A weekly rundown of the latest fundraising news, ideas, and trends gathered by our fundraising editor Eden Stiffman and other Chronicle contributors. You’ll also find insights from your fundraising peers. Delivered every Wednesday.

From: Eden Stiffman

Subject: How to Fix Fundraising's Inclusivity Problem

Welcome to Fundraising Update. This week, we're talking about how to make fundraising offices more inclusive places to work. Plus, how to persuade board members to raise money.

I’m Eden Stiffman, senior editor at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. If you have ideas, comments, or questions about this newsletter, please write me at

Thanks to sponsor DonorPerfect for supporting Fundraising Update.

Diversity Isn't Enough

When I began reporting the cover story for our April issue, a source recommended I speak with Tycely Williams. This person described Williams as "like the Statue of Liberty" for the fundraising field. Having heard her deliver a bold and inspiring speech at an AFP conference a few years back, that seemed like an apt description for the veteran fundraising leader.

So when Williams and I spoke last month, I was at first surprised by her openness in describing an emotionally and psychologically draining experience working at a legacy nonprofit. In my experience, that kind candor is rare in a sector that's often polite to a fault.

Williams told me about her 14-month tenure as chief development officer at the American Red Cross’s National Capital and Greater Chesapeake Region, where she was the only person of color in a leadership position.


“There were very few people who looked like me,” Williams said. “Many of the tactics that were in place worked for white people. The culture was shaped by white people. The measures of success were defined by white people.”

No matter what approach she took as a leader, it was difficult to get her colleagues on board when she took the job in 2015. When she tried to lead her team from the front, she was told she was “too aggressive” and “wasn’t bringing people along.” When she tried to lead from the side, she was told, “You’re not showing enough leadership; your team needs more from you.” When she tried to lead from behind, the response was, “You’re not showing that you’re capable and competent or prepared,” she says.

That experience of being in the room but not respected, listened to, or truly included in an organization's culture is a critical challenge. There's a common saying used by diversity, equity, and inclusion experts to delineate the differences among the D., E., and I.: Diversity is counting heads. Inclusion is making heads count.

“You can attract a diverse group of professionals all day and night, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to feel welcome when they arrive,” says Angelique Grant, vice president and certified diversity recruiter at the Aspen Leadership Group. “If no one really wants to be inclusive, what does it really matter if it’s diverse at that point?”

Truly inclusive fundraising departments where employees of color can thrive remain elusive. That was Williams's experience. “Even though I had a chief development officer title, I wasn’t operating in an environment where power was being shared or adequately distributed,” she says. “It was a culture of 'do as we say, not as you think.'”

It's a story many fundraisers of color recognize. Development departments are often white-dominated, and it’s not uncommon for a professional of color to be the only one in the room. That can create many challenges. Fundraisers say they have been belittled by donors, board members, and colleagues. Meanwhile, organizations are losing credibility among their increasingly diverse pools of potential supporters. Nonprofits have learned the hard way that if fundraisers of color don’t feel welcome, they won’t stay. Some organizations are working hard to become more inclusive.

Williams, for one, credits that difficult period in her life for launching her into race-equity work within the profession and shaping the way she leads. As chief development officer at America’s Promise Alliance, she has worked to build a fundraising unit from scratch remotely since the pandemic began. Today her team of three full-time fundraisers includes one woman of color. She also works with five consultants, two of whom are women of color.

The leadership team is deeply invested in the organization becoming anti-racist. Consultants are providing targeted coaching and training to senior leaders to bring equity and inclusion into decision-making processes. A staff-led DEI task force is focused on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the nonprofit’s culture and processes. Another team is working to map out an anti-racist approach throughout its alliance of partners.

On the fundraising team, the training has led to changes. Job descriptions now disclose salary ranges for all positions and include language that signals the culture Williams and other leaders aim to foster: “The successful candidate must be willing to teach and open to learn.”

Williams says she’s committed to creating an environment in which all staff members, regardless of the power they hold, have opportunities to lead as they see fit. She avoids being overly prescriptive and aims to support her team with the resources they need to be successful.

“I certainly want to do more than send signals that I’m just tolerating my team,” Williams says. “I want them to know that I see you, I applaud you, and I’m proud of you.”

I hope you'll take some time to read the cover story and other related articles on solutions for changing the cultures within fundraising departments and organizations as a whole. You'll learn a lot more from leaders at the All Stars Project, a youth development organization, and the advancement leaders at flagship universities. I welcome your feedback so drop me a line if you have something you'd like to share.

Be sure to also read this recent opinion piece from fundraiser Armando Zumaya with his advice on investing in fundraising and making the field more inclusive.

How to Persuade Board Members to Raise Money

Board members are there to help charities in a lot of ways. Even if they don’t always realize it, that includes helping gift officers raise money from wealthy donors.

