By Becky Moss, MA, Senior Consultant

I firmly believe that a new era has dawned for emerging fundraising professionals of color.

Reflecting on the early days of my career, I stumbled into this field with little understanding that a non-profit fundraising career even existed. In 1990, fresh out of undergrad, I took on the role of a departmental secretary in alumni relations at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. I was not only the sole Black individual in alumni relations but also on the fundraising side of the massive alumni and development shop.

As I progressed to become the Associate Director of Alumni and Development at Saint Louis University School of Law, the lack of diversity persisted. Attending a Mid-West Regional A&D conferences, where several Jesuit schools participated, highlighted the stark reality once again – I was the only person of color in the entire region.

Having also engaged in direct services work during my non-profit journey, I observed a trend: the closer one gets to interacting with the mission’s beneficiaries, often predominantly Black, the more diverse the staff becomes. However, senior roles, including fundraising leadership, remained predominantly white.

This disparity in the fundraising spaces across non-profits, big or small, raised questions about unfamiliarity and intimidation. How many people of color have had the chance to interact with individuals of white wealth, a prerequisite for many fundraising roles, especially for young college graduates trying to find their way?

The lack of representation and limited professional development opportunities further compounded the challenges. It was daunting to be the “ONLY ONE” in various aspects of the work and spaces. Lack of awareness about available training programs left many fundraisers, including myself, relying solely on observing our bosses, hoping they did it right.

However, I am optimistic about the changing landscape. Over the years, training has become more accessible for everyone, regardless of ethnicity. Diverse representation is slowly becoming visible in leadership positions – Executive Directors, Founders, Presidents/CEOs, and fundraisers alike. While progress is still underway, there is hope for young fundraisers of color to advance in their careers, from Development Coordinators or Managers to Vice Presidents, Chief Development Officers, and even as Consultants or firm owners.

A prime example of this progress is Birgit Smith-Burton, Founder and Executive Director of the African American Development Officers Network (AADO), who also serves as the Board Chair of AFP Global, the largest community of charitable fundraisers worldwide.

To support this positive shift, there are now networks and spaces addressing the unique challenges faced by fundraisers of color, such as the Black Philanthropic Network (BPN) and Women of Color in Fundraising and Philanthropy (WOC) to name a few. Addressing the professional Development perspective, impactful training provided by Let’s Build Hope (LBH) is also on the move! I am personally part of the LBH initiative and can vouch for the practicality and authenticity of the training provided both virtually and in-person, setting any fundraiser up for success.

Systemic racism has significantly impacted every facet of society, including the non-profit and philanthropic space. Although challenges persist, the industry is gradually evolving towards a more inclusive and representative future. A few resources that may help development professionals of color:

Please contact us at (314) 370-1602 or to continue the conversation in support of our development professionals of color.

#LBH #LetsBuildHope #ColorOfPhilanthropy #DevelopmentProfessionalsOfColor #GlimmersOfHope #Blog

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