University of Michigan

Executive Summary of DEI 1.0: Five Years of Impact 

Author: Kalia Vang, DEI Project Manager, Office of University Development (OUD),

Updated: October 26, 2022

The Office of University Development (OUD) maximizes private support for the University of Michigan (U-M) through high-quality collaboration with the development programs of U-M schools, colleges, and units. Our staff, including U-M student staff, must be able to grow, thrive, and contribute openly to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. We must embody principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in hiring and recruiting, onboarding and training, promotions and compensation, in our day-to-day work environment, and in internal activities and communications. We must work to make the university’s donor pool more diverse and inclusive, and we must engage our development partners in other U-M schools, colleges, and units in DEI-driven praxes. We act on our commitment – in accordance with the law – to contribute to a just society and affirm the humanity of all persons.

Highlights: Summary of Five Years

From FY17 to FY21, the OUD DEI Strategic Plan (DEI 1.0) (PDF) guided our efforts to advance DEI in fundraising and to build an environment where all can thrive. Overall, we made meaningful progress yet there remain challenges and opportunities to further address in the next iteration of the DEI Strategic Plan (DEI 2.0). The moments and milestones listed below transformed our fundraising work and culture, setting us on the path for the next five years.


In collaboration with partners, OUD embeds our DEI values into our fundraising practices. We focus on DEI in fundraising because it serves as an opportunity through which donors and volunteers can gain access to further contribute to the mission and shared causes that the university supports. Over five years, we continued to fundraise for DEI funds and established new infrastructure and practices that advance DEI.

  • From FY17 to FY21, development staff from across three campuses and Michigan Medicine raised $98,665,269 for DEI Funds across U-M.1

  • In 2018, OUD hired a gift officer to fundraise for the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) and university-wide DEI initiatives. 

  • DEI Leadership Council: Under the leadership of then Vice Provost for Equity & Inclusion Rob Sellers, U-M launched the DEI Leadership Council. This council is a university-wide volunteer network of donors (giving level: $25K+) who are committed to making the university a place where all individuals are afforded an equal opportunity to thrive. Learn more about the volunteer role.

  • Diversify U-M Donor Base: Development staff from across three campuses and Michigan Medicine launched initiatives to promote equitable engagement and increase the diversity of our donor and volunteer base including The Raise: Generations of Black Excellence, Women’s Philanthropy Committee, and NextGen Committee. All initiatives are open to all.

  • Best Practices to Promote Inclusivity: We created a new practice to ethically obtain and employ constituents’ affinity and self-reported background information in order to help strategically steward donors to support funds that speak to their interests, backgrounds, and experiences. We recognize that bias exists in the wealth indicators that we use to identify high potential donors. With the support of a grant from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), we explored alternative ways to mitigate bias in our wealth screenings and better identify underrepresented prospective donors, including prospective donors of color with high potential to give.

1 In collaboration with Chief Development Officers in every school, college, and unit, OUD's Integrated Data Services (IDS) Team developed a DEI fundraising report. This report will continue to evolve as we address the challenges of reporting on DEI fundraising, including identifying what constitutes a DEI fund and whether those definitions will change as the political and environmental landscape changes over time.

OUD People, Culture, and Climate

OUD aims to promote an inclusive climate of belonging where staff can thrive and are generally representative of the broad diversity within the U-M community. As our donor base becomes more diverse, our staff needs to be culturally adaptive in order to cultivate meaningful relationships that fuel our fundraising capability. Over five years, we have embedded DEI into our work culture, practices, and learning and skills building.

  • Egalitarian Approach and Structure: OUD has shifted from a climate defined solely by a traditional hierarchical structure toward a more egalitarian approach, where staff meaningfully shapes our culture and key organizational decisions that impact them. For example, DEI committees create and implement key practices that advance DEI in our fundraising and culture efforts and business resource groups (BRGs) formed, which represent different constituent and business needs and provide a supportive space where staff members feel seen, heard, and valued. Some of these BRGs include the Early Career Professionals Committee (ECPC), Employee Engagement Committee (EEC), Development Professionals of Color (DPOC), the Administrative Committee, and the Performance Support Program (PSP). All BRGs are open to all interested staff.

  • Best Practices to Diversify our Workforce: Through an ODEI grant, OUD created a recruitment and hiring guide which provides guidance and resources for running an equitable search and hiring process that prioritizes the formation of broadly diverse candidate pools, mitigating bias wherever possible and appropriate, and creating a positive candidate experience.

