President's Perspective Blog

End the Shame: Fundraising is the Answer to Diversity and Equity in the Nonprofit World

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Armando, Zumaya, long-time fundraiser, presenter and advocate for LatinX philanthropy, takes over Mike’s Monday Message and talks about the importance of fundraising and donor prospect research in creating a more diverse and equitable nonprofit world.

All over the nation, people are calling out the lack of diversity and equity in many of our institutions. There have been many eloquent statements by our institutions, but despite these, the nonprofit sector has continued to resist change. As a Latinx leader and a leader in development, I have been speaking and consulting on this subject for years.

You can go back 25 years ago and hear from Latinx leaders talking about the almost complete absence of Latinx from all aspects of the nonprofit world. Staff, board, program design, donor, major donors, and more. We are 17% of the population—59 million people—yet the nonprofit world all but ignores us. Foundations give Latinx focused nonprofits 1.8% of their giving. Do you have a successful, wealthy philanthropic, connected Latinx person on your Board? Odds are, you don’t.

The methodology for change has generally been calls for action and a big dose of white guilt. This methodology has utterly failed for 20 years. Shaming and calling out white-led nonprofits has produced a lot of white leaders running from anything that says “diversity and equity” on it.

Why? Often nonprofit leaders are told they have a problem but are not told how to change it. You can create a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. You can change your language. But then there is the work—the mechanics of recruitment and engagement of Latinx people. My consulting work centers on this frustration. White leaders who don’t know how to get this done.

The answer is fundraising.

Sadly, as we know, the most commonly misunderstood part of nonprofits is fundraising, the most misunderstood part of fundraising is major giving, and the least well-known part of major gifts fundraising is prospect research.

In these three components lies the most powerful tool to build diversity and equity in the nonprofit world. Fundraising from the whole community, not just older white people.

Bring on new Latinx Board Members who are venture capitalists, patent attorneys, entertainment executives and the like. People who can make gifts just like their white counterparts sitting across that board table—that’s called equity. We all know money is power. This doesn’t change in a nonprofit setting. We have all seen tokenism on our boards and in leadership. Equity doesn’t come from that—that just results in good PR.

No, fundraising is the answer. The power of prospect research is unknown to the vast majority of nonprofit leaders and even many development officers. Even many large institutions don’t have major gifts prospecting systems. My consultancy has worked in both areas. It's simple. Do your prospect research, identify Latinx, and go see those nice folks. Engage them. When you bring in wealthy, philanthropic, connected Latinx who are passionate about your nonprofit's work, the dynamic changes fundamentally. If you don’t have a prospect researcher, hire a freelancer to do this work.

Our problem historically is the avoidance, fear, and misunderstanding many nonprofit leaders have around fundraising. I hope you, my fundraising colleagues, can see this now.

We are a very silent profession. But this time we need to raise our voice and show up. Let’s step up and offer the road forward to both greater fundraising and diversity.

ArmandoArmando Zumaya is an internationally recognized fundraising consultant, trainer, speaker and author. He has been a development officer for over 34 years, serving in all sizes of organizations. He is a noted expert on major gifts prospecting and diversity in fundraising.




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