Research has shown that people of color-led nonprofits receive fewer donations than white-led organizations, even if they focus on the same work. Furthermore, leaders of color are more likely to report they lack access to, and face challenges securing, financial support from a variety of funding sources, compared to white leaders, according to a study by the Building Movement Project. Funding people of color-led nonprofits not only increases equity in philanthropy, but also closes outcome gaps between people of color and others, as the best solutions to problems come from those most affected by them.
These past few months, the country has faced a reckoning on how systemic racism permeates all aspects of life for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities and individuals. Philanthropy is not spared. At a moment when all eyes are on racial inequities and how they’re being addressed, now is a time to intentionally diversify your charitable giving and support nonprofits led by people of color for the long term. But first, what do these discrepancies in funding look like and why do they happen?
According to the Building Movement Project’s brief, Nonprofit Executives and the Racial Leadership Gap: A Race to Lead, 63% of leaders of color reported that they lack access to individual donors compared to 49% of white leaders. 41% of nonprofits led by people of color reported that foundation grants were their main source of funding, with 28% of white leaders reporting they receive foundation dollars, showing that the latter benefit from a more diverse funding pool while the former rely heavily on one source.
What causes discrepancies like these? Stanford Social Innovation Review found four consistencies in the obstacles that nonprofit leaders of color face when it comes to fundraising:
- Getting connected: According to Blackbaud’s Diversity in Giving report, nearly 75% of US donors in 2015 were white. Leaders of color tend to lack access to these communities of philanthropists, especially since, according to the American Values Survey, 75% of white people’s social networks look like them.
- Building rapport: Microaggressions from donors happen more often than we think and, even when unintended, those implicit biases are dangerous as they place an emotional burden on nonprofit leaders, making it difficult to build a relationship with a potential funder.
- Securing support: Differences in backgrounds and approaches can result in a funder not supporting an organization led by a person of color, especially since the Building Movement Project found that 49% of leaders of color led an organization focused on issues related to specific racial, ethnic or immigrant communities, a demographic whose challenges white donors and foundations may not have a grasp on.
- Sustaining relationships: In order to sustain a strong relationship, the nonprofit and the funder must feel like true partners in their cause, but often the obstacles listed above prohibit an ongoing relationship from occurring.
Many organizations led by people of color are working to strengthen our democracy and ensure all voices are heard by working on the ground in communities across the country. They’re also facing the added challenge of racial bias and need donors who trust their approach to advance change. To diversify your giving, be intentional about funding nonprofits led by people of color and recognize they may face unnecessary obstacles to funding. A philanthropy advising service like Goodnation, which recommends nonprofits based on donors’ values and interests, can help you find impactful nonprofits that are meaningful to you. In the meantime, consider these organizations -- led by people of color who are working in communities most affected by inequities -- which are all part of the One for Democracy Fund, a campaign focused on a free and fair election for all:
Forward Justice is a nonpartisan law, policy and strategy center dedicated to advancing racial, social and economic justice in the South. They’re providing wrap-around voter protection including know your rights training and voter education campaigns, and rapid-response support. In the wake of COVID-19, Forward Justice’s election protection work has included emergency advocacy to enact COVID-19 voter-friendly measures necessary to preserve the right to vote in 2020.
Florida Immigrant Coalition is a statewide coalition of organizations working for the fair treatment of all people, including immigrants. They conduct targeted voter registration and education work to empower new citizens to exercise their right to vote.
Blueprint NC is a network of 41 non-profit, non-partisan organizations working together across issues and racial lines to advance equity and social justice in North Carolina. Blueprint has been leading the statewide effort to register over 239,000 voters for the 2020 election, with the goal of closing the voter registration gap between people of color and white voters by 2022. Blueprint has managed to quickly pivot to shift canvassing online, engage heavily in advocacy at the state level and create a fund to support those directly impacted by the virus.
Or, support the One for Democracy Fund, which includes all of the above groups and deploys resources based on constantly updated information about where the needs are greatest.