Posted on March 18, 2022

How Racism Still Affects Millionaire Donors of Color

Emily Haynes, Associated Press, March 11, 2022

When philanthropist Mona Sinha walked into her first meeting on a museum advisory board, she immediately noticed that she was the youngest person in the room and the only person of color there. Instead of being welcomed as a new colleague, fellow members of the advisory board asked her if she was a fundraiser for the museum. Such experiences often make people of color feel unwelcome in philanthropy.

Sinha says the emotional toll of operating in a mostly white environment has discouraged many wealthy people of color from seeking out philanthropic leadership roles. “With many people, I find that the discrimination over the years has so damaged self-worth that it’s very hard to claim that spot,” she says.

A new qualitative study of 113 millionaires of color found that nearly all had experienced racial or ethnic bias. “It’s so obvious, but it’s also very profound,” says report co-author Hali Lee, founding partner at Radiant Strategies and a co-founder of the Donors of Color Network. She says the finding demonstrates the ways that racism has affected the lives of millionaires of color — from where they raise their families to the people and causes they support.

The study was released Wednesday by the Donors of Color Network, a membership organization for wealthy philanthropists from marginalized backgrounds, along with two consulting companies, Radiant Strategies and the Vaid Group. From 2016 to 2018, Lee and a research team traveled to 10 U.S. cities to conduct 90-minute conversations with donors of color who had $1 million or more in cash on hand. The result, the authors say, is a “qualitative snapshot” rather than a representative sample.

“People of color who are givers are bringing a different set of priorities to the table from their own life experience,” says report co-author Urvashi Vaid, who co-founded the Donors of Color Network and is president of the Vaid Group. She says that changes both the agenda of philanthropy and what’s possible for the nonprofits they support.

Vaid points to the contributions of the donors to social- and racial-justice causes from 2015 to 2017, the years the researchers asked donors about their giving. Donors ranked both causes in their top five philanthropic priorities. Education was the most popular cause, named a priority by slightly more than 65 percent. More than 44 percent said social justice was a top cause, closely followed by women and gender rights at nearly 40 percent and racial justice at more than 36 percent.


One way for nonprofits to build relationships with these donors is to hire fundraisers of color {snip}


It’s also important for nonprofit groups to check their biases, says Lee. {snip}