By Amanda Macdonald, Senior Consultant, at The Monument Group

As a profession, we are not making any progress in building a diverse group of professionals that represent our communities. Today 79% of fundraisers are White, 6.7% are Hispanic or Latino, 5.9% are Black or African American, 4.1% are Asian, and only 0.5% are American Indian or Alaska Native (Zippia, 12/31/21). This same report showed that only 11% of fundraisers represent the LGBTQ+ community. These statistics are not just true today, they have been basically the same for the last ten years. We work for amazing non-profits that were created to fill gaps in our society so that all people have the access and support they need to be healthy, educated, fed, inspired, and fulfilled. Why don’t the demographics of our fundraisers match the diversity of our communities?

In 2017, Jessica Cocciolone, a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Central Virginia Chapter, asked herself this question. She had not only noticed that lack of diversity in the fundraising profession, but had also known people of color that had entered the profession and quickly left. So, she decided to do something about it. In the summer of 2019, with support from The Monument Group, the Inclusive Fundraising Fellowship was born with the goal of supporting fundraising leaders that reflect the diversity of our community and develop practices that make a more just, equitable, and holistic Richmond fundraising community.

The Monument Group has served as the lead sponsor of the Inclusive Fundraising Fellowship since it launched in 2019. This annual program is housed in the AFP Central Virginia Chapter. This program was created to build a pipeline of fundraising leaders that reflect the diversity of our communities and develop practices that make a more just, equitable, and holistic Richmond fundraising community. The fellowship includes:

  • nine monthly sessions featuring speakers from Richmond’s non-profit community and facilitated by professionals in the field;
  • one-to-one mentorship;
  • membership in the local AFP chapter and the local organization Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives (VAFRE);
  • tickets to the Virginia Fundraising Institute conference and National Philanthropy Day event;
  • the development of a group project that allows fellows to share their learnings with the Richmond fundraising community.

As a Senior Consultant of The Monument Group and the incoming board president of our local AFP chapter, and a strong believer in this program, I have had the opportunity to serve on the planning committee for the fellowship for the past two years and seen firsthand the evolution of this program and its impact. But this is not my story to tell.

It is my pleasure to introduce Nadia Gooray, Director of Equity and External Affairs at YWCA Richmond and Nicole Jones, Deputy Director of ART 180. They were both members of the inaugural fellowship cohort in 2019. They co-created the curriculum that we still use today, served as Chairs of the Program Committee the following year and are now leaders and facilitators for the fellowship’s monthly sessions, providing guidance that helps the fellows connect learnings back to their careers and find ways to operationalize the ideas of equity and inclusion.

After our participation in the first cohort, we chose to invest in this community of fundraisers because of our shared sense of community as well as a deep connection for humanity.  When we think about operationalizing ideas of equity, we have been conditioned to frame it using an institutionalized model; however, that model doesn’t center inclusion from a place of justice.  So, we wanted to cultivate a fellowship that pivoted from an institutionalized model to a holistic model, with the goal of shifting the idea of inclusivity from an external practice to an internal one.  As we co-created the curriculum we embraced that shift by asking questions such as, “How are our lived experiences being honored in this space?” “Where is the humanity in each topic?” “How do we center healing, wellness, and joy?” and “How do we move from doing to being?”  Each of these questions guided us in co-creating a curriculum that aligned with principles of justice, self-advocacy, and centering different identities and experiences, all of which factor into an inclusive community.  But more importantly, these questions allowed us to craft a fellowship that helps build inclusivity and sustain our awareness, identity, and self-worth in the fundraising community.  

The Inclusive Fundraising Fellowship holistic model started by talking about a sense of self through a person/role/system framework – a process used to lead with a person-centered, community-first approach. We guided the fellows through individual reflective exercises and partner and full group experiential activities, all of which focused on bringing their full, authentic selves into the space. Each month, we reinforced the person/role/system framework, which allowed the group to dive deeply into conversations about power dynamic, culture, and agency within their organizations while coaching them through the steps to shift the fundraising frameworks used by their teams. We also brought in different people from the Richmond non-profit community who were doing fundraising, but did not have the title as “fundraiser,” to expand our awareness of how fundraising practices have different variables, depending on the community you’re actually fundraising for. 

The fellows began integrating the person-centered, community-first framework into their spheres of influence in between each session and were able to share their results on a monthly basis.  During the fellowship, some were promoted through the use of these practices, some were tapped to share their learnings with their boards, and others switched jobs due to the lack of equity in their organization. As the fellows navigated these changes, we continued to coach and help grow their integrated practice as fundraisers. 

The fellowship meets over a period of nine months, but the work continues beyond this. It’s about building a community of fundraisers that are actively engaging in the self-work that is needed to build a true community-centered mindset. This fellowship is a start of what it means to be a fundraiser who embraces equity and inclusion because it always brings you back to self. In our monthly sessions we address what fundraisers from diverse backgrounds are facing each day, and discuss topics such as code-switching, performative fundraising, and how we have formalized community engagement as a way to exclude the people we serve on a daily basis. 

Using the fellowship as a container allows us to examine and interrogate where equity is happening and where it is not, and helps the fellows find ways within their own spheres of influence to make positive change – not only in our respective organizations but also within AFP. It’s been important to have the incoming president of AFP as part of these planning conversations because we’ve been able to identify gaps within the local AFP offerings and opportunities to build pathways that center inclusion within the fellowship.

The Monument Group is honored to work with Nadia and Nicole, and we are grateful for their leadership of this program. The Inclusive Fundraising Fellowship will continue in 2023 under new volunteer leadership, and with the continued support of The Monument Group. Each year fellows from the previous year serve on the planning committee, ensuring continued growth, improvements, and new community connections. Past fellows are also invited back as speakers and mentors. This fellowship aims to spark uncomfortable conversations in our philanthropic community, between fundraisers, donors, board members, and executive directors, in order to break harmful, inequitable practices in our profession. The Monument Group continues to support this program not only to give new, upcoming fundraisers the opportunity to participate, but to support the leadership development of past cohorts. This blog is a first step. We hope that fellows such as Nadia and Nicole have the opportunity to share their knowledge through writings, presentations and talks.

To date, the Inclusive Fundraising Fellowship as worked with 20 fundraising professionals in three cohorts. Learn more about the program and keep us with our next cohort here:

Here’s to making change in 2023!