Tag Archives: Diversity

A letter to myself: Three key lessons learned – What I wish I had known before embarking on this journey

1. Don’t lose sight of why you started on this journey in the first place

In a recent webinar, our facilitator Annemarie Shrouder spoke about intangible vs. tangible inclusion – the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) is a tangible example people could understand and a reference point when having a discussion on inclusion. This reminded me of something I had written in my original application and had forgotten about: Aside from being a Chinese-Canadian woman, I am also the primary caregiver for my father who, as a result of illness, has become wheelchair bound. Shortly after he began using his wheelchair, we went to eat dinner at his favorite restaurant only to be told it was not accessible, but they could try to let us in through shipping and receiving in the back. When I have been doing my research and deciding on topics to cover in my project, I was so focused on gender and cultural representation. But D&I is more than just gender and cultural representation – it is about the range of human differences including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, social class and physical ability.

2. Know your organizational constraints: be optimistic, but realistic in what you can achieve

I realize now, through my learnings that what I aspired to do was optimistic – change cannot happen overnight but rather progressively overtime. Wanting to ‘develop best practices, organizational policies and strategies within my organization that is included in the management plan’ is an ambitious undertaking within a few months. Focus in on one or two key things that helps to start the conversation and be sure to stay committed to see the work through post Fellowship. For example, you might decide to do a D&I survey at your organization and based on your results, the organization is diverse but shows that there is a gap when it comes to leadership. That change can’t happen overnight but the stats help to facilitate a discussion.

3. Diversity, equity and inclusion work is HARD

Being a Canada-wide program, the first and only opportunity the Fellows had to meet each other in person was around Congress. We had a dedicated training day where I, and my fellow Fellows, realized just how difficult and personal the conversation around diversity and inclusion is. We are all passionate about philanthropy and are mission driven individuals but we are also unique individuals with different perspectives. The conversation brought up various opposing and supporting thoughts and emotions amongst the group. It was evident to acknowledge and recognize when having these discussions that everyone’s lived experience is different and we have to be mindful of that and create a space that allows everyone to be comfortable with sharing their opinions.

Tips for Thriving as an Introvert in Fundraising

If you are wondering if you can make it in fundraising if you are an introvert, do not fear! Here are a few tips and observations from a few well-established career fundraisers who identify as introverts (but may or may not appear to be introverts in the context you meet them). It is not unusual to find quite a few secret and not-so-secret introverts alongside the extroverts in your fundraising office. If you’re an introvert who knows how to manage what you need to thrive, you can even work “against type” when you choose to, and be in your element.

Paul Nazareth, Vice President, Education & Development, Canadian Association of Gift Planners, and previously with Canada Helps, puts fundraising roles and activities on a continuum, “from most comfortable for ‘innie’ personality styles toward more ‘outie’ personality styles —I would say Research (data base analysis, prospect research) at one end most comfortable for introverts through Writing-Marketing (direct mail and other copy) to Writing-Fundraising (grant-writing, corporate fundraising, proposals to support major gift asks) somewhere in the middle to Face-to-face (annual> planned > major gifts) and at the extrovert end, Special Events.”

But there’s more to consider when introverts are looking to create a good fit.

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking says, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love or anything they value highly. And Paul says, “really, I think we’re all forced ambiverts,” and draws my attention to Daniel H. Pink’s work on this idea and his book, To Sell is Human. Take Pink’s quiz on-line and see where his analysis will place you. (Although I test clearly as an introvert according to a number of assessments, the Pink quiz says I perform in the world as an ambivert.)

“Still,” Paul says in our interview, “if you want to be doing roles in fundraising more comfortable for extroverts, such as events, you can do it, but if you want to sustain your energy for a thriving career, and not be drained as you work against type, you will need to manage your time and energy with intention.”

“Susan Cain says, manage your energy and manage the operational side of what you do. So for me, this is my superpower getting to speak and be an educator. So what I learned, now as I’m getting older and speaking more and doing it at a higher level—keynotes, what I find is I’ve got to be ‘hyper on’ and then, ‘hyper off.’ And actually the best thing for me is to do is a big keynote to a thousand people, and then get into a hotel room, turn the lights off and be still for a couple of hours: full recharge. So this is the thing, if you can decide the off and on, it’s all about pacing.”

