The Fund Raising School Director Dr. Bill Stanczykiewicz recently sat down with Dr. Una Osili to preview a new report on engaging donors of color for The First Day podcast. The report provides tremendous insight into the ways that communities of color shape American philanthropy. A full transcript is provided below or you can watch the podcast above.
August is Black Philanthropy Month and we are pleased to support this effort to highlight stories of Black Philanthropy.
Bill Stanczykiewicz (BS): What fundraisers need to know about everyday donors of color. I am Bill Stanczykiewicz. This is the First Day from The Fund Raising School, and I’m joined once again by my colleague, Dr. Una Osili.
Una is the associate dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, where she oversees our research team as well as our international work across the world, and Una, it’s so great to have you with us and there’s a new study that your team has put together about everyday donors of color, what do fundraisers need to know?
Una Osili (UO): First, thanks, Bill, for having me. And this is really a pivotal moment, as all of us know, for philanthropy and for our country and the world. Over the past year, we’ve had a global pandemic, we’ve had a global racial and social justice movement, and this study was really conducted to understand how donors of color are responding to these crises, multiple crises in communities, how their giving is changing in the wake of the current crisis that is still unfolding in many communities across the country, and what the nonprofit sector, and especially fundraisers need to know.
So I will try to summarize very quickly. It’s an in-depth study we had. First, a national survey that was fielded in partnership with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, we also conducted focus groups with over 60 donors of color from all different backgrounds, African-American, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic or Latinx donors, as well as a range of other groups that really showcase the increasing diversity of our nation. I think the number one finding from this report, there are lots of takeaways.
Number one is that generosity spans race and ethnicity, we find generosity in every community across this country, all different backgrounds, and that’s important for fundraisers to understand that generosity is not specific to any racial or ethnic group, it really does span boundaries.
UO: We also found that donors of color are engaged in multiple ways in providing impact in their communities, this includes giving money to nonprofits, but also includes donating goods, helping family members, friends, neighbors, strangers, and we actually see a higher rate statistically of these multiple forms of generosity, especially donating goods, helping strangers.
And so this really fits in with what we know about American philanthropy, which is that it is diverse, it is complex, and for fundraisers to understand that this is a very dynamic environment where understanding all the different ways that donors of color are participating and how they can partner and build collaborations, sustainable collaborations with communities will help drive impact.
BS: Una, what else did the study find in terms of these donors and causes associated directly with racial and social justice?
UO: Thank you, Bill. Over the past year, one of the inflection points we’ve seen is a national awakening on race and national reckoning on race, and we’ve seen an increase in the percentage of Americans who are giving to racial and social justice in particular for the national study.
In 2019, it was about 12 percent of Americans (it’s up to nearly 16 percent), but African-American and Asian-American donors are actually statistically more likely to support racial and social justice causes. We also saw that younger Americans are more likely to give to racial and social justice, racial equity causes and educated, more educated and higher income donors are more likely to support these causes.
For African-Americans and Asian-Americans, in particular, the past year has led to much more awareness around issues of racial and equality, and particularly for African-Americans, the killing of George Floyd. Many of these issues have raised awareness, and we’ve seen African-American donors and also communities really leaning into these causes and with Asian American donors as well.
UO: So this is something that fundraisers certainly should be aware of the shifts that are taking place with donors of all different backgrounds showing more interest in giving to racial equity and understanding that racial equity spans, again, multiple cause areas. It can be in education, it can be in healthcare, the environment, the arts, and that donors of all different backgrounds are asking these questions, but donors of color in particular have been on the front lines, not just in the past year, but even longer in advocating around these causes, in volunteering and organizing.
And that’s another opportunity for fundraisers and nonprofits to raise their strategic awareness around these issues, but also think about building collaborations and partnerships.
BS: Una, that is such a fascinating finding because so often when we hear about racial and social justice and reconciliation and those movements, it can be easy to think about civil demonstrations and demonstrations that are aimed at changing public policies and changing laws, and yet this study is finding, while those things are happening, there are also other groups of people who are using their philanthropy in these directions, also in those broader ways looking at health and education, the environment, other aspects like that that are being defined very broadly, as social justice.
UO: Absolutely, and the big takeaway, especially from the interviews with donors of color is understanding that all of your assets can be utilized to advance racial equity and your giving is part of your toolbox, and certainly thinking about the organizations you support and the message there for fundraisers is as they work with donors of color, making sure they understand racial equity as a cause area and how they can, once again, engage those donors, partner with those donors, and ultimately work in collaboration with communities.
BS: In many ways to understand racial equity as we do our important work in the philanthropic sector, which this study is helping us to understand. Una, the last time you were on the podcast, you revealed the findings of the crowdfunding study and gave us a peek into digital fundraising and the use of technology, and are there some findings from this study as well that help continue our understanding in that regard?
