How to Ask Donors to Share Demographic Details
Page with link to download the data guide:
Q&A on the DEI data Data Guide: https://connections.aprahome.org/blog/q&a-a-closer-look-at-the-dei-data-guide
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More and more nonprofits want to personalize their communications to donors and diversify their pool of supporters. However, many groups have never asked supporters to identify their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Without this kind information, it is difficult to tailor messages or know how much improvement is needed to become an inclusive organization.
A main reason few groups sought this data in the past: Asking people to share personal information can feel awkward, and it must be handled with care, including making it clear that it will be used to advance diversity and inclusion at your organization.
Apra’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Data Guide explains how to seek, store, and use this information. Apra is an organization of professional fundraisers who conduct research into potential donors and analyze and manage donor data, among other roles.
After the murder of George Floyd in spring 2020, as many nonprofits sought to address racial inequities, Apra’s leaders wanted to help its members obtain demographic information about donors “from an ethical space, a space that is drawing up the actual identity of our constituents and not our perception of their identity,” said Milagro Lobato, director of prospect management and analytics at the Rhode Island School of Design and Apra’s former president.
The guide can help you avoid potentially embarrassing missteps. For example, it instructs readers to avoid making assumptions about supporters based on their names or membership in identity-based organizations, such as an LGBT-affinity group, and advises against using data that wasn’t collected explicitly for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, such as college admissions data.
“Using data collected through admissions would be a misalignment because it wasn’t provided with the mindset that this is how we’re going to interact with this person for the rest of their lives,” said Lobato.
Before embarking on a data-collection effort, define the business purpose for the data. As you ask donors for their information, share that goal with them and make sure everyone who seeks data can answer donor questions about its intended use. “You should identify exactly what you are trying to accomplish, and you should communicate that to people when you are asking for information about their identity,” Lobato said.