Paul does a lot of travelling, speaking, meeting with groups and individuals, and advising. Over the weekends he “puts the gadgets by the door” as he comes home, and is “super vigilant to be present with his family especially as he has young kids. He also says he does most of his impressive social media communication through scheduled posts once a week. And though he live tweets from special events, “everything else is on rails.”

“We may need to be on all platforms, and be super reachable — text, DM, everything. But you don’t have to respond right away. Someone might say, ‘Paul, I texted you!’ [And I’ll say,] ‘Yes, I responded today.’ That’s just the way it’s going to work. We have to set the pace.”

Paula Attfield is Chair of AFP Canada and President of Stephen Thomas with more than 20 years experience in fundraising marketing for non-profits. Before running her organization she said she knew early on that she loved writing copy—where she’s able to connect emotionally to a cause, and connect donors to a cause (thank you letters, appeal letters, researching and writing a case for support…) Nowadays she’s writing strategy and running a company.

And her time-tested strategies for keeping her energy reservoirs from getting depleted? She admits to closing her office door when she wants to get work done on a project and finding a quiet place alone, away from her office to check emails on her phone just to be in a quiet headspace. Taking time alone in the morning before work and then walking to the office, and taking lunch away from her desk are ways she gets the space and time for processing and regenerating so she can be most productive and creative.

Regarding managing energy and career over the long term? Paula says to speak up in the office regarding projects and work you want to be involved in. She has often changed roles to suit her need to be intellectually engaged. And every once in a while she does a “Stop—Start—Continue ” checklist, checking in with herself regarding the things she’s including in her life.

Introverts need breaks: make sure you take vacations and have meaningful downtime. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage writes that introverts produce high quality work that is often original, well thought through and addressing the needs of the organizational goals. But they need more time to refresh and recharge. Feeling guilty or confused about taking a break – maybe even a little shame at needing a break? Daniel Pink in his book When, makes the pitch for everyone to benefit from taking lunch breaks away from work and short naps!

Darius Maze, on the Board for AFP Foundation–Canada, and an active member of AFP International’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) committee is also an introvert.

When I ask him where his strengths shine in fundraising, he says one example is how he loves “working with databases, understanding the intricacies, getting the details right, the back end stuff.” Another is that during hectic periods like events and end of year appeals, “my quiet planning and strategizing allows me to stay calm and collected as I support others.”

I ask him, when in fundraising he has felt most productive and energized? He laughs and says, “I may be an introvert but I actually like high pressure situations, where you know I’ve got this, this, this and this…and I know I’ve done this thing, this thing, this thing—which is going to set the rest of the team up for success. So, I’ve really thought through our mission and how it syncs with our donors and I’ve put together the best possible direct mail campaign. And so that goes out, and maybe it’s another part of the team who will take it from there. For me it is nailing the donor analysis, nailing the direct mail, nailing the execution.”

Talking to Darius, you hear the enthusiasm and energy as he speaks. Make no mistake, introverts can be demonstrably passionate about the work they do in fundraising and who they are doing it for – supporting and leading teams to really make a difference in our communities through the great work our organizations are able to achieve.

Let no organization you work for miss out on the gifts you have to offer.

Marti Olsen Laney, says practice telling your own story a bit more – what you are contributing – and share your ideas, including finding ways to support your working style in the work place.

Over the last few years, thanks to Susan Cain’s call for a Quiet Revolution, there is much more awareness of the value of introverts in all fields. Cain has helped highlight how the background culture of North America favouring the extravert personality and not recognizing and nurturing the particular strengths of a significant introvert minority of the population (more than 30%), is a serious loss to all organizations.

A common theme in talking to successful fundraising introverts has been to know yourself well; and be comfortable to act from your strengths; and manage your energy the way you need to for the long haul— because the rewards in fundraising are many. Not the least of which is a great community of supportive professional colleagues.

My thanks to AFP members Paul, Paula and Darius, who graciously spent time with me to offer personal examples and insights to broaden our awareness about introverts thriving in an extravert profession.