UO: Absolutely, and that was one question we sought to answer, which is how are donors of color utilizing these new tools, do we see a higher rates of participation, what are the differences there and here? It’s really quite interesting, we do find that communities of color are using these new forms of giving, giving via social media, giving via crowdfunding, and especially younger donors of color are participating using a range of tools that are based in technology.
So the message there for nonprofits, especially those that are looking for ways of bringing in younger and more diverse donors and volunteers, social media can be a powerful way to connect with that audience, but also digital fundraising and all the new tools that we now have available, including crowdfunding, many organizations during the past year have seen that these movements have broad opportunities for them.
I think the big message here for many of the nonprofit fundraisers and others in the nonprofit world is to recognize that in this moment of crisis, there is also an opportunity to engage with donors in a way that you may not have been able to in the past.
BS: And along those lines, Una, what are you learning and your team learning from your research that fundraisers can apply in terms of these philanthropic activities from these communities, certainly people can act individually, but we also talk about the philanthropic sector being predominant with voluntary associations? Are we seeing networks of people coming together amongst donors of color?
UO: Yes, that’s a very good point. We saw this specifically in the focus groups that donors of color are participating, not just in giving as individuals, but giving through affinity groups, giving through their organizations, but also more informally through grassroots organizations, giving circles and organizations that may not be on the radars of many fundraisers.
And so one message here is as donors of color are essentially moving into not just giving individually, but also collectively, there’s an opportunity for the nonprofits and fundraisers to partner with these giving collectives. Those can be sources of information, they can be sources of volunteers, but they can also be a ways of building engagement around fundraising opportunities, events, and a host of other opportunities.
UO: In every group that we talked to/with during the focus groups, there were a lot of activities that were already taking place around COVID response, around racial equity and partnerships that were being developed, sometimes with community foundations and sometimes with larger funding collaborative.
So one of the messages out of this work is that organizations who want to build those kinds of linkages with communities of color, will find that this is a really great time to do that, and I should mention, lots of community foundations now have guides with lists of different giving circles and collaborations in specific communities, whether it’s Denver, Indianapolis, California, Silicon Valley, their community foundations have actually published these guides and many donors of color are helping bridge communities.
So, I certainly think this is not just an opportune time, but certainly a moment where there is interest in this topic and there are also new opportunities developing.
BS: Dr. Una Osili provides senior leadership to the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy, which resides in the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She’s also one of the top 50 leaders in the nonprofit sector according to The NonProfit Times, and Una, it’s because of your wonderful gift to translate research for practitioners and one of the reasons that you’re so highly regarded, and I’d like to ask you as we conclude here, to kind of summarize a little bit.
Just in the last couple of years, you’ve led a study on the importance of diversity on our boards of directors, there’s been a study regarding crowdfunding and how we know donors of color are disproportionately more active with crowdfunding than perhaps others, and then there’s this study here about everyday donors of color.
And at The Fund Raising School, we receive the question all the time, people earnestly want to diversify their donor databases. As you think about this growing body of research that you’re leading, what advice do you have for fundraisers? So, kind of a takeaway, I know it’s a very complex topic, but how can folks diversify their donor databases as you’re looking at these findings from these various studies?
UO: Thank you, Bill. There are three things I would say. Number one, strategic awareness, education and learning. So, fundraisers need to really do some deep learning about their own communities, about the communities of color that they want to reach, so that they understand those donors and their motivations and their practices.
I think the second one, in addition to the learning and the listening and education, is also a collaboration, building new types of partnerships. We talked about partnering with grassroots organizations, with established organizations, fraternities, sororities, neighborhood associations. That’s going to be key.
And then I think the third piece is ultimately engagement. In addition to building these collaborations, engaging with these communities, you’ll often find that when fundraisers and nonprofits build those modes of engagement, the results follow in terms of sustained fundraising, sustained gifts at all different levels.
Well, what we’ve also learned from everyday donors of color, and this is very important for fundraisers, is that communities of color are very generous with their time, with their talent, with their testimony, and also with their networks, their ties, and so for nonprofits for many in the fundraising community, really learning about these communities will yield dividends, not just in the short term, but ultimately in the long term by plugging into these networks. The good news here is that we now have the data to support that.
BS: And the research that you’re leading is teaching the rest of us so well. Diversity is incorporated into all of our courses at The Fund Raising School, and one of the strongest distinctives of The Fund Raising School is that wherever possible, our curriculum is research based, and Dr. Una Osili and her team are the key reason why.
Again, Una serves as associate dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. As for The Fund Raising School, our public courses are available in person, and we’re gradually growing to more and more cities over time, but we’re gonna remain having a robust presence online, both with asynchronous, meaning recorded courses and synchronous, meaning virtual live courses as well.
Our custom training can come straight to you and yes, we’re willing to train in person, if you’re willing to have us, and all the local state and federal health requirements, international health regulations would allow us to do so.
All this information is available on our website. Our producers today are Jennifer Baughman and Mike Anthony with my colleague, Dr. Una Osili. I am Bill Stanczykiewicz and now, you are now more fully informed on this First Day with The Fund Raising School.