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Donor Participation Project

Engaging Diverse Donors: Lessons from the Field

Engaging donors of diverse backgrounds is crucial for nonprofits to achieve their missions. However, many organizations struggle in this area, as evidenced by low participation rates of minority donors. In a recent podcast, experienced fundraisers shared their insights on how to improve.

The first step is collecting accurate data on your donor base.

Many nonprofits lack information on donors’ racial and ethnic identities, making it difficult to determine participation rates or set engagement goals. While collecting this data will take time, get started now. Look for gaps in your information and strategize ways to obtain these details respectfully.

Don’t wait for perfect data to act.

Review your portfolio and single out donors of color to focus on connecting with them. Reach out for virtual or in-person meetings and have genuine conversations to learn their priorities and passions. Be prepared for discussions around lack of belonging or institutional inequities—listen and be willing to take action. Follow up and show your appreciation for their time, and work to build lasting relationships.

Educate leadership on why engaging minority donors is important for your organization.

Help them understand that broadening the donor base will increase funds to fulfill your mission. Provide examples of peer organizations that have been successful in this area. Address concerns about “singling out” groups by focusing on the benefits to your whole community.

Highlight the impact of donors’ gifts on students or others from underrepresented groups.

For example, show how scholarships for minority students lead to improved outcomes. Recognize diverse donors’ achievements in your communications to make them feel valued and foster a sense of belonging.

Review your outreach and marketing materials to ensure people of color are represented respectfully and frequently. Hold events and advisory boards geared at engaging diverse audiences, but also integrate representation and inclusion into all of your activities. By dedicating time and resources to this goal, you can make progress in diversifying your donor base and gaining their long-term support. With understanding, sincerity and follow-through, nonprofits can achieve meaningful and lasting relationships with donors from all backgrounds.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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