Minorities Under Represented In Fundraising Appeals

March 3, 2015       Paul Clolery      

Giving at a place of worship is the top venue for donors who are white, African American and Hispanic. Asian donors, however, are more likely to give to health charities. Local social service and children’s charities are also priorities for Asian donors.

There is quite a disparity in how donors prioritize giving when analyzed by ethnicity. A new study by technology firm Blackbaud in Charleston, S.C., “Diversity in Giving, The Changing Landscape of American Philanthropy” shows various significant differences.

White Americans make up the majority of donors. “Nearly three-fourths of donors today are non-Hispanic whites, despite the fact that whites make up only 64 percent of the population,” according to authors of the report. “Conversely the study finds that both African-Americans and Hispanics are under-represented in the donor universe. Asian donor participation appears congruent with the Asian population size.”

The report’s author is Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies with research by Pam Loeb of Edge Research. Contributors to the documents are Emmett Carson, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Dennis McCarthy of Blackbaud. The results are based on a survey of 1,096 U.S. adults who said they have donated to a nonprofit during the past 12 months. The survey was conducted in October 2014 and was offered in English and Spanish. It over-sampled African-American, Asian, and Hispanic respondents to facilitate meaningful comparisons among the groups.

“Fundraising in the 21st century will require a differentiated approach tailored to the interests, values, and traditions of the many rather than a one-size-fits-all approach based on the interests, values, and traditions of white Americans,” according to Carson. “As people of color become majorities in communities across America, successful nonprofit organizations will need to have a diverse donor base to sustain and grow their operations.”

According to Carson, the most successful nonprofits “will realize that to attract and maintain a diversified funding base will require that their boards, staff, and programming also be diverse. Nothing less than a complete transformation in this regard will be sufficient. For nonprofit organizations courageous enough to undertake this difficult journey, Diversity in Giving is essential reading for getting started.”

As the U.S. population shifts away from many areas being white majorities, so to are donor priorities shifting. The report shows donor priorities, values, and habits differ somewhat within specific ethnic or racial donor sub-groups. In most cases the differences are subtle. In a few cases they are significant. In all cases, they are useful pointers toward a more inclusive approach to fundraising, according to the findings.

Donors might have different funding priorities, but according to the findings there are areas of substantive agreement. Three core values of civic engagement and giving cross all lines according to the results:

• The impulse to help those in need is universal. Majorities across all sub-groups believe it is important to support nonprofits. Roughly one in three donate time volunteering, as well as money.

• Religion and faith are drivers and indicators of giving. Religious organizations capture a significant proportion of all money donated. Moreover, donors who report being actively engaged in a faith community are more likely to give — and to give more — to the full spectrum of nonprofits and causes.

• Wealthier individuals donate more in absolute terms than those with mid-level or lower incomes. Analysis suggests that household income is a primary predictor of how much individuals give regardless of race or ethnicity. This is based on total amount donated, as opposed to percentage of income donated. Other studies suggest that middle and lower income donors generally donate a higher percentage of their income than wealthier individuals.

The findings do not show white donors to be “more generous” than other racial and ethnic groups. Factors such as income and religious engagement are far more significant predictors of giving behavior than race or ethnicity. The under-representation of African-Americans and Hispanics suggests that organized philanthropy is not doing an adequate job of engaging non-white communities, according to the authors.

A copy of the 16-page report is at www.blackbaud.com/givingdiversity