Acknowledging Traditional Territory

First peoples have existed for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans settlers. It has been their custom to acknowledge each other’s traditional territory, and this protocol still exist today. It is important to recognize that Frist Nations, Métis and Inuit have unique relationships with Canada. They hold sovereignty over their traditional territory and are diverse groups with their own histories and culture.

For example, my mother was born in Shoal Lake #4, whose territory extends between the Province of Ontario and Province of Manitoba. Shoal Lake #40 is part of Treaty 3 and of Ojibway heritage. It has been over 100 years since Canada expropriated Shoal Lake #40 reserve land and the City of Winnipeg built the aqueduct which displaced the community to a man-made island. It has been over 20 years since Shoal Lake #40 has been on a boil-water advisory. The boil water order was issued by Health Canada and it requires all community members to boil the water before consumption. When I speak at schools in Winnipeg to raise awareness, many students don’t realize the significate burdens that Shoal Lake #40 carries in providing Winnipeg with fresh water. In recent memory, nine people have died crossing the water or thin ice to access homes. Thankfully, after many years of advocacy and resiliency, in June 2019 Shoal Lake #40 will open their all-seasons road. This road will save lives and restore an economic future for the community.

Acknowledging Indigenous peoples’ territory is a small way of showing respect and recognition of Indigenous people. I encourage philanthropic organizations to reach out to Indigenous people in a respectfully way by including Elders and knowledge keepers to understand the traditional territory where their offices are located and work together in developing proper acknowledgements.

For example, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Manitoba Chapter at Winnipeg events acknowledges the Treaty one traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree nations and the homeland of the Métis. My sincere hope is that we can move beyond acknowledgments and together find meaningful ways to support the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.

Sharon Redsky is AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.


As I began planning for my Diversity and Inclusion Fellow Project, I wondered how do I do this in a meaningful way that avoids tokenism? Should I be the one that starts D&I work at my organization just because I’m ‘diverse’? Well, if it gets me a seat at the table, and gets the conversation going, then it is a way to get a foot in the door.

I often reflect on when was the defining moment for me as to when I realized I was ‘diverse.’ In one of my very first jobs as a teenager, I worked as a summer intern in government. During this time, I was often recruited to participate in campaign photos and videos, and to sit in and attend various events. Not only was I a woman, but a woman of Asian descent. I remember, in particular that I was asked to participate in an event celebrating Philippines Independence Day (June 12th) and was confused as to why – I’m Chinese.

On the one hand, it gave me unprecedented access – I often found myself front and center at events or rallies, but on the other hand, I wanted to be there based on merit not just because of gender and ethnicity.

Medium.com has an article titled ‘Tokenism: The Result of Diversity Without Inclusion’ which speaks to the core of D&I work. Many organizations can say they are diverse – but is the culture inclusive? Stats are stats – it gives the appearance of equality without actually achieving it. It doesn’t stop at saying you have a black, queer, and/or quadriplegic employee – the whole premise of diversity is meant to be the wealth of knowledge and expertise that comes from a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds.

The numbers in our sector can appear encouraging – more often than not, organizations are made up of more female employees than male. However, what does that look like when it comes to making presentations (Congress, Fundraising Day, etc.)? Are they the ones leading major sector-wide initiatives? Are they holding leadership positions within our industry? The same concept can be applied to diversity – do our diverse fundraisers have a seat at the table or are they figureheads?

Long story short, I do not have the answer yet but I think being conscious of it is a start.

Photo Source

Navigating subtle meaning of words and feelings

Sitting around the table discussing the meaning of words, their power and how important it was to analyze the context of when and where such words were used was a favourite of my bonding times with my mother when I was growing up. She would share the content of her classes with me, while she was a university professor in my hometown in Ecuador.

Growing up with an acute awareness of the power and meaning of words turned me into a conscious communicator and from an early age, an assertive person. I also learned early on the real meaning of the words chosen by people when they were trying to assert power.

At the same time, that awareness made me shy to share what I really thought in many circumstances, fearing to hurt someone else’s feelings.

