Why Charities Need to Pay More Attention to Minority Donors



Raising money from minority groups is still not a priority for a majority of institutions, but changing demographics may persuade them to chart another course as blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans begin to give more, according to speakers here at the Association of Fundraising Professionals annual conference.

Members of minority groups are expected to outnumber whites in the United States by the year 2050, according to projections based on current population trends. So fundraisers will need to interact with donors who may not necessarily look like them, think like them, or act like them in terms of their giving habits, said Marybeth Gasman, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Nelson Bowman III, director of development at Prairie View A&M University, in Texas.

“The No. 1 reason why they do not give is because they’re not asked at all,” Ms. Gasman said.

In their presentation on cultivating minority donors, the speakers talked about the under-researched field of minority giving and the different views people of color have on the concept of philanthropy.

For starters, fundraisers should research the cultures of prospective donors before asking them for money. They should ask how they want to be involved, and their organizations should hire and cultivate fundraisers with a similar cultural heritage, the speakers recommended. Of the 30,000 members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals nationwide, only 11.5 percent are minorities, Mr. Bowman said.

Other key points the speakers raised:

* Blacks tend to give to family and friends in times of crisis, as well as to their churches, education, and scholarships, civil-rights causes and health-related issues, such as sickle-cell anemia, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. They give in small amounts over time, and they do not necessarily report those gifts as tax write-offs. Where philanthropy directed at colleges is concerned, “a sense of obligation and commitment to racial uplift drives black alumni giving,” Mr. Bowman said.

* Talk of money and wealth may be taboo in some Asian cultures. In Japan, for example, family wealth is kept hushed. There may be a gender gap in the giving process, too; some Asian male donors may feel uncomfortable talking about philanthropy with a woman, Ms. Gasman said. “They also tend to give to someone who is Asian and respected by their community,” she added. “That relationship is deeply important.” Asians also value prestige and give money to institutions with good reputations. Education and services for elderly people are important causes for Asian donors.

* Gifts to families outside the United States, to the Catholic Church, and to human-rights causes, with ties to immigration issues, typify Latino philanthropy. Latino donors also seek hands-on solicitations and may want to be told why they should give money and be guided through the giving process. They also look for tangible results from their giving.

* Native American philanthropy is a way of life rather than an obligation or a responsibility. “It’s just part of their upbringing,” Ms. Gasman said. “Gift giving is circular and should always be in motion. When you start giving, it shouldn’t stop.” Philanthropy is tied to preserving future generations. Much of the focus in giving goes toward tribal charities and programs as well as rehabilitation services, such as for drug- and alcohol-addiction treatment. These donors, said the speakers, also prefer giving anonymously but want to be asked by someone they know well.

In many respects, donors of color tend to give within their own circle or community first. But as they become more assimilated and comfortable with philanthropy, they “tend to give more to mainstream institutions,” Ms. Gasman said.


by Raymund Flandez