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The Case for Diversity
The Case for Diversity

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When U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he said the law prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, or national origin would "end divisions" and "bring justice and hope to all our people."

Fifty years later, historically marginalized members of society have better access to opportunities, but there's still a noticeable lack of diversity in many industries and professions—including advancement.

Diversifying the advancement ranks has been a slow slog. People of color made up 4.5 percent of advancement staffs in 1982, 5.8 percent in 2002, and 9 percent in 2013, according to CASE research.

Meanwhile, the pipeline of alumni and donors? It's rapidly growing more diverse. In 1980, 16 percent of U.S. college students were black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American; in 2012 that figure was 38 percent, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.

For advancement professionals to build better relationships with an increasingly diverse alumni and donor base, organizations need to create more inclusive engagement and giving environments. Diversity and inclusion are not just feel-good propositions. They affect the bottom line—and the future.

"Diversity is a very important value for our institutions. Development offices need to reflect that," says Elizabeth Boluch Wood, vice president for development at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Adds Greg Sheridan, the University of Washington's senior associate vice president of university advancement and an outspoken supporter of diverse work environments: "We as leaders need to have the resolve to figure out how to change this. We can't just keep looking at these numbers and saying, ‘Oh well.' There has to be a conscious effort."

That work is underway. CASE is examining ways to increase the pipeline of diverse professionals and leaders and to share best practices for engaging diverse alumni. In addition to the Conference on Diverse Philanthropy and Leadership and the Minor­ity Advancement Institute, CASE is planning its first conference on engaging and raising funds from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender alumni. Peer networks will soon enable diverse advancement professionals to find mentors.

To further the discussion on this challenging issue, CURRENTS presents three timely stories on nurturing diverse talent, engaging diverse alumni, and portraying student diversity in a truthful but aspirational way. In "Mission Possible," advancement officers of color give advice on finding and keeping diverse candidates. Read "The Hashtag Heard 'Round the World" to learn how social media activism spurred an institution to re-examine how it communicates about diversity. Lastly, in "Inclusion Illusions," alumni relations professionals discuss strategies for effective identity-based engagement.

We hope that these articles provoke thought and action. Email us to let us know what you're doing to improve diversity in advancement.

—The Editors




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