Directors must bring fundraising’s diversity issues to the fore

 In Diversity

This article was first published in the September issue of Civil Society’s Fundraising Magazine and online on 08 September 2017.

The subject of privilege is a surprisingly controversial one. Some people get it and some people don’t.

Recently, I was given a great illustration of the concept from a friend who called it the “Bin Test” and it goes like this: Suppose a teacher places a bin in front of a class of students who, from where they are sitting, have to try to shoot a ball of paper into the bin.

Naturally, the closer one is to the bin, the better the odds for a slam dunk. For those further away it would be a lot harder; they would most likely notice the unfair advantage of their peers and rightfully complain about it.

Those at the front of the class would probably be unaware of their privilege as, naturally, they would only see what’s between them and their goal.

This is what privilege and inequality looks like. The closer you are to the bin, the better odds you have; in other words, the more privilege you have.

Now let’s apply this to the fundraising sector. Assume that the class represents jobseekers and the bin represents the best fundraising roles. If one’s chance of being hired and progressing is based on merit, i.e. successfully throwing the paper ball into the bin, the same analogy will apply.

Inevitably, those with privilege will consistently stand a better chance of getting jobs, the best roles and moving up the ladder.

The solution is obvious: those with privilege should use it to advocate for the less privileged. More importantly, the “teachers” such as fundraising directors, recruiters and influencers must ensure that those from less privileged backgrounds, in this case the sorely lacking representation of fundraisers from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, have the same access as their privileged counterparts. They can do this by creating initiatives that attract, celebrate and retain a diverse workforce.

No matter how well meaning the sector is, fundraising diversity will not happen unless those who can effect change, actually do.

So, here are three effective things fundraising directors should do:

Firstly, directors need to involve their entire top leadership and management teams in championing diversity. An important first step in showing the way is to implement diversity at the highest levels. This means adapting the organisational structure to support the diversity effort so that it is taken seriously across the whole organisation.

Secondly, develop and implement a diversity strategy. This involves having a formal plan to support the diversity effort, with measurable objectives that are integrated in the company’s strategic objectives and operations. This SMART plan would necessarily include a performance evaluation programme for accountability. It would also include tactics for regularly communicating the organisation’s diversity initiatives and arranging relevant training for staff members.

Thirdly, directors should also openly pledge to embrace fundraising diversity. Like ActionAid’s leaders and others who recognise the value, fundraising directors should make it a point to recruit from diverse backgrounds and to produce resources that reflect diverse audiences. I would go further and suggest that these should be regarded as best practice for ethical and excellent fundraising. Fundraisers are #worldchangers and therefore, we need to keep up with a world that is changing rapidly. If we don’t have diversity, “it reduces the degrees of the unintended comment or discussion out of which innovation comes”, according to Julia Oliver, head of recruitment company Odgers Berndtson.

A commitment to the diversity of our workforce will add a broader range of skills, perspectives and experiences to our organisations which would in turn engage a more diverse supporter base, increase market share and ensure sustainability. But perhaps most significantly is that it is often the best for our beneficiaries.

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