Donors 3.0 — “Show Me The … Diversity?”

Has this ever happened to you? You are sipping coffee with a potential donor when he or she asks you: “By the way, who is on your Board of Directors?”

In my career as a fundraiser so far, in the arts and for post-graduate education, this question has never been addressed to me—yet. But I have a feeling it will be soon.

As a new fundraising professional, I was aware of the diverse nature of the population we served, but frankly I was not very well-versed in the basic concepts of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the context of philanthropy. But… I was still hungry to learn more and most importantly, was hungry to change the world via philanthropy.

If your goal is the same as mine, I urge you to consider how your donors will see your charity as a leader in your field by incorporating Diversity and Inclusion practices in your mission’s vision, HR practices, and its services and outreach to beneficiaries and our donors.

If I am to heed the warning of very smart, very savvy and extremely successful people, those of us in the business and philanthropic sectors will soon have to prove to our potential clients, or donors, that our organization has successfully adapted to the rapid demographic and technological changes of the last 20 years.

In other words, we will have to prove with pride that we have purposefully included the principles of Diversity and Inclusion in our business and leadership practices for at least two reasons: because it makes better business sense (creating even higher performing teams, as research on organizational behaviour shows), and because it creates a better world for us overall. For more on the business case for Diversity and Inclusion, you can consult the first 20 pages of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarks document for an in-depth introduction.

Being in compliance with anti-discrimination and accessibility laws is just the beginning of our charity’s path to becoming a leader in the field of D&I.

Intercultural competence does not just mean being able to effectively and genuinely “get-along” with your clients or donors from around the globe, it also means being able to recruit (and, critical in the fundraising sector, retain) employees from culturally diverse backgrounds.

As many leaders in business (such as Deloitte) have discovered, clients are now expecting organizations to perform at an above-average level in terms of intercultural competence. If you wish to be an above-average fundraiser, this means you need to master both the theory and practice of Diversity and Inclusion.

Eric Kessler (@eric_kessler), who advises very high net-worth donors in the U.S. has identified that these donors require increased monitoring and evaluation from organizations they are supporting. This is a growing trend which we can likely begin to see within Canada as well in the coming years. 

When your donors ask you how diverse your Board is, will you also be able to show them how proactive your organization is in recruiting and retaining these volunteers from culturally diverse backgrounds? Will our diverse Board be more inclined to fundraise and personally give in return, if they feel our charity has higher social and cultural awareness than a charity that isn’t in tune with diversity?

To be an above average advocate for your cause, you should definitely consider becoming familiar with the ways in which your own organization benchmarks for Diversity and Inclusion from the Boardroom to the HR office.
Instead of being reactive and delving into Diversity and Inclusion for the sake of compliance only, amaze your donors by being proactive in implementing D&I in your day to day administration and in your Board recruitment. Who knows, you might even find it refreshing and fun to do so!

Want to get started? Here are some people you might want to connect with!
@InclusiveGiving — @SVermezyari — @Triec — @CatGL — @ElianaTardio — @HamlinGrange