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Cheat Sheet

Fundraising for diversity, equity, and inclusion

10 Minute Read

Key Takeaways
  • Fundraising for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) includes fundraising for both internal and external DEI initiatives. It can encompass a wide variety of initiatives within the hospital or health system and the community.
  • Fundraising for DEI is the development team’s new and necessary value add to the hospital or health system’s mission. Development teams can support their broader organization’s top priorities and position themselves as an invaluable asset in their organization’s DEI strategy.
  • Fundraising for DEI enables development teams to deepen their connection to the community. Development teams can ultimately help their hospital or health system become more representative of the community they serve.

What is it?

Fundraising for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) encompasses fundraising for both internal DEI initiatives and external community health initiatives. Common examples include:

Internal DEI initiatives

  • Inclusive hiring/staffing practices
  • Medical scholarships to increase diversity in provider pipeline
  • Training/continuing education opportunities
  • New system-level DEI roles (ex. Chief Diversity or Health Equity Officer)
  • Board diversity

External community health initiatives

  • Partnerships with community organizations
  • Community programs that address the social determinants of health and health disparities
  • Hospital or health system programs that connect patients to resources after their visit

Most development teams already fundraise for DEI in at least one of the ways above, but few have connected their efforts to a cohesive strategy. Development leaders should identify the internal DEI initiatives and external community health initiatives they are already funding and ensure they are accounted for in their own DEI strategy and aligned with that of their hospital or health system.

For many development leaders, fundraising for DEI has become synonymous with fundraising for community health. While funding programs that address the social determinants of health is one way to fundraise for DEI, it is certainly not the only way. Now is more important than ever for development teams to expand their definition of fundraising.


Why does it matter?

In 2020, Covid-19 exacerbated long-standing health inequities and a mass movement for social justice illuminated deeply rooted societal inequalities. As a result, many hospitals and health systems renewed their commitments to expanding access to quality health care and set goals for advancing DEI both internally and externally. DEI will remain a top priority for years to come – and development leaders can play a major role in advancing DEI priorities.

Development teams are highly skilled at raising money for different causes; this ability positions them to uniquely support their organization in advancing DEI by growing revenue. They can utilize their expertise to fundraise for both internal DEI initiatives and external community health initiatives. By doing so, they can support their broader organization’s most pressing goals and position themselves as an invaluable asset in their organization’s overall strategy.

Along with supporting their organization’s goals, fundraising for DEI – and specifically for external community health initiatives – enables development teams to deepen their connection to the community. A strong community connection provides several benefits to their broader organization, including intelligence on community needs, preferences for health care services, forums to share fundraising priorities, and the ability to become a trusted provider of choice for a new set of patients.

As development teams deepen their connection to the community, they can also retain new and more diverse donors who are interested in funding the initiatives that impact them. And as generational shifts occur, development teams can capture younger donors by appealing to their growing interest in DEI. According to a Fidelity Charitable report, younger generations are more interested in funding priorities around social issues and civil rights. But it’s not just younger and more diverse donors at stake – many traditional donors are expressing a shifting interest from funding capital projects to projects related to DEI. As more people become interested in health equity and social justice, fundraising for DEI will be crucial in helping development teams to sustain their donor pipelines in the long run. And on top of that, every part of the hospital or health system, including the donor base, ultimately needs to become more reflective of the community it serves.


How does it work?

Define areas of focus within broader organizational strategy

To effectively fundraise for DEI, development leaders must first define their areas of focus within their broader hospital or health system’s DEI strategy. Whether it be specific internal initiatives, like implicit bias training for staff, or external community health initiatives more broadly, leaders must determine where they can best support their hospital or health system with funding.

Set goals

After defining their areas of focus, development leaders must set goals to ensure they are accountable for making progress. Some leaders set monetary goals for how much their team should raise for a specific DEI initiative, fund, or area. Others set qualitative goals that outline the types of initiatives they plan to fund or reiterate their overall commitment to DEI. At the very least, many development leaders set goals to increase the diversity of their internal workforce or board. Regardless of the approach, all development teams should have goals in place that allow them to track their progress and identify areas for improvement.

Partner with external organizations

Along with setting goals at the outset, the most successful development teams lean into community partnerships to fundraise for DEI. They understand and acknowledge they are not experts on DEI – nor are they experts on community health. Rather, grassroots organizations that are engrained in the community have a deep understanding of the needs of the people living there as well as how to address those needs. In fundraising for DEI, development teams should partner with community organizations to help inform – in coordination with their hospital or health system – what priorities they fund and how they fund them.

Integrate goals into current priorities

DEI should be a priority within every development team’s overall fundraising plan, but it doesn’t have to – and shouldn’t – be a siloed priority. Development teams should ensure that fundraising for DEI is additive to and embedded within their service line and traditional fundraising priorities. They should examine all of their fundraising efforts to ensure they are equitable and inclusive, considering both the direct and indirect impact they will have on the hospital or health system and the community.

Donors and social justice


A Classy report found that 42% of Americans said they donated or planned to donate to social justice causes in 2020.

We're not the expert in everything out there related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. In order to be effective, we need to partner with people who are good at what they do.

- Senior development executive

Conversations you should be having
  1. Gather a diverse set of perspectives and opinions to inform your fundraising priorities.

  2. Identify and capitalize on areas where your organization’s DEI priorities align with donor interests.

  3. Set specific and measurable goals to hold your team accountable and track progress.

  4. Use intentional and inclusive messaging to communicate the intent and impact of your fundraising efforts for DEI to donors.

For many development teams, the biggest impediment to progress is not knowing where to begin. Initiate these conversations with your team to get the ball rolling and choose a fundraising initiative with the lowest barrier to entry to get started. Making progress in DEI is not about finding the perfect place to start, but rather about making a sustained and consistent effort in the long run.

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