I remember being brought into the midst of a conflict between my high school friends to solve their misunderstandings; nothing that a little bit of context, word review and meaning, and acknowledgment of feelings would not solve.

Fast forward to my first newcomer/migrant experience and such knowledge had to be quickly put to use. When I would hear an offensive word directed to me or other racialized persons, I repeated to myself “Isabel, remember the context, and you are new to this context. Keep learning, keep calm, continue to be assertive and move on”; resilience was the end game.

It was not only about the words, but it was also the feeling of uneasiness to which I could not attach a word or meaning. I still had to learn so much about bias and discrimination, and in a different language; English.

Bringing that experience to the fundraising profession is another story. As a street fundraiser, while I studied in Madrid in the early 2000s, I thought I had rejection and bias figured out. When you do street fundraising, you know that rejection can be blunt, but add the layers of your skin, your accent and the context of sub-urban Madrid in my case. Hitting my targets was hard, but I did it! What other proof was needed that I could handle rejection?

That proof was not enough when in England after getting down to the final two candidates for that amazing entry-level position at the high-tech company or the management fundraising position at my dream NFP; over and over and over again, the feeling of uneasiness brought me back to square one and made me feel as though I did not belong.

Or the time when in a major donor steering meeting, as tasks and responsibilities were distributed to deploy the major giving strategy, the director lists them all including that I will be limited to clearing tables and washing dishes in a joking manner.

How about the awkward time spent in a networking event where I actively engaged with people, when I aimed to present myself as a strategic leader, accomplished professional and was looking to identify opportunities for collaboration, but instead could not get past explaining to others about my ‘background.’

It felt like there was little I could do to change those situations I would come across in those exchanges, but internally I was changing, and I was burning out.

It has taken many years for me to attach meaning to the words and feelings that bias and discrimination use to present themselves. And mostly it has been possible because I have opened up and found allies and spaces like the AFP Inclusion and Diversity fellowship where I have engaged with people open to discuss and embrace those uncomfortable feelings.

This fellowship has not only been a catalyst to further attach meaning to feelings and words, but an opportunity to also assess my moving and relative privilege, an exercise all of us should undertake as we navigate diverse communities and societies.

As a fundraising professional, I write and speak to build connections and empathy that call for action towards the causes I serve, but most importantly I communicate to move us closer to transformative change.

With this piece I hope as a newcomer to the fundraising profession or as a veteran in it, you felt connected, especially if you have gone through similar life experiences. Please speak up and share them safely; your story can change others’ stories and help them avoid burn-out.

If my experience seems ‘alien’ to you, but still you believe you are and can be an ally for inclusion, I invite you to exercise respectful curiosity and to step into the uncomfortable zone to explore the relativity of privilege.

I cannot promise you will find all the answers to your curiosity, but you will move out of fear towards a sacred space of acknowledgement of your own and others’ dignity. And along the way, you will make the fundraising profession a safer space where all of us who journey through it can belong.

AFP Fellowship Mentorship Experience

I joined the 2018 AFP Fellowship program to increase my knowledge in fundraising and for the mentorship opportunity. I was fortunate to be mentored by Joan Blight, who has over 30 years of experience. Over the past 7 months, Joan and I met several times and I am grateful for her guidance. We decided to share our mentorship experience by answering the questions below.

What was the reason you agreed to participate as a mentee/mentor for the 2018 AFP Fellowship?

Sharon: For me, the mentorship was the most appealing part of the program for my professional development. I was excited to learn that Joan Blight would be my mentor. She is a well respected professional/fundraiser/leader and has the strategic and corporate experience that I hoped to learn.

Joan: I seek to learn more about Indigenous culture and what we can learn from one another about philanthropy. The Indigenous population is under represented in the field of fund development, so I welcomed the opportunity to mentor Sharon, the only Indigenous fellow in this program.

What has the experience taught you as a mentee/mentor?

Sharon: Through this positive mentorship experience I learned how valuable good governance is for organizations in achieving their fundraising goals. A good example of this, is having the board and leadership clearly committed and engaged. With Joan’s wealth of knowledge and insight, I felt that I could have used many more months to spend time learning from her.

