“My Donors are Livid”: Creating a Framework for Engaging in Difficult Conversations with Philanthropists
Anthony L. Heaven
IU-Indianapolis (The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy)
In 2022, charitable giving in the US reached $499 billion according to Giving USA data, with Higher Education philanthropy soaring to $59 billion as reported by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. However, this increase in philanthropy has not been without challenges. With the escalating attacks on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education, gift officers and advancement professionals often navigate difficult conversations with donors who critique DEI efforts and threaten to withdraw support based on institutional stances. Some of these politicized conversations even extend to colleagues.
This workshop delves into the pressing need for training and frameworks to equip gift officers in handling such challenging donor interactions effectively. Drawing from research on diverse gift officers, real-life anecdotes, and consulting expertise, attendees will gain insights into the complexities of these conversations and learn actionable strategies to foster cultural competency and strengthen donor relationships.
Key highlights of the session include:
  • Understanding the taxation faced by gift officers when tokenized and tasked with handling difficult conversations aligned with their identities or backgrounds.
  • Showcasing examples of how leaders can create opportunities for universal learning and professional development in navigating complex donor/colleague interactions.
  • Exploring a comprehensive framework that empowers gift officers to engage in difficult conversations both internally and externally, leading to increased cultural competency and deeper donor relationships.
Short Biography
Dr. Anthony L. Heaven, Assistant Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the IU- Indianapolis’ Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, brings over a decade of experience in advancing the practice and study of philanthropy. His research agenda includes: The Experiences of Underrepresented Philanthropy Workers through an Intersectional Lens; The Experiences of Underrepresented Donors in Historically White Philanthropic Spaces compared to Spaces that Mirror their Social Identities; and Leveraging Philanthropy for Power and/or Justice. Before joining the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Anthony most recently served as the Vice President and Higher Education Practice Group Leader at Graham-Pelton Consulting. Prior to that, he worked in Higher Education Advancement, spanning 4 institutions and specializing in principal gift stewardship/engagement, frontline fundraising, strategic visioning, and inclusive philanthropy planning/initiatives. Additionally, he has been recognized as a lecturer, keynote speaker, and educational facilitator for organizations in the US and UK.