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The largest roadblock to hiring diverse fundraisers—and how to get around it

September 24, 2020

Across the world, leaders of organizations are beginning to explore how to combat inequities and discrimination against people of color. Advancement leaders are no exception.

Many advancement teams have a long way to go when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). While staff racial representation isn’t the only metric leaders need to consider when focusing on being an anti-racist leader, it’s often a starting place within the profession because nearly 83% of all fundraisers are white.

When we talk with advancement leaders across the U.S., in Canada, and in the UK, roadblocks they mention to hiring and retaining diverse talent are:

  • A lack of diverse candidates in their specific location
  • Unwinnable salary competition from top-paying schools
  • Fundraiser poaching

For the most part, the issue underlying all three roadblocks is that there simply aren’t enough candidates of color with fundraising experience. Yet for the most forward-thinking advancement leaders, the scarce talent pool is no longer an excuse.

These innovators are beginning to look beyond candidates who have direct fundraising experience to diversify their teams. Of course, “growing your own” is a strategy some institutions invest in, but that strategy will not help advancement diversify quickly.

To diversify college and university advancement shops in a short period of time, leaders will need to attract, hire, and onboard employees with transferable skills. Candidates with transferable skills present advancement with an opportunity to hire talented individuals that have the abilities to succeed in the role but don’t have direct experience in advancement.


of salespeople are non-white


of athletic coaches and scouts are non-white


of paralegals & legal assistants are non-white

Source: Data USA

As many fundraisers say, “People fall into advancement. They don’t choose it as a career.” To move the dial on racial diversity within the profession, leaders need to be intentional about hiring out-of-industry candidates. Making this push to diversify on your campus means that college and university advancement leaders must:

  1. Give hiring managers approval and encourage them to interview and hire based on competency, not experience
  2. Invest in robust onboarding and training for new hires who come from out of industry 

Use our toolkit on competency-based hiring to identify qualified transferable-skills candidates, attract them to your open fundraiser positions, assess their competencies, and accelerate their time to productivity.

Many advancement teams have a long way to go when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Read our insight to learn how colleges and universities can diversify their advancement shops by attracting, hiring, and onboarding employees with transferable skills.

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