For our latest installment of Ask an Expert, my colleague Maria Di Mento spoke with several major-gift fundraisers who answered reader questions about how to enlist board members in fundraising efforts.

"What is the best way to get board members to give more and open up their Rolodex to increase the donor pool?" the leader of an international education group asked.

Your board members are not going to give more or open up their networks if you can’t articulate your organization’s impact over the last year, David Chow, director of leadership gifts at Maine Public, told Maria. Make sure you can tell them about the adjustments your group made because of the pandemic.

If board members helped make the decisions or if they donated to make the changes, remind them of their input and support and how valuable it was. Then, he suggests, ask them to help you share those successes with their networks.

“Increased giving comes from understanding the impact of previous gifts,” Chow says. “If board members and the organization have made impressive impacts, then the invitation [to others] to give in a transformational way makes sense.”

Read more advice on the topic.

Is Spite Philanthropy the New Rage Giving?

"It sounds like something out of Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld, but we have recently seen some donors embrace giving out of spite," Gregory Witkowski writes in a recent column about the trend. Witkowski, a senior lecturer in nonprofit management and an affiliate faculty member at the National Center on Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, points to a few recent examples and suggests that spite philanthropy is likely to "exacerbate rifts in society and place nonprofit organizations at the center of societal divisions."

Donating in memory of someone has a long tradition, but Tommy Marcus, a social-media influencer and meme artist turned that on its head. Shortly after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died, Marcus made a gift of $100 in Limbaugh’s name to Planned Parenthood.

He posted on Instagram, where he runs the account quentin.quarentino with more than 600,000 followers, that he made this gift asking: “Would [it] be terrible if we raised $10,000 for Planned Parenthood because Rush Limbaugh hilariously is deceased?” Limbaugh, of course, used mockery and belittling language to criticize birth control, abortion, and feminism. So this appeal was turning that approach around on him, Witkowski writes. In the end, Marcus reported 46,186 donors gave over $1.2 million. Planned Parenthood did not launch this campaign, but it tweeted out its thanks.

"Rage philanthropy was driven by outrage over President Trump’s language. But it was also a response to an actual danger — donors correctly surmised that a Trump presidency would challenge civil rights, immigration, and environmentalism after 2016," Witkowski writes. "But the fundraising appeal for Planned Parenthood in Limbaugh’s name was not a reaction to a threat. It was not a response to a policy change. It was spite philanthropy."

Nonprofits at the receiving end of such donations have to ask themselves, "Is the money worth it?" Witkowski argues. The answer depends on an organization's values. For example, does the nonprofit seek to sharpen a politicized position, or is it dedicated to a broad tent of services? Is it comfortable raising money for the short term or seeking long-term engagement? Does it want to become the go-to organization for such giving or get ignored in the publicity such an appeal brings another organization?

Read the rest of his column. It's worth your time.

Tips & Tools

  • Advice on Attracting Diverse Donors: A collection of articles to help you raise money from a wider variety of supporters.
  • Understanding and Tapping Into Donor-Advised Funds: These philanthropic accounts have become the preferred giving vehicle for many donors. Use this collection of articles and other resources to learn how charities can connect with fund holders.
  • How to Host Engaging Virtual Events: It’s unlikely that virtual events will fully replace in-person events after it’s safe to gather indoors again, but fundraisers expect some events to remain online. We spoke to fundraisers, event planners, and consultants who explain how to make them special.

What We're Reading

  • A group of activists are trying to raise $100 million to benefit Black girls and women in the South, who are often overlooked by philanthropy. Spurred by a report that Black girls and women receive 1 percent of the billions of philanthropic dollars that go to the South, LaTosha Brown decided to create the Southern Black Girls and Women's Consortium. A co-founder of Black Voters Matter and two associated organizations, Brown is working on the project with Margo Miller, executive director of the Appalachian Community Fund; Felecia Lucky, president of Alabama's Black Belt Community Foundation; and Alice Jenkins, executive director of the Fund for Southern Communities. The women want to build wealth for southern Black girls and women, who still lag behind, even despite having college degrees. They say their first task is to hear from Black women and girls in the South about their needs. They have raised $10 million so far. (Grio)
  • Captain Tom Moore, the former British Army officer who served in India in World War II and crowdfunded nearly $40 million for British health workers by walking 100 laps in his garden before his 100th birthday, would have turned 101 on April 30. His family has encouraged people to take on their own "100" fundraising challenge during his birthday weekend to raise money for the Captain Tom Foundation or a charity of their choice. They suggested ideas like walking 100 steps, scoring 100 goals, baking 100 cakes, or writing a 100-word poem — so long as the idea adheres to social-distancing guidelines. (BBC)
    Eden Stiffman is a Chronicle senior editor. Subscribe to her weekly fundraising newsletter.