President's Perspective Blog

Integrating IDEA Into Everything We Do

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As we recognize Celebrate Diversity Month this April, I want to make sure all of you—our members and the fundraising community—understand AFP’s position and goals on inclusion, diversity, equity and access (IDEA) and where we’re headed.

One of the major plans, or pathways, of our strategic plan for 2021 – 2023 is promoting IDEA in everything AFP does, and in particular, “promoting environments that are inclusive, diverse, and equitable, and that expand access to the world of fundraising for historically under-represented groups.”

I think that quote from our plan is really important because our goal isn’t just about creating an organization and a profession that are diverse, inclusive and equitable. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything if we’re not attracting new voices to our community and creating long-term access to fundraising. People need to know that we’re not just offering them an opportunity to come to the table, but to STAY at the table where they will be heard and their contributions will be valued.

What our strategic plan highlights for me is that we have two related but distinct goals. Organizationally, our goal is to view all our work—programs, services, support, administration … essentially, everything we do—through the lens of IDEA to ensure we are encouraging and supporting diverse voices and thinking about inclusion, equity and access strategically and tactically. That work leads to the second goal. Individually, we want to ensure that every fundraiser, regardless of any particular characteristic or background, has the opportunity to find success—however they define it—in our profession.

What does that mean in practice? IDEA is all about systems—creating underlying systems that allow our IDEA goals, values and principles to become a reality and flourish. All our good intentions don’t mean anything if our existing mechanisms don’t allow for actual change. That’s why AFP has focused on diversifying and building inclusivity among our staff, boards, chapter leaders and our membership through foundational systems changes. Internal change isn’t the end goal, but it’s a critical step and an important goal unto itself.

We’re also looking at every program and service that we offer in the context of IDEA and asking tough questions. How is the profession—and different communities within the profession— presented in this particular program, and does it represent our push toward more overall inclusivity? How are we creating safe spaces so that all individuals feel empowered to speak up during the event? What can we do to support and educate all our speakers, staff and participants about these issues? How are we presenting information, and are there outlets for continuing conversations and discussions?

As we work to make space and have uncomfortable conversations, we have to acknowledge a couple of things. One, we don’t have all the answers. We don’t know everything, and that’s why we’re reaching out to a broad array of people who have different voices, extensive knowledge and unique perspectives. The only way we get better—at anything—is by being open to continuous learning and education. Two, we won’t always get it right. We might mess up or miss things. When we do, we’re going to accept responsibility, not take it personally, learn from it and continue our journey.

Like society, fundraising is constantly changing, and we shouldn’t be afraid of these changes. I’m excited about the ideas of community-centric fundraising (CCF) and what they might mean to our profession and all of philanthropy. If you haven’t read about CCF yet, I encourage you to, as it represents a real shift in how we view fundraising and philanthropy. The traditional model of donor-centric fundraising may well need to evolve, but what’s most important to me is that AFP champions and stands for whatever type of fundraising is the most effective.

I’ve always called fundraising the IMPACT profession because that’s what our profession is ultimately about—creating impact and serving the community. And if we can do that better by using a different model or maybe a hybrid model, then we should—and we must. I’m looking forward to conversations about CCF and how we can further bring the principles of equity and inclusion into fundraising more fully.

These are all examples of how we’re working to incorporate IDEA into AFP’s everyday programming and operations—not just one area but in everything we do. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s going to happen. We are committed to IDEA and change for the long-term so that fundraising is more effective in every context and that every fundraiser can find success in the impact profession.

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