Joan: There is a real difference between mentoring and directing. Sometimes it is a very fine line. If a suggestion I offered was not accepted, I learned to leave it alone.

How can diversity and inclusion be encouraged in the sector?

Sharon: I believe we can learn so much by including diverse perspectives and voices into the work of the philanthropic sector. Mentorship is an important way in developing valuable connections. In this fellowship, I have met many talented fellows who are working for the advancement of diversity and inclusion. I would like to see the more opportunities for mentorship and leadership development.

Joan: I think we need to listen and learn from Indigenous people and new Canadians. Are they interested in this sector? What is their passion? Are Indigenous individuals interested in working in Indigenous-led organizations? non-Indigenous-led organizations? What about new Canadians? What is important to them in the workplace?

Ways of encouraging diversity and inclusion:

  • through formalized means such as presentations to organizations’ senior management and engaging human resource personnel
  • through “shared learning” presentations to professional associations such as AFP
  • through mentorship opportunities such as this one
  • through networking with colleagues

Sharon Redsky is First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40 and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

What does Truth and Reconciliation mean in the philanthropic sector?

As a relatively new member of the Association of Professional Fundraisers, I wanted to gain better insights on how the philanthropic sector understands Truth and Reconciliation. It was through a small questionnaire that I set to do so, and I am grateful to all the participants who completed it and shared their responses with me. This blog presents two of my project’s key findings.

Philanthropic sector has a role

I was pleased to learn that all respondents to the questionnaire felt that the philanthropic sector does have a role in contributing to the work of reconciliation. When asked if they felt satisfied with the philanthropic sectors current action, many felt that more action is required. They also identified the need for additional education and awareness. However, an important step is learning the truth of Canada’s role in the creation of residential schools and a deeper understanding of the long term impact this has on Indigenous people and communities across the country. It is my hope that individuals and organizations will make this kind of education a priority. Many resources are accessible from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Reconciliation Canada and the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Impact Investing and the recognition of Indigenous voices

Most participants identified as impact investing and the recognition of Indigenous voices as an areas where the philanthropic sector could make the biggest impact. Building on this, is the rise of Indigenous led organizations across the country who are responsive to community needs and provide cultural appropriate services. There is a great opportunity to bridge the work of Indigenous led organizations with the philanthropic impact investment efforts. A good example is the Winnipeg Foundation, who distributing 1.3 million in reconciliation grants to 20 projects that are Indigenous led and some that demonstrated authentic engagement with the Indigenous community. In addition to foundations, many individuals contribute in meaningful ways, one such person is Jennifer Roblin. I met Jennifer while working at a non-for-profit and was inspired by her genuine generosity. Her contributions are not only financial, but she invests her time and energy collecting and distributing winter clothing for Indigenous children and youth living in Winnipeg. While these are just a couple of examples, there are many other ways to contribute to reconciliation, I compiled some in a list in my project’s full report. The report can be found at http://www.afpinclusivegiving.ca/resource/philanthropic-sector-truth-reconciliation/

Reflecting on this project has renewed my efforts in building relationships between the philanthropic sector and Indigenous led organizations to elevate the work of reconciliation.

Sharon Redsky is First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40 and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

Diversity, Equity, and Access in Arts & Culture: Why It Matters

I was 21 years old the first time I visited a museum outside of a school trip – I remember visiting the ROM’s planetarium in the second grade. I was intimidated and did not feel it was for people like me, I thought, once I step in they would know that I was an outsider and didn’t belong. What if I didn’t have the right clothes or conduct myself the right way? They would know. Up until this point, all I would have known about museums was what I learned from television and films.

It was 2008, the opening week of the “Transformed” Art Gallery of Ontario, more than 68,000 people crowded through the newly renovated AGO during that opening week — admission was free that weekend (thank you BMO for sponsoring) and I was one of the 68,000 people who visited. It was packed and full of people from all walks of life, different from what I expected; it was welcoming. I could not believe this gem existed and that I had never visited.

The arts always felt a bit out of reach for me, and again, that it was not for me, so the more I wanted to challenge my feelings of exclusion and personal biases of the arts as exclusionary (especially given the fact that the arts sector is publicly funded!). I began to immerse myself, reading, and watching documentaries on the topic and attending more art shows. I also slowly started to expand my interest into classical music, ballets, and operas *when discounted tickets and free nights allowed me to* (thanks to government funding and programs supported generously by donors).

