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Philanthropy Journal Offers Special Report on Engaging Diverse Donors

(Feb. 5, 2007) Identifying and cultivating diverse donors is both an internal and an external undertaking, according to a series of articles by the Philanthropy Journal that focus on diversity and fundraising.

The special report includes three articles and two informative columns about how charities and fundraisers can reach out to diverse groups of donors to better broaden their funding base and prepare for the future.

The first article, “Diverse Donors Pose Challenges,” examines the underlying trends that are changing the demographics of the United States and how charities must understand and react to those in order to maintain and grow their donor base.

According to the article, most nonprofits have not adjusted to donors’ changing diversity, relying instead on their traditional donors’ living longer. However, that reliance will end in the coming years as those donors get older and pass away, and charities must be able to successfully cultivate new groups of donors who will have different interests and priorities in their giving.

Younger generations, who will become increasingly important donors as they age, have distinctly unique perspectives on philanthropy, as do men and women, gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The most successful charities will be the ones that recognize these differences in approaching philanthropy and can offer something concrete and beneficial to each group.

Internal Readiness

Before any organization can try to reach out to diverse groups, it must take a look at its own diversity, according to “Finding New and Different Donors.”

Just as with any sort of fundraising campaign, charities need to understand which audiences may have a natural affinity for their causes and what sort of communications and themes work best for each audience. Diversity outreach must be focused on specific groups or else it will simply not work.

Perhaps even more important, groups must want to change and work on diversity, especially at the board and staff levels. As the article notes, most failures at diversity outreach aren’t the result of poor campaigns, but rather because they simply don’t want to make the time and effort to change.

Personalization

Using targeted messages with diverse groups has become even more important as the number of charities increase and “donor fatigue” sets in, according to “Engaging Diverse Donors.”

According to Karla Williams, a consultant based in Charlotte, N.C., charities need to begin by forgetting their boiler-plate communications and focusing exclusively on personalized communications, even if it means stretching the length of a campaign. The article offers several examples of how organizations can personalize messages and make the right ask by understanding the characteristics of the diverse groups being targeted.

The two columns continue with the theme of personalization. Elizabeth Crabtree, director of prospect development at Brown University in Providence, R.I., talks about using research to broaden a charity’s donor base (“Broadening the Base”), and Antonia Hernández, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles, offers a number of tips and strategies for reaching out to diverse populations (“You Had Me at Welcome”).

The Philanthropy Journal, a publication of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., supports the foundation’s mission and grantees through news and resources. The foundation supports The Fletcher Academy and funds organizations in North Carolina that support education; the elderly, infirm or indigent; artistic endeavors; mass media; public recreation; or the fostering of religious faith.



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