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COVID-19 has changed our lives. It has changed the way we communicate, the way we work and, the way we play. In my case, it has also changed the way I look.

After months of being confined to home, my roots started to show. Now, it’s one thing to admit that I’ve colored my hair for years, but it’s another for the gray roots to show. I was at a crossroads. Do I run to my hair salon as soon as possible or do I say, “I’m done with this.”? I chose the latter. To me, it’s not that I look older, it’s that I look my age.

What does my gray hair have to do with fundraising? My experiment has brought me face to face with ageism and the assumptions people make based on appearance. It’s human nature to make assumptions, we all do it, even fundraising professionals. We assume that a man, especially a white man, in a suit and tie is prosperous and that illusion of prosperity equals generosity.

Several months ago, I had a doctor’s appointment. The physician’s assistant came into the examination room to ask some questions. She was speaking quite loudly. She assumed, maybe based on my hair color and my age noted on the chart, that I was hard of hearing. Fortunately, I am not. When I told her, she didn’t have to speak so loudly, it was like I startled her out of her routine.

All of this is to say, don’t “profile” your donor based on their appearance or where they live. Generosity and commitment to worthwhile causes knows no color line, no gender barrier, and no clothing style. Do your homework. Learn what you can through publicly accessible information and cultivate your prospective donors with respect. That will create loyal donors and raise more money than making assumptions.

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