Diversity and Donors: Are You Preparing to Engage Your Future Prospects? (Part I)

12 01 2012

Take a look at your prospect pool and think of it as a snapshot of your world today.  Then take a look at what the prospect pool might look like in 5, 10, or even 15 years.  The reality is it will look vastly different.   Change will occur for some non-profits much faster than it will for others, but it will change for everyone. We must prepare to engage our future prospects.

Diversity, in this instance, means a variety of things: gender, race, sexual orientation, age, etc. There is tremendous change occurring in our donor bases, and our programs and donor strategies must be inclusive to allow all prospects to become partners in philanthropy. Not to mention, ignoring these changes only allows us to underperform.  Look at a few examples of the differences:

Women in Philanthropy

  • Barclay’s Wealth Study in 2009 indicated that women give away a higher percentage of their wealth than their male counterparts. 

    More women tend to be donors than males in most cultures.

  • The 2010 World Giving Index demonstrated that in most societies a larger percentage of women are donors.
  • The American Council on Education indicates that women represent 57% of student enrollment. At the same time, a cursory review of several higher education boards shows that women make up only 33% of the membership.

 Young Donors

  • The Barclay’s study also indicated that younger, entrepreneurial individuals are far more likely to be committed to philanthropic causes.
  • The CAE report indicates that our alumni participation is on a 10 year decline at both public and private institutions.

    Alumni participation continues to decline.

  • If the Barclay’s study is correct, then our young alumni programs are clearly off the mark and need to be revisited.

 People of Color

  • A recent Reuters study indicated that there is growing disparity in wealth between white Americans and Americans of color.
  • That same study also indicated that African Americans are more likely to cite philanthropy as an important goal.
  • The US Department of Education indicates that between 1976 and 2007 the percentage of African American Students nearly doubled.  Is this represented in our alumni programming?

 What does this mean for fundraising programs?

At the CASE V conference in Chicago, I had the pleasure of presenting with Monique Dozier of Michigan State University and Marilyn Foster Kirk of the University of Illinois Chicago. Both of these Universities have several things going for them.

1)      They have a good understanding of the diversity that exists currently in their prospect pools and, most importantly, understand what their prospect pool will look like in the future.

2)      They have developed strategies for inviting broader communities to participate in philanthropy at their institutions.

3)      There is a commitment at the highest levels of the organization to broadening participation in philanthropy.

In a few weeks, I’ll continue this topic in greater detail, but I want to leave you with some things to review in your own program:

  • Do you understand the diverrsity, the life cycle of wealth, timing, and nature of giving in your prospect pool?
  • Do you know what your prospect pool will look like in 5, 10, and 20 years?
  • Have you developed strategies and tactics that match your current and future pools?

Your thoughts about this important topic will be appreciated as we explore this further!  Good Luck!

Mark J. Marshall




One response

4 05 2012
Randy C. Bunney

Mark, I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for looking to the future.

It will be interesting to see how successful non-profits will be in engaging younger markets. I wonder too if engaging Gen X means that increasingly NPOs will be forced to kick the major gift model developed for the matures to the curb.

Will donations from a growing population of younger constituents using mobile devices to make multiple small gifts be the growth model for the future? It’s already the model for some organizations. Many small gifts from many donors. Heresy, I know, in the major gift world. But the efficiency and the potential low cost to raise a dollar for major gifts may become a metric of yesterday.

It’s not much of a leap to imagine that next wave of efficiency will be mobile giving spurred by the rising power, numbers, and potential wealth of socially networked donors.

Meanwhile, the U.S.’s emerging population of young workers (Gen x and their children), sustained by immigration (both leagal and non) is seen by some observers as the future of philanthropic growth. We see their faces already in diverse populations of grade school children in urban schools.

Here’s where I think it gets interesting. Recent census data point to the emerging demographic advantage the U.S. will have over other countries whose population is not being replaced with a critical mass of younger workers to sustain economic growth. Incredibly, China is projected to start losing population by the end of the next decade. China! Really.

Conversely, population growth trends in emerging countries offer a less optimistic scenario. I work for a global environmental organization. Our scientists tells us the single greatest challenge for our planet’s sustainability will reach a tipping point in the next 50 or so years. The issue? Water needed to sustain agricultural production to feed the world’s population.

Even as our scientists take the long view of how to mitigate global issues of ag production, our membership planners are working creatively to engage younger constituents. Clearly the incoming generations of younger more diverse supporters are the future of philanthropy. It’s also upon their shoulders that we are placing the weight of sustaining the planet.

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