What do a 27-year-old Nigerian real-estate star, a
middle-aged South Asian entrepreneur and a straight-talkin', newly divorced
Jewish mother have in common? More than you'd think. Isaac Olowolof, Aditja Jha
and Ruth Mandel are all committed
philanthropists, loyal and generous to the causes they've chosen to support. They
believe in contributing to their community and in the importance of leading by
example - for their children and the next generation of donors.
They shared their experiences during a donor panel
discussion at Diversity and the Spirit of
Giving, the annual conference of the Canadian
Association of Gift Planners held in Toronto in April.
Why diversity matters
Not that we need reminders about the need to address
diversity among donors, but here are some anyway. In 2007, Canadian women made
more charitable contributions than men. Over the next few years, it is
predicted that 60% of wealth in Canada and the U.S. will be controlled by
In that same year, first generation immigrants made 20% of
all donations to Canadian charities. Also notable is the fact that at least 40%
of immigrants living in Canada since 2000 have continued to make significant,
annual charitable gifts to their home country.
Multiple meanings of
In this discussion, diversity is being considered in its
largest sense, encompassing all those factors that make a person unique. Gender,
ethnicity, age, education, culture, being a parent, and marital status are all
examples of things that influence an individual's propensity to give.
For Issac Olowolof, diversity in philanthropy is about
equality of opportunity, information and resources. He says, "To believe in
giving, we have to first feel that we're equal. Then we'll start giving outside
our community. The more equality there is, the more diversity won't even be an
Ruth Mandel makes it even more personal. For her, diversity can also mean the
difference of identities in a single donor - "[There is a] lack of divide
between me and the recipients." She's seen that from both sides: some time after
donating to a woman's shelter, she found herself in need of its services.
Why they give
The who, what, where and why of giving for this panel reveals
fewer differences than similarities. Passion for a cause, making an impact and
a strong belief in the value of philanthropy are core giving principles for these
donors. In that, they're no different than the "typical" group of donors you
may target or steward.
As a seasoned donor and a strong advocate for social change,
Aditja has a giving agenda. He supports charities that build on his beliefs and
life experience. Isaac values two forms of giving - money and self. He wants to
lead by example in his philanthropy, as he was taught by his parents. Ruth is
passionate in her approach, looking for immediate impact in smaller
Appeal to your donor's
differences ... and similarities
The advice for fundraisers from this donor panel is simple.
Consider your approach. To find success in fundraising among a diverse audience,
a cookie-cutter methodology isn't going to work. Be in tune with your prospects
and be creative about their involvement.
If you are trying to engage a new donor group, perhaps the
first step is to inspire one individual to help you gain access to others in
the community. To do that, you'll need to be professional and well-informed
about the group you are approaching. As pointed out in part one of this
article, (CF&P May 15), sensitivity to cultural beliefs and attitudes
is the starting point for success.
There are triggers for giving in all donors, no matter what
their background may be. The key to understanding those motives lies in each
individual's unique experience in upbringing, ethnic background, socio-economic
status, and generational demographic. Or, in a word, their diversity.