Experiencing all that arts and culture has to offer and knowing all the barriers there are to access, was one of the reasons I chose to build a career in fundraising – I wanted to be part of the change and scale social impact through inclusion and access.

Over the years, my affinity for arts and culture organizations in Toronto (or at least to those I could access) has grown, and I support them in whatever way I can, whether inviting others to join me at a show, donating or volunteering my time.

There are many great outreach programs designed to help access arts and culture in the city of Toronto. For example, The Toronto Public Library Map program is one of the many exceptional programs in the city affording access to arts and culture – offering free admission to Toronto museums and cultural attractions to anyone with a library card (but there is a limited number of cards in circulation). Many organizations have their own programs designed to increase access – whether it be through discount tickets, rush tickets the day of events, free days/evenings, etc. Nevertheless, arts and culture organizations need to take further action to attract diverse audiences, and that extends to programming, donors, employees, volunteers, and other key stakeholder groups if they want to bring value and truly enrich the lives of Canadians – equity is vital to achieving this. Everyone deserves to benefit, and there is room for everyone.

Not sure why diversity, equity, and access matters to the Arts and Culture Sector?

Here are five facts that will affect the future of the sector:

  1. Shift in Demographics – According to Stats Canada by 2031, the percentage of individuals belonging to a visible minority could exceed 40% in Ontario.
  2. Shift in Workforce Culture – In 2016, individuals aged 55 and over accounted for 36% of the working-age population, the highest proportion on record (Stats Canada, 2016). Without diversity as a part of organizational culture, replacement of this workforce will not occur (Stats Canada, 2016). By 2020, it is estimated there will be a talent shortage of 85 million skilled workers (Fortune, 2015) (KPMG, 2017).
  3. Shift in Business Norms Led by Millennials – Thanks to technology and social media, millennials are exercising their influence as employees and customers on organizations to create inclusive and diverse workplaces. By 2020, millennials will account for 50% of Canada’s workforce (Globe & Mail, 2017) – if organizations do not adapt, they could risk high and costly turnover (KPMG, 2017).
  4. Shifts in Wealth Accumulation – According to a survey conducted by BMO Harris Private Banking, 48% of people with liquid assets of $1M or more are immigrants or described themselves as first-generation Canadians with at least one parent born outside of Canada (Globe & Mail, 2018).
  5. Shift in Grant Making Strategies – In 2016, Canadian Council for the Arts released its five-year strategic plan which affirms their commitment to equity and inclusion, stating that, “Canada’s major arts organizations will be models of diversity and innovation” (we can check back in 2022) – the bar has been set (Canada Council for the Arts, 2016).

When looking at the shifts in trends, it is important to note where we currently stand. Older donors (55+) account for 47% of all donations made, and the population around us is aging fast. For the first time, seniors outnumber children in Toronto and are the most common household type (Toronto Foundation, Vital Signs Report, 2018). As of now, Arts and Culture receive 1.3% of the donor dollars in Canada, to put things into perspective, religious organizations represent 41% of total donations, and among non-religious organizations, the health sector receives 13% (Statistics Canada, 2013). So, who will replace arts and culture donors in the future? Time to focus on diversity, equity, and access.

Teresa Catalano was born and raised in northwest Toronto to immigrant parents and is a fundraiser in higher education.

How Would You Go About Broadening Your Donor Base to Reflect the Diversity of Your City or Region?


One of the gifts of the AFP Fellowship in Diversity and Inclusion was to attend the AFP Congress in Toronto – the largest AFP conference in the world. And what a delight to find myself talking about the Fellowship to an AFP Toronto fundraiser I had never met, who then introduced me to her friend and AFP member, Tricia Johnson, Major Gifts and Planned Giving Officer for the Ottawa Food Bank. Wonderful! Some kind of AFP magic at work?

Coming from the second largest food bank in BC myself, we immediately began a conversation about how we are engaging diverse donor populations and agreed to keep our conversation going post-conference, both of us inspired that somehow, among 1000 attendees, we found each other.

