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Staying Focused: Embracing, Embodying and Driving Social Change in Nonprofits

Embodying a mission of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within your organization.

Staying Focused: Embracing, Embodying and Driving Social Change in Nonprofits by Wright Collective

As a nonprofit leader and changemaker, I would bet you are facing challenges right now to respond rapidly to your mission's changing needs in the areas of inequality, injustice, public health emergencies, financial adversity, and political strife.

In fact, never in recent memory have I seen so many nonprofit organizations struggling to keep ahead of so many competing challenges with limited resources. Therefore, today's fundraising leader needs not only the ability to be an amazing listener, the ability to energize and motivate staff, volunteers and donors, a deep well of empathy and authenticity, but they also also impeccable integrity paired with the ability to take a step back and recognize the urgent need to address social ills. Ills such as power and wealth inequalities, structural racism in our society, and deeply rooted discrimination in our social and political institutions must be our focus seeing as all contribute to, and reinforce, marginalization within in our communities. These are the things that make our missions necessary but require us to seek to move beyond.

That shared, when our fundraising methods reinforce the status quo, we prevent ourselves from fully embracing transformative practices within our organizations.

Since 2020, Americans have faced a maelstrom of challenges associated with the pandemic. We have seens social and civic upheaval, ever increasing political division, as well as deeping cracks in the social fabric of our society. Injustices and oppression long ‘papered over’ in the public consciousness could no longer be ignored and, at the same time, there was a growing call to action to confront and address these social ills, so as to not carry forward these weaknesses in our society into the next crisis ahead of us.

As leaders and organizers, there was a energized movement birthed. It was calling us to be mindful, to stop closing our eyes to the lack of diversity, inclusion and representation in our organizations and social structures. It was time to address long ignored social ills and injustices, even and especially within our fundraising programs.

In the past two years many nonprofits have made great strides in implementing change within their organizations, from understanding the nature of the structural and implicit biases within mission-making, to acknowledging and embracing explicit policies of equity and inclusion. Some, even taking steps to build and foster cultures of diversity and inclusion in the workforce and in their donor communities.

But it’s also important to recognize that these steps are only the beginning of an organization's journey. Hundreds of years of injustice and oppression cannot be remediated in one year, or three years or even 10 years. It will be the work of decades if not lifetimes in order to begin to address such deeply rooted and painful wounds and remind ourselves that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) matters, so much so that it is worth the investment in ourselves and our organizations to ensure that these challenges are not the same ones facing the next generation.

Perhaps your organization could do with a reminder of why DEI matters for your organization? Is it because it is the ‘right thing to do’ and it aligns with your organization's mission statement or values? Are your board members convinced by the compelling data showing that diversity can lead to better ‘decision-making’? Or that organizations that are diverse are ‘more creative, more diligent, and harder working’? Have you sold the ‘innovation boost’?

Whatever your reason or reasons, now might be a good time to review how your organization has fared with respect to key performance indicators or performance benchmarks with respect to DEI strategies implemented in a way that is transparent, measurable and meaningful both internally and externally for your organization and most importantly, to the community you serve.

Need a refresh?

Here are 5 Reasons Diversity and Inclusion should (continue) to matter to your organization, and it's fundraising program, in 2022:

  1. Women control a majority of the nation’s wealth. Women are also more likely than men to be charitable donors. Queer giving is also on the rise. All genders should feel a part of your mission and welcome to support it.

  2. Donors of Color are the future. According to a W.K. Kellogg Foundation, both Asian American & Black Households donate a larger share of their income when compared to white households, nearly 25% more in the case of Black households. Seeking out and elevating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) voices in your donor community reminds us that many giving roots in our nation (America) come from these communities and therefore, deserve credit and voice.

  3. Donors of Color engage in charitable contributions at a higher rate. This same report highlighted that two-thirds of black households donated in excess of $11 billion dollars annually. The figure jumped to 63% for Latino households.

  4. Often called ‘Minority’ Citizens will shortly be the new Majority within the United States. According to Pew Research, non-white demographic groups will represent the majority of Americans by 2050.

  5. Non-white American Households have an outsized global impact in addressing poverty and hardship. Remittances to foreign households totaled $589 billion in 2021, growing at 7.9% annually. This figure exceeds both direct foreign investment and overseas development assistance to low and middle income countries.

So now you know - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is not a short term strategic goal, it is a long term commitment for the success of your organization and your organization's mission. It is a deep part to our commitment to create a better world for all.

Ultimately, it is important that we not be discouraged, and that we periodically look back and take stock of what we have accomplished and remind ourselves why these accomplishments matter. If your organization is becoming discouraged, or experiencing fatigue, it is important to understand that you are not alone.

It is normal to experience feelings of ‘one step forward, two steps back’, especially with respect to decreased enthusiasm for participation or decreased funding and resources made available for DEI efforts. It is important to not only combat such fatigue and ensure that your organization remains aligned with DEI as a strategic imperative, but also to make sure that the why behind your DEI strategy remains top of mind while pursuing other, complementary missions as part of your organizations larger strategic goals.

Need help finding complementary missions within your organization’s mandate? As fundraising professionals consider pairing with social change advocates to work together to achieve more with less.

Social change advocates in your field are already well positioned to understand the needs of the community you are serving. They understand the issues facing that community and are developing innovative strategies for engagement & problem solving within that community. By embracing their presence within the community, you are embracing their diversity, their vision & their voice within the community. You can learn a lot from them, and they can learn a lot from you! This is why folks in our movements, program leaders, thought leaders- should never be separated from the fundraising team.

By pairing with these advocates, you can partner with a highly skilled, and effective leader who is working tirelessly to move the needle on addressing challenges within your area of focus. They are also likely to be experienced in demonstrating measurable and impactful results, a key metric when you engage with donors in fundraising efforts towards changemaking. They will have the stories and data to help you rise to raise for social change.

So what are some tips for selecting the right social change advocate or partner organization to pair with?

  1. Make sure you are working towards a shared vision. I cannot stress this enough, ensuring a shared vision is crucial in ensuring that success for one is success for all!

  2. Make sure your goals are aligned with the advocates goals. If you are pulling in two different directions, you will not be as successful as you could be if you had tighter alignment.

  3. Make sure your goals are clearly and concisely stated. Your partner can only be in line with goals that are clearly understood & communicated!

  4. Make sure you and your partner agree on how to meet those goals. A good approach will define clear and concrete steps to be taken, a great approach will plot those steps on a timeline with milestones!

  5. Make sure your progress can be measured, and that you and your partner agree on the method of measurement. Only by measuring progress towards goals can you effectively measure your strategic alignment between organizations. But, be flexible too. This work can change overnight so know your pivot points.

  6. Engage, engage, engage. Your partnership must be centered around continuous, personal and impactful communications. Trust. Love. Make sure you are communicating not just with donors, but with the community and the advocacy community, and don’t be afraid to put members of the community or advocacy groups in touch with donors in a dignified way, there is no better way to build trust, demonstrate commitment, and establish authenticity.

Still not convinced?

If you, or your organization could use assistance in finding the right partners to pair with or in developing an engagement strategy for inclusive fundraising, consider booking a FREE 30-minute consultation with the Wright Collective. Our experienced fundraising professionals can help you address any strategic, tactical or planning needs for non-profit & NGOs.

Want to learn more on this topic? Check back soon for Part II of this series, Fundraising for Social Change: a best practices primer in Diversity & Inclusion.


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