The inclusive fundraiser’s tool kit

publication date: Jun 19, 2013
author/source: Nancy Horvath and Krishan Mehta

Diversity: a buzzword in today’s fundraising world. How do we fundraise for and within diverse communities? Do our fundraising efforts reflect the communities we serve? Do we have a diverse board and staff?

It is no longer good enough for charities to focus on diversity. We need to move beyond it by focusing on inclusion. Even if you are not the executive director of your charity and can’t change all the policies, these 10 practical tips may help you become an inclusively-minded fundraiser! These ideas are drawn from AFP’s Inclusive Giving Project, which so far has looked at giving in the Chinese, South Asian and Jewish communities in Ontario.

Good idea #1: It’s all about building relationships

Regardless of one’s cultural, ethnic, or religious background, people need to know that you are serious about the relationships you are building. One philanthropist said, “People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.” As fundraisers, it’s our job is to build relationships with people, so let’s not forget this basic principle.

Good idea #2: Unpack your diversity committee

Putting together a diversity committee creates a separation between it and all your other committees. Instead, include people from diverse backgrounds on all your committees and value their opinions and knowledge.

Good idea #3: The “diverse” person doesn’t know everything about diversity

We hope you have recruited people from diverse backgrounds because you value their insights, opinions and knowledge, and recognize the importance of ideas and perspectives that may be different from your own. Pinning it on one “diverse” person isn’t going to give you all the perspectives you need to do a good job.

Good idea #4: Collect your facts

Combine anecdotes and stories with qualitative and quantitative data to build your case for why diversity and inclusion are important for your charity. You might want to begin by collecting relevant census data and information about your catchment area and user surveys.

Good idea #5: Acknowledge and celebrate the occasions that matter

One philanthropist said “It’s nice to hear from the organization you support at a time of the year that is important to you.” You don’t need a communications team to do this in a meaningful way. Send a quick email for Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Eid, Diwali and many other holidays! Google is a great resource for getting the message right.

Good idea #6: Focus on culture, not diversity

Everyone can talk about culture, whether it’s about gender, race, language, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation or family background, income, religion, recreational habits, work/educational interests, and more. Talking about our cultural commonalities moves us away from talking about “us” versus “them” to a more inclusive discussion about “we.”

Good idea #7: Be deliberate and honest about the stories you tell

One philanthropist spoke of a charity wanting to engage a new community. The organization hosted a special ceremony on the premises and thousands from the community attended. As a result, the charity showed the community how it is investing back in the community and was able to engage them in a meaningful way.

Good idea #8: Have the right person lead

Many of our philanthropists/non-profit leaders spoke about the importance of having a trusted and respected person (sometimes from their own community or not) take the lead in the solicitation process. Use your judgment and base this on your relationship with the donor. You will know if this is important.

Good idea #9: Stewardship…it’s the same everywhere!

It may sound basic, but never forget to say thank you. Keep people engaged. Share your impact. Continue the work of the worthy cause that attracted the donor in the first place.

Good idea #10: Reflect the community you serve at all levels of your organization

As noted earlier, all fundraising starts with relationships. If you reflect the community you serve and recruit board members and volunteers who are part of that community, support will follow.

We hope this helps you see that fundraising in diverse communities requires dedication, openness and authenticity. If you’re a professional fundraiser, you already know most of these principles! If you want an up close and personal look at what others have to say about it, join us for the next nine conferences. Information can be found at

Krishan Mehta is Vice President, Inclusion & Equity on the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Board and oversees the Inclusive Giving Project for the Toronto Chapter. Nancy Horvath is Chair of the Inclusion & Equity Committee at the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter and sits on the Steering Committee of the Inclusive Giving Project.


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