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Hiring Fundraisers to Serve Communities of Color–Part 2: How do I support my development director?

It’s time to hire a new Development Director! But didn’t we *just* do this? Our organizations see a lot of turnover in general, but development positions particularly see a high rate of turnover–every 16-18 months.  This can be too often especially in consideration of successful relationships with donors. Hiring development directors for Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), particularly those serving communities of color, brings additional challenges.

We often choose to hire white Development Directors, mainly because there is a larger selection pool of qualified candidates with experience in various fundraising strategies. When we are intentionally trying to hire people of color (POC) and/or those who reflect communities we are serving, we tend to find fewer candidates to serve as the Development Director. We already explored why this is, and today we want to explore how best to support our Development Directors in consideration of their race (both white folks and people of color). Before we begin, though we want to be clear that we’re not addressing those rare and amazing fundraisers of color with significant development experience. We see you and we appreciate you! Because there aren’t enough of you, we are speaking here to the dilemma that the lack of a significant candidate pool can bring to organizations serving communities of color.

Fundamentally, it comes down to trust. When we hire white folks to be our development directors, we want to be able to trust that they can tell the stories of our communities in an empowering and authentic way. When we hire people of color with less experience to be our development directors, we want to be able to trust their growth potential to guide the program successfully to meet our ambitious fundraising goals. Here are some great interview questions to ask and/or edit to get at experience and potential in a candidate, regardless of years of experience. How do we establish trust and support our Development Directors, regardless of who they are?

Hiring People of Color to be Development Directors for Communities of Color

We’ve already talked about why it might be crucial to hire from within your community. Admittedly, there aren’t many fundraisers of color and as we start to see that number increase, it will be a while before we see a large pool of candidates of color who have the experience needed to be your development director. Trish Millines Dziko, Founder, and CEO of Technology Access Foundation, said “We’ve had a number of development directors over the almost 21 years we’ve been around. We’ve had those with 10+ years of experience and those just starting out in the position. At the end of the day, it’s about performance and experience doesn’t seem to be a key indicator of success.”

First, let’s talk about where to find candidates. There are a few listservs locally (in Seattle) that you could send your job postings to that are targeted for people of color: the People of Color in Philanthropy Network, Asians in Development as well as the amazing national resource, GIFT’s job board. Aside from that, you could look into the members of color of your local AFP chapter. [Do you know of more resources? I’d love to hear about them!] Other than this, you rely on your networks and word of mouth. I most often see colleagues share their job postings with other colleagues of color and offer to meet with or speak personally to candidates of color.

We want to encourage you to look for potential if you don’t find the exact resume you are looking for. And if you find this candidate, how do you best support them?

  1. Be honest about your capacity. When we talked to Mijo Lee, Executive Director of Social Justice Fund NW about how she hires for fundraising positions, she brought up a lot of great questions: “If you want a POC in this role (and you should) what are you willing to do to make the role accessible? Is professional fundraising necessary, or will you consider volunteer fundraising experience? But on the other hand, if you are willing to hire someone with less experience, are you setting them up for success? Or are you just throwing them in the deep end without support? If you’re hiring someone who you see growing into the role, are you being honest with yourselves about what it takes to help them grow and whether you have that kind of capacity? Are you being honest with them about what kind of support you can offer and what your expectations are?” We couldn’t have stated this better and we urge you to consider these questions as well. This should inform most of your hiring decisions anyway, but especially hiring people of color for positions you think are a ‘stretch’ when considering their resume.
  2. Help POC fundraisers connect to a network of mentors and other fundraisers of color. Mijo adds the following hiring tip: “Fundraising can be emotionally grueling especially for POC and people of poor/working class backgrounds, and some folks don’t want to mess with that, which is totally understandable. So, I look for someone who understands that aspect and has some strategies and capacity to deal with the emotional toll.” One of the best ways to handle emotional toll is to connect with others who have similar experiences. Finding a network of colleagues to talk to openly is crucial to your sustainability in this position. AFP Advancement Northwest and some of the other lists we mentioned above might be great places to find these mentors.
  3. Consider your salary range for the development director position and do not decrease it because you are hiring a person of color with less experience. This should be a given but we want to state it explicitly because we’ve seen it happen. Given all the demands on development directors and the learning curve your newer fundraisers are climbing, don’t give yourself a discount! Your development directors are worth every penny you pay them to raise the budget of your organization. Always. Period.

Hiring White People to Fundraise for Communities of Color

You might see many more full and exciting resumes from white candidates when you post development director positions. You are in the best position to know what you need from a development director and you know best who can do this job for you. Here are some suggestions for how best to support white people who fundraise for communities of color:

  1. Consider asking, “What draws your application to this position?” This could be a good way to screen for anti-racist values and frameworks.
  2. Do a ‘cultural-relevance-check’ on the work plan and strategies. Can you see members of your community responding positively to their ideas? Is the food served at events respectful of cultural dietary needs? Have the speakers been prepared appropriately? You can consider appointing a “council of advisors” from your staff and board/fundraising committee if you have one to support your development director.
  3. Provide self-education resources. Are there cultural events that are open to all, films, or books that could give insight on your community? How can you best encourage the ongoing self-education of a white person serving your community?

Do you have other suggestions? Are you a white fundraiser serving communities of color? If so, what have you found to be most helpful?

As we work to build the pipeline of fundraisers and leaders of color, we have to do what we can to support everyone to serve communities of color, and do so thoughtfully and successfully. Do you see great role models of this? Please share them with us!

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