What giving practices are found in Christian faith communities of color?
This question comes out of the reality that we have found no fundraising statistics and very little qualitative data across denominations that address our core question. Through our partners, we have learned that previous attempts to secure information through surveys have encountered barriers including distrust and fractured relationships. As we look at how Church institutions are built and resourced, the question of characteristics and practices are critical; these questions bring together and intersect our faith, resources, racial and ethnic, and economic class realities and identities.
Effective fundraising is essential so that ministries will have the resources they need to fulfill their purpose in the world.
In 2015 Project Resource was created as a collaborative initiative between the College of Bishops, Development Office of the Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church Foundation to train diocesan teams from across the Episcopal Church on effective fundraising strategies rooted in a deep theology of giving. It was at the inaugural event in September 2015 that Project Resource faculty, Erin Weber-Johnson, was providing national data on generational characteristics and teaching how to apply this data to implement corresponding fundraising strategies.
At the end of the segment, Bishop Eugene Sutton noted that while the national data seemed to reflect those in his diocese in predominantly white parishes, it did not reflect what he knew of parishes with majority people of color. He asked if there was such data available for the creation of additional strategies. At that time Erin both consulted and trained others on fundraising for years but was not aware of the need for the data till that very moment. She promised Bishop Sutton to provide him this data.
After a year of asking every denominational body and every major religious research entity, several key learnings emerged:
This data does not exist in either qualitative and quantitative form.
There are very few number of professional fundraisers of color located across denominations.
Research bodies that previously tried to gather data from communities of color have done so by using large scale studies and oversampling—with consistently unverifiable results.
Research attempted in the past has not been initiated for the purpose of providing communities of color strategies for effective fundraising based on their data.
It became increasingly clear that if a team wasn’t developed to address the gap in fundraising practices, it would not be addressed. Without this vital information, leaders, like Erin at Project Resource, will continue to teach and utilize strategies developed based on incomplete data at all levels of our institutions.
What characteristics and successful fundraising practices are found in faith communities of color? In 2007 “Rodriguez” outpaced “Smith” for the first time as the most common surname in the country. Current census data has also shown that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial ethnic group in the country. Based on the most recent data in the 2015 Blackbaud Diversity in Giving study, and current demographic trends, both the Church and philanthropy are changing, and our data and best practices are not keeping pace.
Yet, there are no fundraising statistics, very little qualitative data, and inadequate information about diverse fundraising practices in communities of color. This is the data we seek. In addition, there are a disproportionately high number of white fundraising professionals compared to people of color. Currently there is no existing network for religious fundraising professionals of color. While our goal is to collect information and provide it back to communities of color for the purpose of strategy making, we will also gather religious fundraising professionals of color so that they can grow as a network and support one another.
The data we seek is critical for congregations and denominations working to live into their purpose.
The Church simply cannot fulfill its purpose without expanding its understanding of effective fundraising practices and how they respond to cultural realities and experiences. Best fundraising practices in the church, however, have been created by qualitative and quantitative work with, by and for white dominant North American culture, putting communities of color at an immediate disadvantage. This is deeply unfortunate for many reasons, among them being:
Lack of existing data to boost fundraising and stewardship cohorts of communities of color by their own leaders.
For culturally mixed congregations, white dominant culture’s concept and construction of money and stewardship is perpetuated without consciousness, excluding the experiences and ways of being of the full diversity of God’s creation in these congregations, thereby giving primacy to whiteness.
Putting religious fundraising professionals who seek to support the diversity of God’s people at a loss, preventing them from being as effective as possible and perpetuating whiteness alongside lack of effectiveness.
The data of fundraising practices in a diversity of communities of color is absolutely necessary.
These challenges will be met through this research and network-building projecting, providing the Church at large necessary data and for communities of color in particular access to using their diverse voices.
We have heard repeatedly that the data of fundraising practices in a diversity of communities of color is absolutely necessary. Utilizing a grant from Duke’s Leadership Institute, we formalized a methodology and have tested this proposed process with conversation partners and a focus group consisting of more than twenty senior level pastors of color. The people of color whom we have spoken with over the past year have stated that they will not be turning over their knowledge or experience to established institutions who have historically used their data against the sustenance of their communities. That said, what is needed is qualitative and quantitative data that reflects them but is gathered in another way: relationship and trust building.
The first phase of research begins Spring 2019. Initial findings will be shared Spring 2020.