DEI in Planned Giving: Talking About Death with Donors of Diverse Backgrounds

Kasi Zieminski, Client Strategist

Stelter Client Strategist Kasi Zieminski returns to the blog to amplify diverse perspectives on talking about death and estate planning within communities of color, shared by our friends at Giving Docs.

I really appreciate the work that our partner Giving Docs has been doing around DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) and planned giving. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out their DEI in Planned Giving survey results, clickable resource library and three-part research series. You can find these (and more!) on their Resources and Insights page.

They also have some excellent DEI-related blogs, like this conversation about increasing planned giving through DEI. As a webinar this summer, Giving Docs Chief Development Officer Jade Bristol sat down with two planned giving experts who focus on reaching diverse audiences: Lillie Nkenchor, an estate and business planning attorney with deep experience working with clients from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and Dien Yuen, Co-Founder of Daylight Advisors.

Related to my recent Stelter blog posts on the topic, it caught my attention when Dien and Lillie shared some of their personal experiences with talking about death in their communities. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation with Jade, now featured on the Giving Docs blog:

Jade: What are some of the unique considerations you see in your estate planning and philanthropic work, particularly within communities of color?

Dien: My work has really focused on creating a framework to address cultural nuances. For example, even in the Asian American community, I can’t teach you every element of cultural competence among Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and other communities; it’s just impossible. But we should have a framework on how to approach complex issues unfamiliar to us.

Within Asian American communities, the idea of talking about death is very taboo. But we’re also very, very practical people. And so, we focus on the ability to be part of a community effort of supporting the nonprofit, and less on the stigma of not creating a personal estate plan.

Lillie: For the communities I serve, including African-American and Black communities, talking about death is scary because it means that you’re ready to die or you’re welcoming death. When I tried to get my parents, who are Nigerian, to do their planning, my mother looked at me and said: “Are you trying to kill me?” So there is this fear that if I talk about a time when I’m not here, it’s like telling the universe that I’m ready to go now. And so, I constantly have to shift the conversation away from death to influence. When we are planning, we are influencing your legacy.

I like to use the word influence. I’m sitting here, as an estate planning professional, to give you the power to influence your friends, to influence your family, to influence your assets, so that your ethos, your spirit, your laugh, the things that are really important to you can still be affected even when you’re not here.

You can read or listen to the rest of their enlightening conversation on the blog, and be sure to follow Giving Docs for more helpful resources on DEI and planned giving in the future!

Read more from Kasi about reframing the legacy conversation and get tips for approaching the topic of death in a meaningful and authentic way.

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