Discussion Forum June 9, 2011: Cultures of Giving: Connecting to Donors and Volunteers of Color

On June 9, 2011, The Denver Foundation's Inclusiveness Project hosted a discussion forum on the topic of "Donors and Volunteers." The session was organized by members of the Inclusiveness Collaborative, a group of Metro Denver nonprofit organizations interested in intentionally building inclusiveness within their organizations. This was the third in a series of six discussion forums. The Inclusiveness Collaborative grew out of The Denver Foundation's first learning community, which began in 2006 with a cohort of eleven participating organizations.

Over thirty people were in attendance, representing the following organizations:  Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Colorado League of Charter Schools, Colorado Youth at Risk, Delores Project, Denver CASA, Denver Center for Crime Victims (DCCV), Earth Force, Family Tree, Girls Inc., Howard Dental Center, Kids in Need of Dentistry, Project WISE, Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, Smart Girls, Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP).

Presenters were Amy Ulrich, Director of Administration, and Kathi Fanning, Director of Training and Volunteer Services, of Denver Center for Crime Victims (DCCV). DCCV has integrated inclusiveness into every area of the organization.

Following are highlights of those presentations.

A Chronicle of Philanthropy article, entitled "Hispanics and Blacks More Likely than Whites to Support Causes Online," was a workshop handout.

DONORS

  • As part of its organization-wide inclusiveness initiative, DCCV set a goal of attracting donors of color. In their research to find ways to do so they looked at such topics as: the tracking software they were currently using; a matrix of who is currently giving and who would be desirable to recruit as donors; the format, entertainment, and silent auction items at special events; the size and composition of the events' planning committee; marketing materials; and, most importantly, board development (since DCCV's board is a fund-raising board).
  • The organization's analysis of current donors and potential donors opened up new opportunities for programming (e.g., getting grants) and generated some earned-income ventures (a translation and interpreting center that now generates $300,000 annually and HELP (health enabling for language professionals), a training program for language and listening professionals to assist them in working with victims of trauma.
  • After reviewing the organization's current direct-mail solicitations and realizing that traditionally 150 replies were received from a mailing of one thousand, the organization tailored the message and reduced the mailing to a targeted two hundred people and has retained the rate of 150 replies.
  • Amy reported on a five-year donor analysis that illustrates trends and results of focusing on inclusiveness as a financial imperative. Results include: going from ten funding streams to twenty-five and almost doubling the bottom line. DCCV is totally committed to inclusiveness and has reaped the efforts of that focus and hard work.

VOLUNTEERS/INTERNSHIPS

  • Kathi (and DCCV) knows that it makes a difference if you have a diverse clientele to be able to provide clients with people who look like themselves.
  • In reaching out to communities of color in DCCV's volunteer recruitment efforts, Kathi places stories in community newspapers with a by-the-way mention of the need for volunteers; speaks to groups and community fairs about what DCCV is; and evaluated and revised all written materials so that are informative, welcoming, and solicit volunteers' own ideas (those materials included job descriptions, policies, procedures, conflict resolution information, evaluation of volunteer, evaluation of organization by volunteer). It was a very thoughtful and incremental process.
  • Kathi mentioned that the organization's inclusiveness statement is included in all written materials. In that way, everyone knows it is a high priority for the organization.
  • She cautioned that volunteers do not want to be "the only one" of their ethnicity. And focus groups conducted with current volunteers (when DCCV was doing its research on changing the volunteer program) told DCCV that volunteers are not-and do not like to considered as-spokespeople for an entire race or ethnicity.
  • Given the current challenging economy, Kathi is receiving roughly forty applications for every intern opening.
  • DCCV currently has twenty volunteers, working between twelve and twenty hours per week, half of whom work in the office, five of whom are interns. DCCV serves six thousand clients per year and has a staff of fourteen.