  • Hybrid Work: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, OUD created the initial alternative work arrangement (AWA) policy to promote flexible work arrangements although nearly all Michigan-based OUD staff continued to work fully in-person. Spurred by the pandemic, OUD transformed its existing AWA policy to expand work arrangement choice that supports our fundraising operations and an environment where staff can be their best selves at work.

  • Pay Equity: OUD addressed pay equity issues and will develop a long-term compensation philosophy around pay parity and opportunity parity with input from OUD. Sixty positions underwent salary adjustments - 70 percent of which were for individual contributors.

  • Collaborative for Respectful Workplaces: OUD established the Collaborative for Respectful Workplaces in University Advancement (CRW), the only known international consortium of 22 higher ed institutions gathering on this scale to share best practices and develop standard guidelines to address unwanted and unwelcome situations in the field.

Key Takeaways

In five years, OUD laid the pivotal foundation for transformative, lasting change by widely instilling the importance of DEI in our work and establishing new expectations, practices, and infrastructure. Yet, it is clear that there is more progress to be made in DEI 2.0.


In partnership with development staff across U-M, OUD sought to increase fundraising for DEI funds across U-M and integrate DEI into our fundraising practices that will promote inclusive philanthropy necessary to advancing U-M’s broader DEI vision: to be a diverse university where all thrive and excel.

DEI in Campaign Planning: OUD and campus partners created an inclusive planning process to develop themes for the upcoming fundraising campaign – which included a wide group of stakeholders and DEI expertise involved in the facilitation of each working group.  Each campaign theme group was charged with integrating DEI with a heightened focus on racial justice into their theme group’s work. This is a significant shift from the last comprehensive fundraising campaign which did not link DEI to the core planning process. A number of participants recommended by DEI leadership were included as members of the campaign theme groups, including then Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion Rob Sellers.

Fundraising for DEI: OUD DEI leads fundraising efforts for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with a focus on the Wolverine Pathways program. From FY17 to FY21, we raised $5,213,560 for Wolverine Pathways. OUD DEI expanded fundraising efforts to include grassroots campaigning and continued to enhance processes for stewardship and ODEI gift expenditure tracking.

Diversify U-M Donor Base: Development staff from across three campuses and Michigan Medicine launched initiatives to promote equitable engagement and increase the diversity of our donor and volunteer base including The Raise: Generations of Black Excellence, Women’s Philanthropy Committee, and NextGen Committee. All initiatives are open to all. During the inbetween fundraising campaigns period, these initiatives built the critical infrastructure which will help support the upcoming campaign: enhancing donor engagement data; promoting volunteer board representation that reflects the broad diversity of the U-M community; and developing and sharing best practices to engage people, including those from underrepresented and marginalized identities and backgrounds.

People and Culture

In advancing a climate where all can thrive, OUD identified and addressed urgent concerns. Continued staff feedback and input remain critical to guiding our strategy and uplifting important concerns, ensuring that our efforts meaningfully address the disparities and challenges staff may experience.

Staff of Color: Research shows that unconscious and explicit bias in the hiring process can result in the underrepresentation of marginalized groups, despite all candidates demonstrating similar qualifications2. To mitigate against any bias in our hiring, we made significant changes to our hiring practices such as posting salary ranges, blinding names, and integrating unconscious bias training for those leading and involved in hiring. These efforts contributed to a more racially diverse applicant and candidate pool overall. On average, we hired staff of color at levels comparable to the available talent in southeast Michigan.

However, once staff of color are hired, we struggle to retain them due to our climate. From FY17 to FY21, people of color (POC) made up between 13 percent to 17 percent of OUD staff. On average, POC expressed that they experienced a diminished sense of belonging and incidents of bias and discrimination, unfair treatment, and inequitable opportunities to grow in their roles and advance in their careers. While there is racial diversity in candidates overall, we fell short of meeting our goal of increasing, year over year, the racial diversity of OUD’s leadership.

2 Patrick M. Kline, Evan K. Rose, and Christopher R. Walters, “Systemic Discrimination Among Large U.S. Employers,” National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2022.

