Research | Everyday Donors of Color

publication date: Aug 30, 2021
author/source: Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy with The Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy

A comprehensive literature review (more than 100 sources) was conducted to study the giving patterns of donors of color. Key findings from this review of literature are summarized below.

• Major motivations that drive donors of color to give:

1. Faith: Philanthropy is often linked closely with the donor’s religious beliefs, and has deep roots in religious traditions.

2. Self-help: Philanthropy can be seen as an economic weapon to fght against racial oppression of the donor’s racial or ethnic group.

3. Reciprocity: Because they often feel excluded from mainstream culture, minority groups form their own communities to share economic reciprocity with one another.

4. “Level the playing feld”: Donors feel they want to provide better pathways to success for younger generations, especially in terms of education.

• Additionally, donors of color have four principal kinds of organizations to which they prefer to give:

1. Houses of worship and religious groups: At the heart of giving for many diverse donors, places of worship play an integral role in the lives of many minority groups. In addition, the faith traditions of many diverse donors inspire them to give, irrespective of whether their giving is directly to a specifc religious organization.

2. Universities and other education-related organizations: Diverse donors, especially among Black and Asian groups, prioritize giving to education organizations as the means to provide the path for future generations to succeed.

3. Civil rights and arts organizations: Many donors of color prefer to give to organizations whose mission is to counteract racism directed at their own ethnic group.

4. Ethnic financial institutions: Financial institutions (such as banks) that provide access to capital such as bank loans for diverse populations are especially popular amongst Hispanic donors.

• Principal channels that donors of color use to give to their communities:

1. Giving through small groups or personal connections: Historically, distrust of mainstream philanthropic institutions has led Black and Hispanic communities, in particular, to give directly to people they know. They also prefer to avoid paying nonproft overhead costs.

2. Giving through giving circles: Giving circles provide direct, local, and immediate ways for members of an ethnic community to fund other members of their racial community in need of assistance.

3. Giving through online platforms: Social media and crowdfunding platforms provide ways for donors of color to give to others in need, most often in crisis or emergencies.

• For nonprofits to attract donations from diverse donors, organizations need to deepen awareness and engagement of changing ethnic identities and to be aware of the needs and motivations of the communities from which they are seeking funds.

Download the full report here.

Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school ofers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs, and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy, and Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Learn more at

The Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy fosters a greater understanding of the ways in which underrepresented people are both inspired and informed donors by providing knowledge, education, and training. The Institute seeks to understand the perceptions, practices, experiences, and needs of the individuals and institutions that operationalize philanthropy in historically underrepresented communities and develop programming and services to engage philanthropic practitioners, scholars, and the public at large in conversations and activities to advance this field.

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