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Use Your Capital Campaign to Expand Your Cultural Competency Skills

Kristin Raack, Principal at AltruNext, was recently featured as a guest author about how to expand cultural competency skills. The full article was originally published by Capital Campaign Pro on and reprinted here with their permission.

Capital campaigns are powerful catalysts for transformational growth, and simultaneously a time of great inspiration that strengthens the relationships with your donors and communities.

But, in the busyness of a campaign, some of your constituents may not feel fully seen, included, and valued.

Expanding Cultural Competency and Inclusivity through DEIAB

While the nonprofit sector is taking important steps toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), there is still a long way to go. To foster greater inclusivity, I like to think in terms of DEIAB — which adds Ability and Belonging.

These two additional lenses help ensure that we are inclusive in the broadest sense. One in four individuals has a dis/ability and any of us could acquire one due to genetics, aging, or an accident.

Belonging may be the most aspirational and expansive of the inclusion terms. Maslow’s hierarchy reminds us that belonging is the first thing people seek after their basic physical needs and safety needs are met. Humans long to be part of something bigger than themselves — something that makes them feel connected to each other and the larger world.

The nonprofit sector is uniquely positioned to enhance individuals’ sense of belonging by strengthening community connections and offering opportunities to have a shared impact.

Belonging is at the Core of the Nonprofit Sector’s Work

If you wish to foster a sense of belonging within our organizations — amongst your participants/clients, internal staff, donors, and the community at large — consider the different factors that contribute to people’s identities, sense of self, and larger cultural values.

  • Age — Whether or not you resonate with the descriptors associated with your generation (e.g., Baby Boomers, Gen X, etc.), everyone is influenced by their age and life stage. Differences in generational attitudes about philanthropy and giving are well-documented and contribute to a sense of belonging to a particular age cohort.

  • Race, Ethnicity, Language, and Geography — You are a product of both nature and nurture. Where you were born and raised, along with the associated cultural norms of the region, affect who you are. Get curious about how a person’s upbringing and ethnic background shape their view of the world and the impact they wish to have through philanthropy.

  • Gender/Sexual Orientation — For too long, many individuals felt their gender expression or sexual orientation needed to remain hidden, as it was a barrier to acceptance and belonging. Now, you can help create a brave space for individuals to reveal as much as they wish about these aspects of their identity.

  • Socioeconomic Status — Culture and values are profoundly impacted by socioeconomic status. The people you rub shoulders with most frequently shape your view of wealth, philanthropy, generosity, donor recognition, and volunteerism.

  • Education — Similarly, the philosophies and values espoused during your educational experiences linger over a lifetime. Advanced education can further solidify your views of the world and shape where you seek to belong.

  • Religion or Spirituality — Many individuals are motivated to make gifts because of their religious beliefs. Listening for spiritual language and asking about their rationale for giving provides an opportunity for you to make personal connections and enhance the individual’s sense of belonging.

Taking these factors into account requires cultural competency, which the American Psychological Association defines as:

“…the ability to understand, appreciate, and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own.”

By keeping cultural competency front and center in your campaign, you’ll strengthen one-on-one relationships and nurture feelings of belonging amongst your key stakeholders.

7 Ways to Increase Your Cultural Competency During a Campaign

Cultural factors show up in all sorts of interesting ways during campaigns, both on the individual and organizational level. To increase your cultural competency, keep these seven tactics in mind.


Inquire about an individual’s preferred pronouns; not only is it respectful, but it also fosters a sense of belonging as we acknowledge an individual’s full identity.


Acknowledge that people from different cultures use different calendars. The Julian calendar most Americans use is just one of six commonly used calendars. Be aware of the Chinese, Gregorian, Jewish, Islamic, and Indian calendars and corresponding religious holy days when you plan events.

For instance, you may not wish to schedule a major event during Ramadan, when Muslim donors will be fasting. If your organization primarily serves Asian populations, choose an auspicious day on the Chinese calendar for important events like groundbreakings or ribbon cutting ceremonies.


Consider whether campaign signage about giving levels and donor recognition are meaningful or appropriate in your community.

Many nonprofits find this stratification does not align with their cultural values. In one case, a rural community with mixed socioeconomic status noted that hierarchical lists felt inappropriate because in their community, everyone takes turns giving and receiving.


Look for philanthropic trends or nuances unique to your geographic or cause area. For example, philanthropic patterns and trends in Hawai’i and Alaska look very different than the national Giving USA statistics.

On a local level, other cultural norms may be important to acknowledge and discuss within the context of cultivation and solicitation conversations. Be mindful of local giving days, important historical celebrations for the community, and other cultural events.


People from a specific ethnic group, gender/sexual orientation, or faith tradition may not focus their philanthropy on the cause areas you expect them to support based on their visible identities.

For example, some folks who grew up in a lower income bracket may not feel “wealthy enough” to make a major gift, even if your wealth screening suggests otherwise.


Notice when gifts may be a result of spiritual beliefs. For instance, a gift in multiples of 18, the numerical value of chai (life) in Hebrew, might provide an opportunity to connect with the donor about their Jewish ethnicity. Similarly, Ramadan is a time of great generosity. If a Muslim donor makes a gift during Ramadan, inquire about their celebration.


Be curious about how a donor’s age, education, socioeconomic status, and other life experiences inform their identity and sense of belonging. Alumni, grateful patients, and past program participants already feel a sense of connection and belonging when they think of your organization.

  • How can you tap into those memories?

  • If the donor doesn’t have a previous connection with your organization, what about their culture and background might connect them to your mission?

Grow Your Cultural Competency throughout Your Capital Campaign

You were probably drawn to the nonprofit sector because of the shared values and sense of belonging you experience when working with others toward a worthy goal. With that in mind, use the unique moment of your capital campaign to grow your cultural competency and strengthen the sense of belonging that your constituents feel toward your organization. Your campaign and your community will benefit.


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