Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz
As the country shifts to becoming a true melting pot that exemplifies the notion of E Pluribus Unum, the nonprofit sector is lagging behind. The sector remains staggeringly white in its leadership structure and fundraising tactics. Aziz Gueye Adetimirin says, “Just 7 percent of nonprofit executives and board members are African-American, while more than 80 percent are white, non-Hispanic. The ‘Daring to Lead’ study found that 82 percent of executive directors were white, that recently hired executives were just as likely to be white as their longer-serving colleagues and that executive directors under 40 were only slightly less likely to be white.”
The monolithic representation at the top of the nonprofit structure bleeds into representation among fundraising professionals. Raymond Flandez writes that “of the 61 [major] institutions they surveyed, 17 percent of fundraisers were members of minority groups. But very few blacks, Hispanics, and others were working directly with donors, the researchers noted.”
These figures do not mesh with the trending demographics in today’s America. Yuha Jung writes of this saying, “According to the most recent United States Census (2011), at least one-third of the American population is comprised of racial minorities. The Census Bureau (2012) also projects that by 2043, the United States will be a majority-minority nation and, by 2060, the non-Hispanic white population will make up only 40 percent of the total population. This means that, by 2060, the total minority population would double from 116 to 241 million (United States Census Bureau 2012). These changes are already seen in some cities in the United States. These population trends show movement towards a society that is continuously becoming more diverse.”
Acknowledging and addressing the disparity between nonprofit and American demographics is critical to the nonprofit sector remaining a relevant branch of our economy over the next 50 years. As diversity becomes more important with for-profit marketing and hiring strategies, the nonprofit sector must keep up and surpass the for-profit sector’s efforts. Because nonprofit organizations rely so heavily on the ability to connect to local communities in order to generate precious donations and grants, it is vital to their continued relevancy as change-agents to be able to connect to diverse communities.
Diverse communities have tremendous potential as a new source of donor constituencies and ignoring this fact will be the doom of the nonprofit sector’s current rise to prominence. To best connect with diverse communities, executives must begin to hire fundraising staffs that can effectively connect to these populations. As Jung continues, the nonprofit sector must develop “more inclusive relationship-based fundraising practices that build relationships with local community members and include their perspectives on fundraising practices through diversifying fundraising leadership, understanding diverse giving patterns, and utilizing innovative fundraising methods while remaining sensitive to cultural differences”
The sector can achieve this lofty but critical goal of diversifying fundraising staffs and strategies by helping to develop programs with local and national universities and community colleges with heavy minority representation. Executives must also begin to hire potential candidates from within these communities even if these professionals don’t have the same qualifications and experience as their white counterparts, as often these supposed deficiencies are based on lack of access to similar resources in their youth and a lack of opportunity to prove themselves. Nonprofit executives must begin to build bridges with the communities they service and build roads into communities they have never traversed philanthropically. They must do so in order to remain in a position of cultural and social relevancy in an ever-changing world.
David Chappell is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Chappell was born and raised in the Bay Area of California in a small city named Morgan Hill. He grew up with a passion for baseball and basketball, becoming one of the captains of his varsity basketball team. He earned a B.A. in History from Arizona State University in 2008 and earned an M.A. in History from San Jose State University in 2017. He enjoys working in the nonprofit world and giving back to those less fortunate. He has a passion for reading and writing and loves politics.