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Ops & Asks

The Musings Of A Houston Fundraiser

  • Writer's pictureJuliana M. Weissbein CFRE

Presenting on Donors of Color: Research and Praxis

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Last month I was humbled to host the webinar 'Donors of Color: Research and Praxis'. Sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals - Global, and shared with an audience of over 600. During the session, the incomparable Anna Barber, Hali Lee and Letarik Amare were in conversation about their research and work surrounding building community and raising funds from high-net-wealth donors of color in the US. Unsurprisingly, the conversation was fruitful and I was left floored by all that I was able to learn. If you weren't able to join us, I have created a summary of the session and their content below.

Why They Do This Work

Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) with a high net worth (HNW) and an ultra-high net worth (UHNW) have been an apparitional presence across philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. The absence of affluent, HNW, and UHNW people of color in conversations about philanthropy also perpetuates a false narrative that opportunity has only one color and results in a lack of understanding of the complex interaction of race, ethnicity, wealth, and philanthropy in the United States. The absence of BIPOC stories informing our internal strategies also has material consequences on what gets funded and prioritized. This needs to change.

These are stories that have never been told, because of course, #philanthropysowhite. The context is philanthropy in the US, which has historically been a white story, a male story, sometimes a dead white male story, and recently a billionaire’s story. The assumption has been that BIPOC folks don’t have the resources to be major donors while the truth is precisely the opposite. They’ve always been there, They’ve just been apparitional, unseen.

Read the full report, Philanthropy Always Sounds Like Someone Else: A Portrait of High Net Worth Donors of Color here.

Background on the Data

Hali and Letarik interviewed 113 individual HNW BIPOC donors in 10 cities across the US. They defined HNW as having assets of $1M+ with a capacity to give $50K+ annually while they defined UNW as having assets of $30M+ with a capacity to give $1M+ annually. Among the 113 donors of color interviewed, the median annual giving was $87.6K.

Here is what I found most noteworthy:

  • The sum of annual giving from respondents was $56M

  • Nearly one-third of interviewees reported annual giving up to and including $50K

  • One quarter reported giving between $50-100K

  • About one in six reported giving between $150-300K

This means:

  • Racism and systemic change: nearly everyone they interviewed shared personal experiences of racism, discrimination, and bias

  • New Earners: the racial wealth gap is real and nearly everyone talked about it

  • Giving to Family: donors of color give significant resources to their family members

  • Gratitude and Giving Back: donors of color care about leveling the playing field, addressing disparities, and creating opportunity

  • Role Models and Representation: donors of color often feel as though they must serve as representatives for their communities within philanthropic spaces

  • Connection and Community: donors of color are highly networked

In Practice

So remember, donors of color are very philanthropic. They have money to give but (1) they first need to be ASKED and (2) engaged by the philanthropic sector in ways that humanize them and allow for their philanthropy to reflect their lived experience (and subsequently, prioritize their giving priorities).

Don't forget that if your organization is only beginning to build relationships with donors of color, you also need to prove yourself and your organization trustworthy. This takes time and intention. Like all gifts, you need to earn the right to be in conversation with those who are in a position to support you. Once trust is earned, naming opportunities often prove to be beneficial as donors become proud to be part of the work publically.

Plus, philanthropic professionals of color serve our communities with an additional lens of expertise; lived experience. Ask yourself and your colleagues, how can our workplace policies shift to give room for this to surface in our own worlds?

Five Key Takeaways:

  • Invest in priorities and initiatives that directly impact the communities that you are seeking to solicit funding from.

  • Audit your organization and database to ensure you know who you are speaking to and where your gaps lie.

  • Ensure organizational leadership (both staff and board) are inclusive of the communities you are seeking to solicit funding from.

  • Ensure that the stewardship structures you practice treat all donors with dignity.

  • Larger majority organizations should seek to partner and collaborate with smaller BIPOC organizations but should also know when to step back to allow for those organizations to take the lead.

Bonus Resources:
  • If you are curious to learn more about Anna's work with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, check out this article about their process to raise more than $400M!

  • For a quick overview on what Hali and her team learned after speaking with 113 donors of color, check out her recent Inside Philanthropy article here.

  • To review all of Radiant Strategies reports, check them out here.

  • Check out the deck of this webinar here and the webinar here.

Thank you Anna Barber, Hali Lee and Letarik Amare for your partnership. This work is invaluable!


Juliana M. Weissbein, CFRE is a respected leader and decision influencer in regard to fundraising operations best practices. With over a decade of experience, Juliana thrives on professional growth, team success, measurable results, and inspiring fundraisers to utilize data-based strategies. Juliana currently serves as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is an AFP Global Board Member, AFP Global's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser and is a member of the AFP Global Women's Impact Initiative. Juliana is immediate past chair of the AFP New York City chapter’s Emerging Leaders Committee and currently serves on the chapter’s board chairing their mentorship program. She resides in Houston, TX and never turns down a good kombucha.


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