Now March, a few months later, we checked in with each other and I asked Tricia about the plans she has for diversifying her donor base.

I started just by asking, ‘Who are your average donors?’

“Observationally, our average donors are pretty much ‘text book’. Our average donors are 60+, generally local, from Ottawa, they are mostly Caucasian, but their ethnic background varies, so they may have roots that go back to Poland, Italy, England, Ireland, French-Canadian etc. I don’t really keep track so this is just my general observation. And it is not uncommon when I’m talking to people that they can make reference to their faith. Our donors are not as affluent as I found in the Arts but definitely well educated.”

“I would like to have our donors be reflective of the people of the city. Visible minority groups or Non-whites account for 24% of the population in Ottawa. So it would be good to see within our donor base 25% representation of people who are non-white.”

“At AFP Congress someone did make a case for tracking ethnicity and religion, but we don’t track it here right now. So I couldn’t say where we are at right now but its not yet reflective of the diversity of the city.”

Who would you like to have participate more fully as donors?

“One of the groups that I’m working on engaging, and you and I talked about it in Toronto, was that people of the Muslim faith which are actually pretty diverse ethnically, they have a really have a strong affinity with our cause, they have a common call to feed the poor, it is a tenant of their faith. My main consideration is to diversify our donors where I see there is a natural fit.”

Tricia is interested in Muslim communities not just because it is a larger identifiable group in Ottawa that is not yet involved much in the Ottawa Food Bank, but particularly because she sees that they and the food bank could share her organization’s vision of “providing food to people who need it.”

I ask her, What are some considerations as you seek to engage with the diverse Muslim community to build on what may be aligned values or intersecting interests?

“Well, I think its going to take time for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us, I’m still learning where the common grounds are and the places where we might do things differently.”

How do they get to know us and how do we get to know them? What are some approaches you are taking?

“There is a Muslim food bank in our community that doesn’t serve only Muslims but offers a wide variety of halal items and is run by Muslim elders in the community. I reached out to that food bank and let them know that we are looking for people we can work with in the community who can act as Philanthropic Advisors.

These are people who are onside with us, who want to see us increase our reach in the community and they can help us with introductions. And sometimes through observation, they will help me navigate things to be aware of when interacting with people with cultural norms different than I might have.

For example, I didn’t necessarily realize that it’s a bit taboo, for a man and a woman to shake hands, they prefer not to touch, but of course, I’m very North American, and I’m generally pretty outgoing and so when I meet people, I put out my hand to shake their hand and show that I’m open and I’m excited to meet them.”

I ask Tricia to tell me more about her Philanthropic Advisors Group and how she hopes to engage with this group.

“We created a group called Philanthropic Advisors Group because it sounds way better than ‘Major Gift Committee.’ No one wants to be part of a Major Gift Committee or, when I’ve had those before, they haven’t been that effective. So seeing them as ‘philanthropic advisors’ it kind of puts the onus on me to make sure that they are equipped with knowing what we do, why we do it, some of the projects we are fundraising for —focusing on that education as opposed to just the door opening aspect of what they can do. I really want them to think about who would be predisposed to supporting our cause, not just find who has deep pockets.

Tricia says this project is “in its nascence.” So far she’s got 5 people who have shown interest in being her philanthropic advisors group and 2 of these are Muslim – one from the Muslim food bank and one from a mosque working on a committee that brings together people from all the mosques in Ottawa-Gatineau and they are both very engaged. Others in the group who she hopes to engage around diversifying with other less seen donors include, “a person who is Caucasian married to a person of Indian descent, another is a woman who is in the tech sector and involved in another fundraising group which is young, diverse and dynamic.”

So, Tricia has her plan on how she’s aiming to further diversify her community of donors:

  1. Reaching out to a food bank and a faith based organization who serve the populations we want to reach and involving/equipping them as philanthropic advisors.
  2. Reaching out to mosques and being present when they present gifts of cash and food to us.
  3. Subscribing to mosque newsletters.
  4. Subscribing to newsletters from The National Council of Canadian Muslims. (NCCM) is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization that protects Canadian human rights and civil liberties, challenges discrimination and Islamophobia, builds mutual understanding, and advocates for the public concerns of Canadian Muslims.
  5. Paying attention to connectors in our community—especially if they are part of a visible minority.
  6. Paying attention to donors in community who are women and have non-French or English names.

