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Research Report

7 strategies to embrace DEIJ for higher ed advancement teams

2020 and 2021 have brought incredible urgency to address diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice (DEIJ) issues across all facets of colleges and universities. Presidents have promised progress on DEIJ to their campus communities and set strategy to help make it happen. Advancement, as the bridge between the institution and external constituents, plays a large role in those efforts. Little progress in DEIJ can occur in higher ed without advancement securing the funds necessary to turn these promises into a reality.

EAB recently brought higher ed advancement leaders together for a virtual roundtable to explore how advancement can leverage its strengths to make significant progress on DEIJ initiatives with donors, alumni, and staff. Explore the takeaways on staffing and fundraising from the event below or jump to the next steps.

Review the Key Takeaways on Staffing

Proactively cultivate BIPOC candidates before they apply

  • The fundraiser profession is notably homogeneous with 83% of fundraisers being white. Fundraisers are 21% less diverse than the US workforce (source)
  • Use advancement’s professionalized recruitment practices to identify, connect with, and build relationships with Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) candidates who would not otherwise enter the hiring pipeline
  • Prioritize out-of-industry candidates to circumvent traditional talent-supply constraints

Use metrics to identify BIPOC drop-off points and incentivize DEIJ-focused professional development

  • Leverage the use of metrics to disaggregate recruitment data by race to identify where underrepresented candidates get disqualified in the hiring process
  • Implement targeted process changes to counteract the biases leading to lower hire rates for underrepresented candidates
  • 32% of black employees feel out of place at work because of their race or ethnicity (source)
  • Include metrics related to DEIJ-related professional-development activities in staff’s annual performance reviews to incentivize action and foster an inclusive culture

Create equitable, transparent growth opportunities

  • Create cross-departmental mentor relationships to bridge the “mentorship gap” for BIPOC staff
  • Make promotion criteria transparent and post open positions to create more pathways for career growth
  • Rotate DEI committee positions so BIPOC staff aren’t overburdened with side-of-desk work

Review the Key Takeaways on Fundraising

Bring diverse perspectives to board decision-making

  • Create designated DEIJ chair roles to have “lead from within” conditions
  • Identify demographic gaps in board representation and recruit to fill them
  • Hire a relationship manager for pre-board prospects to generate a diverse volunteer pipeline

Prepare donor-facing staff to navigate DEIJ conversations

  • Create centralized documents for gift officers to educate themselves on DEIJ initiatives and external documents for them to use with donors
  • Work with academic partners to create compelling narratives for DEIJ efforts

Surface prospects who are passionate about the cause

  • $12B was donated to support racial equity in America in 2020 (source)
  • Use email campaigns to identify interest in DEIJ initiatives and build the pipeline of prospective donors
  • Find non-traditional donors, like foundations and corporations, that are supporting DEIJ causes in the community

Formulate ambitious ‘big idea’ proposals focused on DEIJ

Higher ed advancement and academic leaders should partner to identify transformational, multidisciplinary giving opportunities related to DEIJ.

What makes for a “big idea” in higher ed fundraising?

  • Transformative impact: Tackling compelling societal problems using niche institutional strengths
  • Multidisciplinary breadth: Putting the full weight of institutional expertise behind the cross-campus idea
  • Ultra-high price tag: Fundraising at levels that allow for large-scale, rather than incremental, change

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