President's Perspective Blog

Making IDEA Personal

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Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated this year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and we started on Wednesday with an insightful and passionate piece by Armando Zumaya. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. Armando provides some great data and a powerful argument about the work we all need to do to ensure our fundraising and our organizations are truly inclusive, diverse and equitable. 

As he notes, “The first step is to recognize and acknowledge the problem. Part of the solution is being intentional in your recruitment, career advancement, prospect research, and fundraising.”

I couldn’t agree more with Armando, and those areas—especially recruitment—are ones where AFP has been focusing over the past few years. 

But his comments got me thinking as I tried to think about solutions on a personal level, and what the motivation is for some individuals, especially white men, to engage in and push for this kind of work.

As a white heterosexual man, I have been successful under a system that I acknowledge has oppressed others. So, what’s in it for me? What is my motivation to push for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) in my organization, in the charitable sector, and, ultimately, in all of society?

As a CEO and leader, I know, practically, that working with people from different backgrounds with different views and perspectives is essential for business success in our world. I know the data, and I want my organization to be successful. I want my friends and colleagues of color and those from diverse backgrounds to have the same opportunities and pathways for success that I’ve benefited from.

But I think our individual drive for engaging in IDEA is far more powerful when we have a personal desire, need or understanding for this type of change. Especially if you’re a white man or someone else who has prospered under our current systems, taking a step back and thinking about why you believe in IDEA can be a powerful catalyst for our work. 

Even if you are a fervent advocate of IDEA, identifying and writing down your motivators can be very helpful. I wrote about this earlier in the year in a column when I talked about my personal story and allyship journey and why I was committed to IDEA. Being able to see and read my personal experience and perspectives has helped me be a better agent for change and helped me keep on a steady course when I feel like I’ve made a mistake or misstep – and yes, I’ve made my share of mistakes and missteps, but that won’t stop me from continuing to be an ally. 

I encourage everyone to make IDEA personal and develop their own IDEA “case for support.” Think about your past experiences and some of the situations or choices that you have made. Think also about situations when you could have acted but didn’t. Draw inspiration from family, friends and colleagues. Don’t be afraid to initiate tough conversations, ask questions and then make the conscious choice to just listen. And then, write down your journey and why IDEA is critical to you on a personal level.

I truly believe we all want to be IDEA champions and ensure our society, our organizations and our systems and process are inclusive, equitable, diverse and accessible for all. We will all be more powerful advocates when we are personally invested in the need for change. 

Make IDEA personal, and you will set the stage for even greater change in yourself, our organizations and the entire world. 

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18 Oct 2021 President's Perspective Blog
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