The time is NOW for Fundraising Diversity

 In Diversity

How many brown and black people have you seen at the annual IOF Fundraising Convention? Not many? Haven’t noticed? Don’t worry, that’s not unusual.

My first convention was in 2011. I noticed that there were very few people who looked like me and was surprised. “Why am I the only one here?” I thought to myself. “Were others like me not invited? Could they not afford to attend? Or did they simply not exist?” As I looked into the issue of what was driving this homogeneity of people, I found that the answer was actually “All of the above”, and more. It was that realisation that propelled me into advocating for more diversity in the fundraising world, and I haven’t stopped since.

I’ve had the privilege of serving as the Chair of Black Fundraisers UK for five of its 11+ years of existence and in that time, I have observed that little has changed in terms of Fundraising Diversity. Sure, there’s been a lot of talk, but not enough action.

In June 2017, I chaired a round table of representatives from the BAME sector at different points in their professional careers. The agenda was very much on diversity in the fundraising profession and what the IOF could do to better engage BAME fundraisers.

Unsurprisingly everyone, and this is supported by previous research and writings, had experienced what researchers term “minority stress.” In its most direct form, it’s pretty simple: being a member of a marginalised group requires extra effort. When you’re the only woman at a business meeting, or the only black guy on a course, you have to think on a level that members of the majority don’t, just to achieve equal standing. If you stand up to your boss, are you playing into stereotypes of women in the workplace being emotional and bossy? If you don’t ace a test, will people think it’s because of your race or gender? Suddenly, as a minority you become a representative for your entire race, gender, religion, orientation, etc. So, you’re constantly watching your step. Believe me, that can be exhausting. But more than that, this has two effects: one is that stressed candidates make for less desirable job applicants and the second is that overworked minorities are going to be less likely to want to strive for greater.

Sadly, the lack of diversity in fundraising is just a symptom of the systemic and endemic inequality that still prevails in the third sector. It’s pervasive. Take a look at the trustee boards of some of the most well-known charities, examine their senior leadership teams. What do you see? Chances are, the answer is: mature white men. Women make up at least 70% of the charity workforce and yet we know that a huge gender pay gap still exists.

Against that backdrop, consider this:

  1. Who is representing our other beneficiaries?
  2. How are we ensuring that we are harnessing the gifts of a diverse range of voices, ideas, and perspectives?
  3. Can we really claim to be conducting excellent or ethical fundraising if it is limited in any way or lacking in congruence?

Hardly anyone ever publicly admits that they think diversity is a negative quality. On the contrary, most people are quite vocal in their support of it. But how many actually do something tangible about it? The truth is, without positive action, nothing will change.

A great example of one way to change the status quo is reflected in ActionAid’s journey to diversity. My friend (and renowned fundraising guru) Ken Burnett shares how the organisation, consisting exclusively of wealthy, white, British men, lacked the perspective needed to work in different, difficult places such as Burundi. In fact, they didn’t even know where Burundi was.

As we see with the ActionAid experience, when we are intentional about diversity, everybody wins. There are no losers. In fact, diversity is essential for good governance and innovation. The IOF has recognised this and has shown leadership by embedding it in its new strategic document. And in that recent meeting with BAME fundraisers on the barriers that they faced and how the IOF might engage better, many excellent points were made. These include:

On Barriers to Fundraising and Interacting with the IOF:

  • Economic dynamics in BAME communities can make engaging more difficult, especially for those below the poverty line (which encompasses 45% of the black British community). Many charities in these communities can’t make it past survival mode, let alone afford courses, which makes it extremely difficult for them to afford IOF events and training courses.
  • Practitioners wear so many hats within the organisation and so it can be hard to give fundraising the focus it requires. This is especially true in small organisations.
  • Many in this line of work didn’t choose it, but rather fell into it as their career. This can make it difficult for them to catch up, learn enough and thrive in the job. This sometimes creates a lack of confidence.

On What the IOF could do to be more inclusive:

  • It must be made more accessible to organisations of all sizes and wealth classes.
  • IOF have huge connections and should be for all fundraisers from big and small charities alike – it is easy to hear just big voices and the voices of small organisations get lost in that mix.
  • A targeted marketing plan must be implemented to ensure information reaches even the smallest of organisations.
    • Many people only heard of the IOF through groups such as BF UK or individual recommendations but don’t know what it is or does.
    • In order to garner interest, IOF needs to communicate its benefits and value to BAME communities and organisations.
  • Lead the way as an example of diversity and inclusion in order to inspire others. Continue to challenge the status quo in order to promote diversity. The dialogue about diversity must take place  and be promoted in all environments and not just be seen to be a “black issue”.

I was surprised to see how easy most of these points are to address. They are so easy that there’s no excuse for not implementing them. And not just the IOF. This is a shared embarrassment which requires a common resolve to overcome.

Sector leaders must, first and foremost, be open to dialogue about diversity. As individuals we must also accept that we’re not perfect, and we all have “blind spots” to equality that we can improve upon. And finally, we have to admit our wrongdoings and learn from others’ mistakes so we can understand how to succeed. Nobody loses in a diverse world.

It’s no longer about business as usual. It’s time for Fundraising Directors to show leadership and lead the way by taking positive action to diversify our profession.

No more talking! It’s time to act!

 

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Showing 4 comments
  • Angelica
    Reply

    Thank you for this fantastically written and important piece! Well done for all the work you’ve done so far in pushing for minority/BME inclusion in fundraising and the third sector as a whole. I hope that IOF takes your recommendations on board. Keep it up!

    • Carol Akiwumi
      Reply

      Thank you Angelica. I appreciate the comments and feel hopeful about the IOF following through ?

  • Amanda Paul
    Reply

    Excellent blog Carol, I wonder how my journey into grantmaking will compare…..!

    • Carol Akiwumi
      Reply

      Thanks Amanda. Really pleased that you’re journeying in that direction. Some already do but my vision is that ALL grantmakers will ultimately value and invest in diversity. How revolutionary that would be for grant recipients and their beneficiaries!

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