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A Charity’s DEI Is Not A Priority For Donors

More than half (59%) of donors in the U.S. would continue to support a charity with a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) because the cause is more important to them than DEI, while 28% believe all organizations are bound to have issues with DEI.

Some 41% of donors would rebuff a charity they supported in the past if they discovered the organization’s culture tolerates discrimination against the people it serves. And, 34% of respondents to a survey would not donate to charities that use culturally insensitive images and language in solicitations, with 17% responding they would not donate if they learned the charity’s board of directors is not diverse.

Those are key data points in a new report from the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org) titled “Special Donor Trust Report: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” The firm Dynata surveyed 2,171 Americans and 1,525 Canadians for their thinking on DEI but results were separately analyzed.

“We found that donors do value DEI but we also have to be realistic in that some are not interested in DEI as a proxy for the charity and the causes it serves. Some respondents prioritize a cause over a DEI issue,” said Elvia Castro, associate director of charity evaluation for the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

A majority of respondents equated a diverse, equitable and inclusive board of directors and staff — 54% — with the positive trustworthiness of a charity. Nearly 20% of participants responded that a charity-served population diverse in race, ethnicity, disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation and religious identity is “highly important” to them.

But compared to different workplaces, survey takers overall believe lack of DEI is a bigger problem elsewhere than within a charity. Some 18% of the respondents believe DEI neglect is a common problem for houses of worship, 22.6% for businesses and 27.8% for government. 

Both a diverse makeup of board and staff members and representation in the community served by the charity was higher among younger generations, African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, LGBTQ+, people who identify as Muslim or atheist and people who reported donating more than $5,000 annually.

When respondents were asked to consider who should be held responsible at charities for addressing DEI, the outcome was:

  • 25% the Board of Directors
  • 23% the CEO or top organization leader
  • 20% didn’t know
  • 19% all staff are responsible
  • 13% human resources.

The report’s authors concluded that there is a core of potential donors who highly value DEI information when they are involved in giving.  

“Each charity’s DEI journey is complex and unique. Charities come in many shapes and sizes and have different constituents. As such, DEI goals — and the path toward them — are necessarily different for a large social services organization, a Muslim community organization, a neighborhood animal shelter, or a charitable health provider. Yet, at a time of increased awareness about DEI issues in society, charities should strive to ignite or maintain momentum around their own DEI path,” according to the report.

The report separately analyzed findings of the survey conducted among Canadian donors. Of those respondents, 45% would not donate to a charity it learned discriminated against the people it served; 42% wouldn’t donate if a charity’s work culture tolerated discrimination against staff; and 34% wouldn’t tolerate insensitive charity solicitations.

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