Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lack of Diversity in the Fundraising Profession

Ok, so this blog is probably going to get me into some trouble. But hey, when have I ever shied away from being controversial? With all that has been happening now across America and with all that I have seen and experienced, I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't write this post. 

As I travel all across this land, and sometimes even north of the border, I am constantly disappointed by the lack of diversity in the room. I'm not just talking ethnic diversity, I'm also talking religious, sexual orientation and socioeconomic diversity. We are not doing a great job as leaders representing our constituencies. The faces are mostly white, mostly upper middle class and the people we are raising funds for are certainly not. And don't get me started on what our volunteer boards look like. In the field of donor relations it's even worse. We're 90 percent white females. We represent institutions of higher learning, nonprofits that help change the state of poverty, hospitals who cure illnesses and yet I believe we have a problem within. One would think that higher education would be a wonderful place to promote diversity and inclusion, but when looking further, if we consistently refuse to change our own processes and avoid progress in our methodologies to fund raise how can we expect to change the recruitment of diverse populations of professionals?

We don't actively recruit and mentor people who don't even know that fundraising is a career possibility. There is, in fact an active glass ceiling in fundraising for some as well. We need to reach out to people and educate then on what a fabulous career this is and how they can become involved. That means reaching out to people who are not currently connected with or employed by a nonprofit organization, but who are seeking to enter the profession or change careers. This also means being comfortable with having uncomfortable discussions on issues surrounding race, religion and socioeconomic status. 

Embracing diversity means having a genuine respect for differing perspectives, so that solutions encompass all diverse views and needs. Diversity increases the wealth of knowledge and ideas available, as long as they all look for creative and mutually satisfactory solutions. We must be committed to inclusion ourselves and make our profession attractive to those who have not previously been exposed to it. It takes commitment to move the needle. We must be concerned with how to keep diversity/inclusion at the forefront of people’s consciousness, and not be seen in a negative light. This requires systematic change, embedded in everything we do.

I have seen many examples of language or communications where if a diverse eye were directed toward the content, it would have been significantly altered. Here's one example of missing the mark when it comes to diversity and sensitivity, and I can find many others.

For those of you reading this and feeling uncomfortable, good, mission accomplished. For those of you nodding heads and actively sharing this post with others, what's the next step? First awareness of the problem, then action and activity. I think many of us are aware of the problem, but have not yet taken concerted action. I approach this subject knowing it will raise eyebrows with some and elicit eyerolls from others. I'm determined to share my vocation with others, it's a wonderful profession. I would love to hear your comments below. at the very least I hope this has jogged your thoughts, compelled you to share this post and at least think about possible long term solutions. Thanks for listening.


  1. Thanks for writing on this topic Lynne! The Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has taken the next step beyond awareness to actually develop & implement a program called New Faces of Fundraising that does introduce and submerge individuals with diverse backgrounds into the field of fundraising. We just finished recruit our 3rd class of participants. I encourage you to view our webpage ( for more information about the work that we do!

  2. A thought. I'm not saying your observations aren't spot on--the conferences and trainings I've been too--it's true. But back at the home offices, there is more diversity. Still not enough. But more. Perhaps the leadership needs to do better about providing for opportunities for all staff to participate in conferences and trainings. Not just middle or top tier management--who might happen to fall into a more limited view of the field?

  3. Lynn, do you know of any professional fundraising associations geared toward Hispanics?

  4. Great post and yes there is a HUGE lack of diversity in the profession. I have worked in fundraising for over 12 years and quite often I am the only person of color in the room. However, as you stated, diversity goes beyond race and other diverse populations aren't represented either. Luckily for me I live in a city where there are many affinity groups for fundraisers (Chicago Women in Philanthropy, Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy, etc) but for some smaller or rural areas resources and supports may be lacking. How can we argue that the funds we receive from donors impact the community when sometimes nonprofit staff and leadership don't look like the communities they serve?