Fundraising from communities of color

Heather Gee of The Philadelphia Foundation encourages fundraisers to step outside of their comfort zone and into their learning zone when raising money from communities of color.


What are the top three things to remember when raising money from communities of color?


* Change old assumptions

A big mistake people make is in thinking that communities of color don’t have a lot of money.

What we need to remember is that all of our donors, including people of color, have more to give than just their income.

Today, one in 20 households has more than $1 million in assets when you include real estate, investments, retirement funds and personal property.  Many of these millionaires are people of color.

Additionally, our communities are more diverse than ever, and therefore so are the constituencies we serve.

Nonprofit fundraisers should not be afraid to connect with communities of color and should treat these groups as any other group of donors.

This can turn into an opportunity to learn from one another.

* Have and keep a presence

Communities of color are very keen, focused and strategic in their giving.  They operate in very strong word-of-mouth networks.  These communities will give to organizations they trust and organizations that are recommended by people they trust.

You can’t just show up once a year, asking for money.  People want to see what your organization is doing in and for their community.

It’s like a job.  You have to work to prove yourself worthy of their money.

Fundraisers should be able to answer the question, “Why now?”  If the answer is simply to broaden your donor base, the community may not respond positively.

Instead, find out why reaching communities of color is important to your organization’s mission, vision and values, and communicate that.

* Make an institutional commitment

Diversity and inclusiveness should be evident in the organization’s policies, practices, governance and staffing: The organization’s development officer should not be alone doing this type of work.

This commitment has to be genuine and evident in all parts of the organization, from soliciting donors, to board membership, to volunteer recruitment, to policies and practices.

Only in this way will the organization begin to be perceived diverse and inclusive.

–Compiled by Angela Strader

Heather Gee is vice president for development services at The Philadelphia Foundation.

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