered the request to $250. If the executive director had done some research, she would have known that the donor’s total annual donations hovered around $200,000. Unfortunately, the nonprofit leader got $500 from that donor, giving up $9,500.

“How could this conversation have gone differently? If the CEO had instead asked the donor about her family, her cultural values, her giving over the past few years, how her giving reflected her values ​​in the world,” Lee says, “then she might have made a connection to the mission. – the directed work of her non-profit organization, and she would have had an idea of ​​the levels of her donations to other organizations.

Lee adds that the nonprofit leader could have “left this meeting with a lot more money for her organization, but even more important than the money, she would have left this meeting with a deeper understanding and a relationship with a donor. potential major”.

The fundraiser made the mistake of “asking this gentleman for a transactional amount of money, instead of actually listening,” Sinha adds.

“The sooner you can unpack my value system and align with some of them, the more successful you will be,” Sinha says. But, she cautions, nonprofits and fundraisers need to “move at the speed of trust” and avoid asking for a donation too early, especially not in the first meeting.

Tap Networks; Connect peers

Johnson’s organization, Year Up, created the Black Opportunity Alliance, an affinity group of donors who care deeply about the advancement of young black adults. Depending on the amount they donate, members receive benefits such as happy hours, networking events, or speaking engagements at national events. However, the goal is not to raise funds but rather to create a community among donors.

Johnson noted that black donors often have very different life experiences than their white counterparts. For example, the wealth of black donors is more often self-created and not inherited. Some fundraisers mistakenly understand that black people do not have a deep tradition of giving when in fact they do; it’s just that they often use different approaches to giving than white people, such as donating to faith-based organizations more than other charities. Additionally, she noted, black donors often engage through certain types of affinity groups like sororities and fraternities. Understanding these differences in giving habits and social circles is key to connecting with black donors, she said.

Sinha shares this enthusiasm for what she calls “the power of collaboration” as a force multiplier when working with diverse donors.

“The person sitting in front of you might not be able to give a million dollar gift, but who knows, that person might be able to get 10 people together and together they can give a gift of a million dollars. million dollars,” she said. “So just be open to the possibilities. The world changes.”

Sinha adds: “As a donor, I can be your greatest ally. Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the most successful and underutilized strategies in the entire biosphere of philanthropy.

Seek advice from people whose identities differ from yours

Johnson said fundraisers who find themselves in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar environment would benefit from seeking out the right partner for help. For example, Johnson says she was asked at a nonprofit where she previously worked to start an LGBTQ+ affinity group. Johnson said she was “terrified” that since she is not a member of this group, she might use offensive terminology.

“Partnering with someone who can make this more comfortable is key,” she says. She also urges leaders to invest in staff training to help fundraisers better understand people of different backgrounds and identities. “Lawyers need to be comfortable [level] do this job,” she says.

Connecting with donors requires fundraisers to share personal stories about themselves, Lee says. You can’t have a high-quality, human interaction with someone unless you’re willing to share similar experiences and motivations to what you’re asking, she says. “I have to be willing to share some of these things about myself as well for it to become a more genuine relationship.”

Ask donors to self-identify

“Build on the strengths you have,” advises Johnson. Year Up now tracks the race and ethnicity of its donors in its database, although Johnson acknowledges this is a work in progress. She recommends surveying donors and asking them for personal information, such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, so that it is collected ethically. Year Up includes an optional survey on its donations page to collect this information, and Johnson recommends creating an online survey to send to supporters. “You want to allow people to share with you how they identify socially,” she says, and never categorize people based on photos or affiliations.


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