RHI Educational Fellowship

I consider mentorship of up-and-coming professionals one of the most important values of this firm, along with ethics, passion, and social justice. Providing emerging fundraising professionals with great opportunities and skills in fundraising can influence the well-being of whole communities, entire sectors, and the world at large.

Fundraising once was considered a “white male” profession. When I was a secretary in the 1980s at the development department in my university, some women were breaking the glass ceiling, but they were rare—and, I’ve often joked, they had to play golf.

Now, I see many, many more women making their way to development’s top ranks. But fundraising remains primarily a white field.

One study, Cultivating future fundraisers of color at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, found that “11 percent of members of the Association for Fundraising Professionals,” the powerhouse membership organization for development professionals, “were minorities.”

Yet fundraisers are on the front-lines of some of the most consequential decisions a nonprofit makes. And the higher a fundraiser goes in an organization, the more “sway” that person has in a nonprofit. Senior fundraising professionals influence the programming by sharing what other organizations are doing or by weighing in with their expertise from the field. They influence the ambitions of an organization by watching financial trends. They routinely are included in hiring decisions of senior staff such as the COO, CFO or CEO. And they recommend potential new board members.

And boards are a vital driver for a nonprofit. But a September 2017 report by BoardSource, found here, concluded that there had been little change in the diversity of boards since BoardSource began its surveying in 1994. Indeed, 84% of board members and 90% of board chairs are white. At least 25% of boards were all-white.

There are many reasons for these numbers, but as someone who prizes social justice, I am seeking ways to address this insularity.

To that end, I am pleased to announce our first-ever educational fellowship focused on professionals from communities of color. Eligible candidates for the fellowship are current fundraisers, or those who would like to learn more about fundraising as a profession. This paid, three-month fellowship (which might grow to six months) offers opportunities, contacts, and skills to someone who can help turn around the numbers.


Our stated values are mentorship, ethics, passion, and social justice. I hope this new fellowship is a small step toward realizing them.

(For more information about this fellowship, contact Robin Heller, President.)