Guest post by Regina Alhassan
We all have biases. And, we all operate with blinders. That’s life. Unconscious, or implicit, bias is a fact of our human nature. But, we are not excused from challenging ourselves to push past and see beyond our blinders. Sometimes, we do need to have a very narrow focus. But most often, it’s a much better view when you see the bigger picture. And, when it comes to philanthropy, that bigger picture, that better view is one with a prospect and donor pool that truly reflects the diversity of people that live and give in this world.
I embody intersectionality. I’m African American. I’m a woman. I’m a philanthropist. I’m a fundraising professional. I’m a prospect development professional. When and where I enter, intersectionality follows. This overlap can position me on the fringe, in the margin, just out of sight. While marginalization can hamper career growth, for me, this positioning means I naturally think about fundraising from the perspective of an African American; of a woman; of a frontline fundraiser; of a data analyst; of a data professional; of a prospect researcher. All of those things shape my perspective at work. Those experiences shape my view and allow me to see the missing pieces and understand how to fill those gaps that our industry, that Philanthropy often overlooks. In this case, among those missing pieces is the fact that African Americans are the most charitable group of people in the county.
This is not the narrative we are used to seeing, hearing, or discussing prospective donors or Black donors. Yet, it’s true. Research has proven time and time again that African Americans are the most charitable group of people in the United States. As a Black woman, as a donor – I love that! As a prospect development professional, I wanted to push a little deeper. How do Black donors stack up as prospects?
If African Americans are the most charitable, then it would only make sense that Black donors are the top prospects. However, I know from being in the field for the last 20 years; I know from being an Apra and AFP leader; I know from participating in countless conferences, workshops, symposia and seminars that neither our profession nor our prospect lists are populated with people who look like me as an African American, as a woman, as a philanthropist. Whether on the board advocating for a levy or on the ground doing a community clean up, I routinely donate time, talent and treasure to a variety of nonprofits. So, I’ve often wondered why I don’t see more people who like me on the leadership annual fund list, the volunteer engagement list or the board recruitment list. And, I’m not alone. White colleagues often ask me, “How do we diversify our applicant pool? How do we get more diverse people involved?”
So, I became very curious about the donor behavior, the prospect behavior; wondering what that donor model looks like. And, wondering about the blinders that keep us from seeing that behavior. Wondering about the blinders that keep new, repeat and increased gifts just out of sight.
As a prospect development consultant, I spend a good deal of my time identifying a team’s top prospects to be cultivated by leadership. You’ve probably also been asked by an ambitious gift officer, “who are my top prospects?” So, of course, my mind went to the prospecting. And, I will admit that I was surprised to discover that not only are African Americans the most charitable en masse but also demonstrate the best prospect behavior as well. August is global Black Philanthropy Month, but this is certainly a conversation we should have year-round. In the upcoming webinar, I will outline key donor behavior that I believe positions African Americans as not only as the most charitable but also the country’s top prospects.
Despite reports published and/or funded by researchers with the Kellogg Foundation, US Bank, US Trust, Lilly School of Philanthropy and the U. S. government proving these facts, #PhilanthropySoWhite remains a valid hashtag. Philanthropy, our beloved industry, continues to struggle with inclusion, diversity, equity and access. As prospect development professionals who feed donor identification, we are gatekeepers of sorts and have the unique opportunity to remove the blinders from the organizations we serve.
I hope you join me for this session. I hope it resonates with you and sparks continued dialogue. I hope that you are encouraged to look past the blinders that you naturally have. We all have blinders. But there is a greater 360-degree view waiting. And that view has the potential to further advance the impact and sustainability of our respective organizations.
About the Author: Regina Alhassan is Owner of ResearchPRO, Central Ohio’s leading prospect development partner. With total dollars identified in the billions, she has specialized in major gift campaigns for a spectrum of organizations including The Ohio State University, Ohio History Connection, I Am Boundless, Columbus Academy and Heal Her Foundation. Her 20 years of prospect research and management includes software development, end user training, leadership coaching, knowledge management, moves management, systems management and development operations.
Regina serves on the Women’s Impact Initiative for the global Association of Fundraising Professionals. On her local AFP board, she chairs the Central Ohio chapter’s committee for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access. Previous industry leadership includes Board President of Ohio Prospect Research Network and Chapter Leader for Apra International. A self-proclaimed data geek, Regina is also an artist, writer, philanthropist and TEDx Speaker.