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Who are you again? Fundraising as an Outsider

Resource Center - Foundation

By Patricia Pasqual

Suppose you are a blond, white, non-Jewish woman from Wyoming and fundraising for a Jewish organization or a Korean-American male working with senior citizens on setting up planned giving programs. How do you deal with the surprised looks you may get when first meeting with these prospective donors?  How do you proceed when you sense you are being treated with less candor by a donor because you are unlike them.  

At the September 9, 2015, AFP DC Diversity Dialogues program: “Who are you again? Fundraising as an Outsider,” which was held at the National Council of La Raza headquarters, four panelists candidly shared how they deal with being an “outsider” in fundraising situations.

Fundraisers can be an outsider for many reasons, including race, sex, gender, religion, class and other factors. But, being an outside can also have some advantages, and panelists gave some examples.

Panelists stressed the importance of:

  •  Learning the stories from the donor group you are working with and asking them multiple questions;
  • Putting personal feelings aside when it is clear that a donor is thinking about other encounters (bad or good) with “outsiders” like you; 
  • Being well prepared for meetings and knowledgeable about issues – having a confident air and supporting materials wins donor support;
  • Having someone in your organization to talk to about handling these situations.

These strategies will help you when faced with comments such as “You are not this or that, so how could you understand?” However, panelists also shared that being an “outsider” at times proved helpful in attracting new donors from outside an organization’s traditional base of support.

In summarizing, panelist noted that fundraising as an “outsider” requires flexibility and sensitivity. Furthermore, they noted that in one organization you might be an outsider, and in another you are not!

To learn more about the Association of Fundraising Professional’s diversity and inclusion programs, click here.

Visit the AFP DC  website for information on additional chapter programs.

Patricia Pasqual, former director of the Washington, DC office of The Foundation Center, remains active in the fundraising  profession and serves on the Washington, D.C. Chapter’s Diversity Committee.

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