Diversity and Donors of the Future

The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. — Isaac Asimov

No matter our age, we have all experienced change. It isn’t easy. In fact, most meaningful change exacts some price from us – some measure of give that results in a different us. Diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy are changes with which many of us are still coping.

But if we examine the realities of our changing environment, we know we must pay attention to the increasing diversity around us. A serious investment in diversity and inclusion work is required if we are to stay relevant into the future.

In the Donors of the Future Scan (pdf), Marcia Sharp of the Millennium Communications Group identified 12 key trends in the giving landscape that will push us to change.

  1. Racial and ethnic diversity will increase across communities. This, in turn, will change our potential donor and civic leadership pools. Who donates and what they give will be profoundly impacted, and public policy will become more representative of minority communities.
  2. Wealth appreciation in virtually all communities of difference will become significant. As more African Americans, Asians, gays and lesbians, Hispanics, women and young people are “self-made,” we will need to reframe how we look at the donor of today. Adult white middle-class men will become a smaller slice of the high wealth pool and identity funds are likely to emerge as significant donors.
  3. The concept of endowment will face continuous pressure as new donors – from recent immigrants to self-made, high-wealth entrepreneurs – enter the system. Endowed giving options will compete with, and often lose to, non-endowed options as the new donors re-think long-term investments.
  4. Interest in giving internationally will increase among all types of donors. As community members are investing money in people and projects outside of the U.S., what will happen to the people and organizations we have traditionally invested in at home?
  5. Sending money home, among foreign-born people living in the U.S. – in income categories top to bottom – will increase significantly, too. Some 60 percent of some local foreign-born populations are transferring between $50 and $100 billion annually, often through non-traditional institutions.
  6. Flash giving — triggered by international conflict, famine, and natural disasters  has a growing potential to engage and empower many donors. When we can text, tweet and use Facebook to make our contributions, what happens to our traditional giving modalities?
  7. Donors will be increasingly attracted to self-formed learning and giving communities that maintain connections, share knowledge and sponsor events. If, as the report suggests, we see more groups forming around shared values or lifestyle issues, how will traditional philanthropic organizations and nonprofits connect to these giving circles?
  8. More and more donors will direct all their giving through internet giving portals. How will the issues we care about be supported if traditional foundations and nonprofits are no longer seen as necessary?
  9. A more mobile population of all ages diminishes the appeal and incidence of place-based giving. If ties to specific places were once a driver for donors who are now increasingly mobile, where does this leave place-specific foundations and nonprofits?
  10. Reduced giving by faith-based donors  long acknowledged as the majority of U.S. contributions  may occur as donations shift to non-faith-specific causes.  How will we adapt and tap into this significant loss of historical wealth?
  11. Donor demand for streamlined, 24-7 customized interfaces will force nonprofits to advance business operations.
  12. People will increasingly expect to see themselves in the leadership of the institutions to whom they give their money, time or allegiance. This final point makes a solid argument for the intentional pursuit of greater diversity, inclusion and equity across sectors: If people don’t see people like themselves and choose to put their money elsewhere, what happens to the people and issues our sector has traditionally served?

No matter how challenged we may feel by the pressures of increased diversity, this report clearly cites the multitude of reasons we must get on board. If we don’t, we risk it all — lack of relevance, lack of money and the loss of our ability to serve the people and causes we have traditionally served.

Isaac Asimov was right on the money — change is indeed the only constant. And if the Donors of the Future Scan is right about its final conclusion — that these trends will accelerate as Generations X and Y assume leadership across our sector — we don’t have much time to waste.

— Lissa Jones, MCF director of diversity, equity and inclusion

Image cc Judy van der Velden

3 Responses to Diversity and Donors of the Future

  1. Zelma says:

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  2. […] MCF’s new director of diversity, equity and inclusion, wrote a great post here last week, Diversity and Donors of the Future, which I was reminded of […]

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