LGBTQIA+, Disabilities, & Early Career Staff: Through feedback gathering, LGBTQIA+ staff, those with disabilities, and early career professionals shared about their experiences and needs such as a need for more connectedness across OUD, resources for career advancement, and accommodations and changes in our culture to support well-being and mental health.

Skills Building to Advance DEI: OUD spent the first few years of DEI 1.0 educating staff about DEI and its importance to our work and culture. Further efforts are needed to enhance the DEI skills of staff in order to prepare them to engage in culturally diverse situations both among colleagues and in the field.

Advancing a Safe and Respectful Fundraising Environment: Staff often interact with donors, alumni, volunteers, and parents in their fundraising work. In engaging with these individuals, staff may encounter unwanted and unwelcome situations. OUD has developed protocols and launched an international collaborative to address these behaviors and develop best practices for reporting and remediation efforts.

Business Practices and Operations

OUD is fostering a climate where we are proactively addressing barriers, welcoming guest/donor accommodations, and making creative decisions to ensure everyone has equitable opportunity for engagement and access to information. From planning to executing tests, OUD staff ensures that those with disabilities can access the same information through a screen reader, verbal announcements at in-person events, and so forth. OUD works to ensure that our communications resonate with our diverse audience – that they see themselves in our content, and they know we see them. Through a DEI committee review process of donor communications, stories are reviewed with a DEI lens which allows us to thoughtfully represent our diverse constituent base and avoid framing stories that uphold poverty tourism, white saviorism, and tokenization.

DEI 2.0: Looking Ahead

As we look to DEI 2.0, we hope to further actualize our commitment to our DEI values through action. The first few years focused on education, motivation, and addressing concerns about DEI. Today, OUD staff are engaged in DEI - many of whom are integrating DEI into key areas of their work.

Note, these initial priorities will evolve as we further plan in the 2022-2023 academic year.

Broadly Diversify U-M Donor Base

  • We need to address the barriers and challenges in motivating partners to participate in efforts to broadly diversify U-M’s donor base. The demands of immediate concerns incentivizes prioritizing short-term needs over long-term ones. For example, we rely on specific, available data to determine which donors have capacity to give in order to achieve immediate fundraising goals. However, incomplete data or misinformed use of data form preconceptions about a donor’s capacity to give, which can lead to the systemic under-engagement of different segments of the donor base.3

3 Statistical discrimination is a theorized behavior in which racial or gender inequality results when economic agents (consumers, workers, employers, etc.) have imperfect information about individuals they interact with. Incomplete data or misinformed use of data creates the misconception that all people of color and all women have less capacity to give. Wealth data shows overall deep disparities based on race and gender in the U.S. However, attainment of higher education factors into higher lifetime earnings, narrowing the average wealth gaps between white donors and donors of color and between men and women. By overlooking this segment of the population (like U-M alumni of color and women alumnae), there are missed opportunities to engage with prospective donors that have capacity to give.

Enhanced Accountability and Transparency

  • We will encourage all teams and individuals to take accountability for DEI. Integrating DEI into our work and culture is a collective effort which requires action and engagement from all OUD staff. In addition to reporting and quarterly updates, through continued staff feedback, we will develop means to be accountable and transparent about progress on DEI goals.

  • To build trust, we will continue to practice an egalitarian approach in order to ensure that staff are influencing key organizational decisions and outcomes.

Addressing Retention Issues

  • In order to retain staff of color (who depart OUD in higher numbers than do other OUD staff populations), in partnership with OUD staff and the Development Professionals of Color (DPOC), we need to address climate concerns on belonging, treatment and conduct, opportunity, and representation that have led many staff of color to report experiencing an exclusive, alienating environment.

LGBTQIA+, Disabilities, & Early Career Staff

  • We need to recognize, understand, and uplift issues facing LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities, and early career professionals.

Gender Disparities

  • While women staff reported high levels of satisfaction with OUD’s climate and DEI progress, we need to confirm the equity of our promotion practices such that they do not inadvertently limit opportunities for women to attain top positions in development.

Advancing a Safe and Respectful Fundraising Environment

  • We need to expand practices, resources, and training opportunities to help staff and university leaders navigate situations where a donor has exhibited unwanted and unwelcome behavior.

Ongoing and emerging DEI challenges call for us to urgently practice DEI in every aspect of our work. OUD will pursue meaningful, lasting DEI progress based on a strategy informed by a theory of change and community input, which will require action and accountability from all OUD staff.


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