Changing the Face of Fundraising
For more than 30 years, Orr Group has supported nonprofits with their fundraising, development, and revenue diversification needs. Since our founding in 1991, the fundraising field has grown and changed, as have the individuals and communities that we serve. In an effort to grow with the changing face of the nonprofit field, Orr Group recently established diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as one of our core values. As we begin our DEI journey, we are committed to learning from those who have come before us, authentically sharing our experiences and challenges, and pushing ourselves – and the field of fundraising – to do better and be better by more accurately representing the nonprofits and communities we serve. We are grateful to our clients, teachers, and friends who are supporting us in this work and look forward to continuously learning as we grow into our commitment.
Statistics show that the fundraising field is overwhelmingly white (87%) and female (72%). As a starting benchmark, Orr Group did an internal survey of our staff which confirmed that we are nearly an exact reflection of our field. As an organization dedicated to supporting nonprofits, and as individuals who have dedicated our careers to the social sector, we know we have work to do. Our first challenge is where to start.
Begin at the beginning
Like many organizations who embark on DEI journeys, we started by establishing DEI as a core value, creating a DEI committee, and determining a baseline of where we are internally. Then, we hosted an all-staff session to set our intention, define terms, and discuss our path forward.
As action-oriented problem solvers, our initial thinking was to be more intentional in our recruitment and hiring practices. We quickly realized, however, that to build a more inclusive team we must ensure we have a more inclusive environment. As such, we are spending time and resources to focus internally by examining our dominant culture, auditing our existing policies and practices, and fostering space for authentic learning and dialogue.
Two recent internal discussions are helping to shape our thinking. First, how did we end up with our current staff makeup? And, second, why is it important that our firm – and the fundraising field more broadly – be more diverse and representative of the communities we serve?
A recent study by the Institute of Fundraising found that 46% of nonprofits recruited development staff from personal or professional networks. With Orr Group’s incredible connections (we work with more than 50 nonprofits a year), many of our team members have come to us through professional referrals. Similarly, many of our interns, most of whom have come through alumni networks, have joined our team as full-time Associates after graduation.
The lack of diversity in our recruitment channels directly affects the diversity of our workforce. Consequently, we are actively thinking about how to reach beyond our traditional networks to fill open positions, expand our internship program beyond our alumni networks, and examine our job descriptions to ensure the language does not discourage applicants with diverse backgrounds from applying.
Why does diversity in fundraising matter?
Every day, our team of dedicated fundraising professionals has the privilege of supporting our nonprofit clients with their biggest challenge: raising more money to advance their missions. In our role as fundraising partners, we meet with staff and board members, interview current and potential donors, craft compelling appeal language, and roll up our sleeves to help implement recommendations.
As we think about our work – past, present and future – and articulate why DEI is important to us and to the field of fundraising, here are a few early findings:
- While deep-pocketed donors have traditionally been white and male, a new generation of donors is rising. Women, donors of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, etc. all have significant assets that the nonprofit sector can harness. To do so effectively, however, necessitates a fundraising field that reflects the diversity of these donors.
- Great fundraisers are great marketers. They help shape an organization’s narrative by eloquently describing societal challenges and encouraging donors to invest in the organization’s solutions. We need diverse voices and perspectives in these narratives!
- More diverse organizations are stronger organizations. A Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation, use technology more effectively, make employee education and training a priority, and constantly question their own assumptions and biases. We want to work with that kind of organization and be that kind of firm!
Each organization that sets out to build a path towards diversity, equity, and inclusion does so in its own unique way. As Orr Group continues its journey, we know we will run into roadblocks and that we won’t always have the answer to “what’s next?” and “where do we go from here?” We can, however, continue to learn, grow, and look to the leaders and advisors that have come before us to inform and guide our journey.
We encourage you to join us as we work towards becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. We hope that by sharing our efforts, we encourage a transparent and honest dialogue that will advance our firm and inspire the field of fundraising to more accurately represent the nonprofits and communities we serve. To further this conversation, we’ve listed a few resources below that are helping to educate Orr Group on DEI. Contact us with any questions or recommended resources.
- Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture
- How FSG is Learning, Operationalizing, and Partnering in Pursuit of Equity
- Money, Power and Race: The Lived Experiences of People of Color
- Fundraising insights from Anna Barber, the frontline fundraiser for the Smithsonian Institution’s new museum