Priya Bery

Good morning.

The past few years have seen a flurry of commitments from nonprofits to ensure their leadership reflects the diversity of the United States, but progress has been especially slow in the nation’s top fundraising offices, a new Chronicle study has found.

Drew Lindsay looked at race at the 100 charities that raise the most in cash and found that only 11 of them have appointed development leaders of color. And while women are faring better, they still have not achieved parity: Forty-four percent of the top fundraising groups had women in the chief advancement role.

Chelsey Megli, a top fundraiser at the University of Oregon, told Drew that nonprofits are missing a rare chance provided by the Great Resignation turnover to remake their fundraising operations with a focus on equity and diversity.

“We have this huge window in our industry to meaningfully change how we hire, who we hire, what the pipeline looks like, who we’ll give a chance to even if they don’t have a résumé with all the bells and whistles. And I don’t see people taking advantage of that opportunity in a way that I would have hoped.”

The lack of diversity at the top of big nonprofits is often a red flag for candidates, so they are doing a lot of research before deciding whether to take a top fundraising role.

Priya Bery (above), named senior vice president for partnerships at the Pew Charitable Trusts in November, is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from India and settled in Michigan. Before taking the job to lead the organization’s fundraising efforts, Bery explored Pew’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and her personal fit.

“It was important to me to understand that I could show up as my authentic self” — a conversation that might not have happened a few years ago, Bery says. “The world has opened up, and the public discourse has opened up in the past couple years.”

Background reading: The Chronicle has published many articles detailing what nonprofits can do to expand the diversity of their leadership ranks, including a special report by Eden Stiffman showing how organizations have succeeded in attracting more fundraisers of color.

And for more about why diversity is essential in the development office, read an essay from fundraising expert Kathleen Loehr from our archives.

Here’s what else you need to know:

Wind turbines sit on a hill early Sunday morning, July 17, 2022, near Bad Harzburg, Germany. More than a century after it was founded with the wealth generated from the oil industry, the Rockefeller Foundation announced Tuesday, July 25, 2022, that it is making the fight against climate change central to all of its work, including its operations and investments. (Matthias Schrader, AP)

Climate change will now be at the center of all of the Rockefeller Foundation’s work, including its operations and investments.

Citing the urgency of the situation — and the irony that the grant maker exists because of a fortune made through the oil industry — President Rajiv Shah said the foundation will spend a year talking to individuals, institutions, heads of state, and the people it serves to determine how it can make the biggest impact, writes Thalia Beaty, a reporter for our partner, the Associated Press.

The announcement, which comes two years after Rockefeller began divesting its more than $6 billion endowment from fossil fuels, does not signal a switch in its mission “to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world,” said Shah. And it remains committed to its current grantees. But Shah believes that by strengthening its commitment, it can “change the course of the climate equation on this planet.”

Background reading from the Chronicle: A new study shows how few grant makers are putting money into climate-change grants. Plus see our exploration of philanthropy’s role in protecting the planet.

Community Foundation of Greater Flint CEO Isaiah Oliver circulates during a library opening in Flint, Mich. on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Brian Larkin (Director of the National Land Bank Network at the Center for Community Progress), Moses Bingham (Director of Special Projects & Initiatives at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint), Moses Bingham (Director of Special Projects & Initiatives at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint), Isaiah Oliver (CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint), Sandra Etherly-Johnson (Director of DEI & Community Relations at the Flint & Genesee Group)

As the first Black CEO of Michigan’s Community Foundation of Greater Flint — and its first native-born leader — Isaiah Oliver is working to rebuild trust in a city still leery after the 2014 lead-contamination water crisis and forging connections between wealthy donors and people in need.

Having grown up in poverty, Oliver is known for his “street cred,” his eagerness to change systems that perpetuate disparities, and his ability to ask the right questions and genuinely listen, reports Eden Stiffman. His predecessor told Eden that Oliver is “masterful in bringing out everyone’s voices” and helping people come to terms with the fact that consensus takes time.

With almost $300 million in assets, the community foundation and its donor-advised funds last year made nearly $10 million in grants to improve literacy, provide healthy food in marginalized communities, revitalize poor neighborhoods, help rebuild a $20 million library, and help people recover from the pandemic and regain confidence in the now-safe water system.

As Oliver explains his role as leader to Eden: “I’m a bridge between those folks who have resources and those who need resources in order to get things done.”

Illustration shows an African-American man with eyes closed, deep in thought. He is surrounded by a texture of windows and doors suggesting memory and emotion.

Black nonprofit leaders shouldn’t have to keep recounting their deepest traumas to get funding from people whose life experiences bear no resemblance to theirs and who will never understand the feelings behind their tears (opinion).

“Imagine how it would feel if the work you loved compelled you to repeatedly go to your darkest place of pain,” writes Damion J. Cooper, who was shot at point-blank range 20 years ago and nearly died. He describes heart-pounding donor meetings, “fighting back tears and anxiety attacks” as he is asked to recount his harrowing experience, leaving him emotionally and physically drained.

Decisions to support a nonprofit should rest on the merits of the organization, he writes. Project Pneuma, the nonprofit he founded and runs, helps boys in Baltimore develop social and academic skills. It has grown every year since its founding in 2014 and has the success stories to show it’s working.

Writes Cooper: “When will it no longer be necessary to relive our near-death experiences, deaths of loved ones, or postprison redemption stories to be deemed worthy enough for funding — without having to be retraumatized by our pasts?”

Get ready for the week ahead: Sign up now so you can join a conversation Stacy Palmer will conduct with three leading female philanthropists on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Eastern. Anne Earhart, Regan Pritzker, and Stacy Schusterman will offer insights on what motivates their giving and what they’d like to see from their wealthy peers.

We hope you have a restful summer weekend.

Stay cool.

Marilyn Dickey and Stacy Palmer

More News, Advice, and Opinion


Some current and former employees of the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on preventing suicide among LGBTQ youths, say the CEO should resign after revelations that he advised opioid maker Purdue Pharma in a previous job. (Teen Vogue)

A dress worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz is the subject of a dispute between Catholic University and a descendant of a prominent faculty member over who really received it as a gift 50 years ago. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

A choreographer, a comics and television writer, actors, filmmakers, and other disabled artists are among 20 people chosen as disability futures fellows by the Ford and Andrew W. Mellon foundations. (New York Times)

A Minneapolis foundation is awarding grants to major museums to fund programs for older adults, who are often overlooked in cultural outreach and education efforts. (Artnet News)


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