Diversity in Fundraising: How to build a culture of equity and belonging within your organization

By Brenda B. Asare, President and CEO

Where is your organization on its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging journey? Would you describe it as being asleep, awake, woke or at work?

Wherever you and your organization lie on the continuum, it goes back to culture, values and intentionality toward creating a place where everyone can be their authentic selves and feel that they have acceptance, attention and support.

Organizations that value diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as core to their culture – and integrate these principles into their practices – realize possibilities for their full potential being unlocked in the areas of decision-making, relevant programs and access to potential leaders and donors who might not otherwise become involved or contribute.

Unless your organization breathes life and action into its values, they are just empty words on your website or in your strategic plan.

How do your values show up within your organization? What would it mean to your organization’s image, reputation, programmatic impact, staff, leadership and donor engagement if there was a deepened commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging?

“A journey is called that because you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do with what you find, or what you find will do to you.”

~ James Baldwin

We want to meet you where you are in your journey and find ways to help your organization move forward.

That’s why The Alford Group has invested significant time, resources and research into creating our proprietary Culture of Equity Assessment.

What is the Culture of Equity Assessment?

The Culture of Equity Assessment provides organizations with a performance benchmark for the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion values into best practices across 10 organizational areas:

The assessment provides a comprehensive scan of perspectives from staff, board and other key stakeholders about their perception of how well DEI values are incorporated throughout the organization. We compare those perceptions with factual metrics in each area, resulting in a snapshot of where your organization is on its journey. The Alford Group provides numerous specific recommendations to consider for how your organization can strengthen DEI efforts going forward.

How does it advance your DEI efforts?

The Culture of Equity Assessment:

  1. Meets organizations wherever they are on their DEI journey.
  2. Gathers baseline data and DEI metrics from across the organization to identify areas of strength and areas for possible improvement.
  3. Lays the groundwork for constructive dialogue relative to becoming a fully inclusive, equity-forward and multicultural organization.
  4. Facilitates organizational cultural competency and humility by sharing of information, resources, mutual support and tools.
  5. Builds shared accountability to strengthen DEI and belonging values across the organization.

#1 Meet the organization on its DEI journey

Just as every organization has unique mission, vision and values, every organization’s DEI journey is different. This can be shaped by your history, culture and community.

The Culture of Equity Assessment recognizes that DEI plays a different role in every organization’s culture. Whether you are getting started for the first time or you’ve been fostering a culture of DEI for decades, the Culture of Equity Assessment meets your organization wherever it is.

There is no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to creating a fully inclusive anti-racist, multicultural organization. Rather, the goal is continuous, incremental improvement. That’s why the Culture of Equity Assessment focuses on tangible action steps that will strengthen your DEI culture – as well as your organizational performance.

#2 Gather baseline data

The Culture of Equity Assessment includes a perceptions survey and fact-finding questionnaire administered by The Alford Group in order to assess ten key DEI metrics. The assessment looks for areas of strength to be emphasized, as well as opportunities for improvement. The evaluation provides a snapshot of the entire organization through an equity lens.

Download: Culture of Equity Assessment One-Pager

#3 Lay the groundwork for constructive dialogue

A great place to start or continue your DEI journey is with honest, empathetic dialogue. Engaging in this work often requires challenging conversations at both personal and organizational levels. Expect for the work to be messy but rewarding.

Such dialogue builds trust among you and your colleagues and deepens the shared commitment to continuing this journey together.

Before launching into constructive dialogue, it is helpful to create a safe and brave space. Everyone should feel welcomed to participate in a judgment-free zone. The Alford Group recommends creating conversation guidelines at the start of any conversation, so the group has shared expectations.

Examples include:

  • “Listen deeply and with respect”
  • “Understand that multiple perspectives exist”
  • “Expect some discomfort and stay engaged”

You’re in this together – keep an open mind and make sure no one is left behind.

#4 Facilitate sharing of resources

Sharing information furthers your culture of equity journey. Everyone learns differently, so The Alford Group recommends offering a variety of information. Creating a shared inventory of valuable resources will create or further develop an internal culture where racial diversity is embraced and empowered. Building organizational cultural competence and humility create shifts in mindset and alignment on why diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging matter. Open communication and deliberate action are cornerstones to a strong culture of equity.

#5 Build shared accountability

After reviewing key DEI metrics and initiating DEI dialogue, how do you maintain momentum?

The Culture of Equity Assessment lays a solid foundation for the continued journey ahead. It provides concrete recommendations that form the basis of an action plan for implementation on its own or as part of a strategic plan. Our goal is to be as specific and transparent as possible throughout the entire process so that your work doesn’t end with a report on the shelf.

The Alford Group provides clear action steps to improve DEI. Our recommendations can include making structural adjustments, setting out goals in specific areas, or even hiring a professional DEI consultant to offer more targeted assistance. Each assessment may result in up to 30 suggested action steps.

Whatever your organization’s specific areas of improvement may be, a consistent factor in the success of your journey will be honesty. In order for you to continue participating in an organizational push toward better equity practices, you must accept where you are as an individual and make a commitment to your own personal journey, as well as your collective’s. Hold yourself accountable and be willing to learn from others, as well as help others learn where appropriate.

Outcome: Equity-centered philanthropy

One of the outcomes of the Culture of Equity Assessment is the activation of equity-centered philanthropy, which is grounded in equity, inclusivity and working toward justice, so that stakeholders who were missing from the conversation are now invited, engaged and respected for the contribution that they bring to the table.

The Culture of Equity Assessment will elevate opportunities to evaluate how well your organization is using inclusive and culturally-informed language and messaging, creating strategies for building a board culture that will attract and retain leaders of color, engaging and growing engagement of BIPOC donors, utilizing channels to create a stronger foundation to reach and include broader more diverse stakeholders and partners.

Keep the conversation going

At The Alford Group, we strive to ensure that equity is operationalized and embodied in all of our work. Wherever you are in your journey, we hope that we can learn from and with you as we all work toward a more equitable and just future in the philanthropic sector.

For more information on the Culture of Equity Assessment, visit our service page here or email us at info@alford.com.

Find more resources on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion from The Alford Group here.