Study: Fundraisers of Color Report Institutional Bias, Barriers to Success

A new report from the consultancy Cause Effective notes that the fundraising field poses persistent challenges for people of color.

Fundraisers of color face racism and bias throughout their careers.

That’s the underlying point from Money, Power and Race: The Lived Experience of Fundraisers of Color, a new study from Cause Effective. The fundraising consulting firm conducted a survey of 100-plus respondents, as well as in-depth interviews with more than 50 stakeholders, mostly people of color, as a part of its research.

While the report noted that donors of color are increasing in prominence, fundraising professionals of color face significant challenges making an impact, in part because they often are perceived as outsiders.

“Fundraising is a field in which donors, board members, and executive directors’ comfort with the fundraising relationship is essential for success; when people of color are viewed (consciously or subconsciously) as outsiders it is harder for them to bring in the expected resources,” Cause Effective said in the report’s key findings.

The report, which was funded through a grant by the New York Community Trust, features numerous direct quotes from interviewees, describing an array of challenges in doing their jobs, how their workplaces handle diversity and inclusion issues, and the isolation they may feel in a largely white field. While some expressed positive sentiments about their positions (one described their current role as “an oasis of diversity and inclusion”), many respondents expressed concerns about institutional bias and frequent “microaggressions” that they experienced throughout their careers.

“In any career there’s always interactions that give you pause. … Nobody is burning crosses but sometimes you pick up things that can be perceived as microaggressions,” one interviewee said.

The report recommended a number solutions to improve this state of affairs, including an emphasis on reflecting on issues within their current structure and responding to issues as they’re raised, understanding the actions are perceived, and having a diversity and inclusion policy in place.

The document also includes a series of recommendations for every major stakeholder, including executives, board members, HR professionals, supervisors, professional fundraising associations, individual donors, on-staff allies, and development professionals of color.

“Each of us has a role to play in disrupting the tightly-woven nexus of money, power and race upon which the status quo rests,” the report says.

(beastfromeast/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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