America is in the midst of a dramatic cultural shift, but evidence suggests that organized philanthropy may be stuck in the past. As the nation becomes more ethnically and racially diverse, it is more important than ever to consider whether the fundraising playbook is due for an overhaul. Do our current fundraising efforts reach the full spectrum of Americans who might support them? Are we speaking the language—literally and figuratively—of tomorrow’s donors? Do the fundraising channels we depend upon exclude some ethnic and racial groups? Do we have the cultural competency to reach all Americans who might support nonprofits?
This paper is based on a survey of 1,096 U.S. adults who say they have donated to a nonprofit organization in the past 12 months. The survey was conducted in October 2014 using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. (See footnote.) The survey was offered in English and Spanish, and it over-sampled African-American, Asian, and Hispanic respondents to facilitate meaningful comparisons among the groups.1 Overall, we found that white donors are over-represented in the donor universe. We also found that donor priorities, values, and habits differ somewhat as we look at 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.