What are some of Tricia’s challenges and observations about making a conscious effort to broaden the diversity of her donors?

Her first thought is, “Not wanting to make any cultural faux pas that could cause deep offense.” She wants to create opportunities to engage people who are often overlooked but is “sensitive to tokenism and wary of making superficial assumptions.”

And of her process she says, “Generally my approach has been casual and somewhat inconsistent – but inconsistent meaning that it is naturally evolving, because I’m not trying to force it and I don’t want anyone to feel targeted because of their ethnicity.”

I’m just at the beginning of things now and I believe it is a bit of a slow process and although it may seem that that is a challenge, I believe it is better to take the time and kind of get to understand people and let them get to know you as well.“

Relationships do need to evolve and you can’t force or rush it. So sensitivity, openness, authenticity and a genuine interest in the people we wish to invite to join us in a common goal is surely the way.

My sincere thanks to Tricia Johnson for sharing her observations and experiences as she takes a thoughtful approach to broadening the diversity of the donors who support her cause.

The Fundraiser’s Journey: How Did We Get Here?

A big push by AFP, both in Canada and abroad, has been to increase the presence of “diverse” fundraisers in the sector (visible minorities, sexual orientation, etc), as well as battle the misconceptions and prejudice that impede the career advancements of some fundraisers, specifically women.

However, there is a question that I believe no-one has answered satisfactorily which plays a huge part in the diversity question:

How does someone start on the journey to become a fundraiser ?

Hypothetically, if 100% of all fundraisers first went through a college fundraising program and then later joined the sector, then increasing diversity would be a matter of increasing enrollment from diverse candidates into the program, ensuring they have the support to complete the program, and then helping with job placement post-studies. Similar approaches have been adopted in Law, Medicine, Accounting, Engineering – you name it, anything with a Professional Guild-like model.

But that’s not quite the way many fundraisers enter the sector.

When I ask fundraisers how they began fundraising, they usually flash that million dollar smile, shrug their shoulders, and mumble something along the lines of “I sort of fell into it.”

That’s a response you might also get if you asked a dentist or an accountant, or a lawyer or a doctor on how they ended up working professionally in their field, but you’d most likely treat it as an exception rather than the norm.

Yet, there’s something about the fundraising profession where the “I sort of fell into it,” is more the norm than the exception.

Why this question is important to answer today is because the charitable sector requires fundraisers, requires professionals to connect people with the causes they want to support. But if we, as a sector and as a profession, don’t fully know how we end up in this profession, haven’t fully mapped out the entry-points and traffic flow and matched our recruitment and training strategies accordingly, how will we ensure a supply of fundraisers in the future? How will we ensure the continuation of our projects once we retire or die? What does this mean to AFP and other associations who are the only loose tie between these people? What would knowing these answers mean for the AFP and its chapters given (IDEA) Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access is a recurring strategic objective? Without mapping how people enter the sector, can AFP and other associations truly support its membership?

As I poked around and had informal surveys, I noticed that people seem to be “falling” along certain lines, along certain entry-points:

  • We have the early-career charity professional who wants to help the charitable sector, and “fell” into a fundraising job;
  • We have the mid-career for-profit professional who wants to change careers and help a cause, and “fell” into a fundraising job;
  • We have the late-career cause/institution professional who is thrust into a fundraising role to help their institution, and “fell” into a fundraising job.

We need to map this out asap.

Which is why, with Lea Hardcastle, I’m launching a survey to track how people become fundraisers.

Please, it’ll take 4 mins to complete right now, months to analyse, and help us all for years to come.

EN = https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NYNR7YL

FR = https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X28LM3Z
And please share the survey by copying and pasting the following on your Linkedin or Facebook feeds:

Attention: Please take 4 minutes and complete this survey for us to understand how fundraisers enter the sector.

EN = https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NYNR7YL

FR = https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X28LM3Z