Gone should be the days of drab, beige development plans with dated ideas and events planned by White development teams with an exclusive database of vanilla names.
We have stepped into a new era. The world has shifted. The way we communicate has changed, and data about who we should communicate with has erupted!
The lens from which we look to help us navigate our behavior, our activities, our plans is now more colorful and brighter than ever. We must remain open and ready to embrace the inevitable way our nonprofits are evolving as our population and supporters become less traditionally White.
It is time to mine the database of our donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders to understand who is already engaging with us and how. If gaps are present, there is a way to poll your supporters to request information about race, ethnicity, and interests. Surveys, event registrations, and in-person conversations will make this possible.
In February 2020, the “Hispanic Federation, a membership organization for nonprofits that serve Latinos, emailed a survey to its donors to learn about their demographic information, including a follow-up question about country of origin for donors who identify as Hispanic and what causes they are interested in supporting and communication preferences.”
The Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement, APRA, an association of prospect researchers, asked its members for information about their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, ability, and preferred pronouns. Some organizations have been hesitant to collect this kind of information, fearing supporters will worry about how their information is used. "It’s probably related to the idea of being colorblind and supporting an idea of not recognizing differences," say Misa Lobato, president-elect of APRA’s board of directors. “But there are downsides to that way of thinking.”
Diversifying and widening our audiences will enable nonprofits to learn new cultures, hear other voices, and vet new ideas:
· Lapsed Black donors may love to engage and support a social justice campaign to train young Black and Brown students in advocacy work.
· Creating a special advisory council of Asian stakeholders with connections to the Asian business community could be a way to build excitement and recruit new donors from this population.
· A volunteer opportunity during Hispanic Heritage Month could lure Latinx supporters to your homeless shelter.
· Courting a giving circle of Filipino women looking to make a difference could be a wonderful way to show them how to support your cancer organization.
As nonprofit professionals, we must do the work to get to know who is and could be interested in our work. This means replacing transactional ways of relating with deepened, segmented, and authentic outreach in ways that signal to our donors, “We see you, and we care about what you care about.”
An admission that the old way of doing business is no longer relevant and effective is not a judgment of traditional fundraising best practices. It is an acknowledgement that in this new world, we all are transforming into a new way of being. Our communities are increasingly less White than before. We must turn to other races and cultures that will inevitably liven and ignite passion for mission work through a different lens.
To adapt nonprofit development plans to our new normal, we must change our outlook and approach to fundraising. We will continue to frame giving as a bridge from where we are now to where we could be. We will continue to creatively tell our stories that shine light on our missions, and we will always be fueled by the interests and passions of our donors. By adding a little color to the plan, we spice up our activities with new notions that all stakeholder groups have something to offer to campaigns, events, and stories we tell in grant applications.
It is important to remember that when people, regardless of color, give money to causes that they believe in, it makes them feel good—about themselves and about the communities they live in. We will not, even in this new normal, deny them that opportunity.
Christal M. Cherry is the founder of F3 and owns a board consulting firm, The Board Pro. www.theboardpro.com.