The shifting demographics of North America represent significant challenges for advancement offices, particularly in major giving, which has historically focused on a pipeline of traditional donors.
Few individuals in advancement leadership know what it was like to be a Black, Hispanic, or female student at their campuses. The face of the advancement profession is disproportionally white. In fact, a recent CASE survey of the profession found that 89% of advancement professionals working at institutions of higher education were white.
Advancement professionals need to acknowledge this reality and embrace ways in which they can source feedback from diverse alumni.
Acknowledging that advancement leaders cannot change the face of the advancement profession overnight is the first step to engage diverse donors. Diverse donors often want to see staff who look like them and who can better relate to their lived experiences as diverse students and alumni of your institutions. Despite not having diverse talent to accomplish this, advancement leaders can identify ways to better understand the diverse student and alumni experience.
Start by gathering feedback
Diverse alumni listening tours are a great way to gather alumni feedback from diverse constituencies. While the conversations may be uncomfortable at times, the feedback gathered will be extremely valuable in informing diverse alumni programing.
EAB has created a Listening Tour Worksheet as part of our larger work on the Changing Face of the 21st Century Donor. Institutions launching diverse alumni listening tours should consider pairing diverse students with diverse alumni—having students interview alumni about their experience. Diverse alumni want to ensure that the way in which they were treated on campus does not remain and connecting them with current students helps accomplish that. You may also consider pairing a gift officer with these conversations in order to capture relevant alumni and donor feedback.
Connect alumni to the institution and each other
Based on these interviews, some institutions have identified that diverse donors want to be connected not only with the institution but with each other (i.e. other diverse alumni). Giving circles for diverse alumni constituencies represent a way in which advancement professionals can accomplish both. A giving circle is a form of active philanthropy where a group of individuals, usually sharing a common interest or expression (i.e sexual identity, gender, race) commit dollar amounts to a shared pool of money. That money is then given to a single on campus initiative that seeks to support a self-identified priority of the giving circle. Giving circles are not only a vehicle for giving, but are a way to encourage participatory and active philanthropy.
If advancement leaders want to effectively engage and solicit their growing diverse alumni base, they need to recognize these differences, seek to understand the giving trends and desires of their diverse alumni, and create channels for them to engage not only with the institution, but with each other and current students.
Next, Check Out
The Changing Face of the 21st-Century Donor