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The following survey was created for Sunnybrook Foundation to use in conjunction with its ‘People and Culture’ Survey that was deployed in winter 2018. The following survey is to understand the makeup of the Foundation – including visible and invisible minorities. The goal is to share the results of this survey at a future staff meeting and to inform the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

PART A: Diversity and Inclusion Demographic Profile Survey

The following survey is to help us create a profile of our current workforce by collecting demographic information on your ethnic and cultural backgrounds, religious or spiritual affiliations and sexual orientation. The demographic information and the questions on diversity and inclusion will provide further insight on our current workface and will assist with developing diversity plans that promote inclusiveness and recognize the unique perspectives and contributions of all our staff. The feedback will assist in maintaining a workplace that is healthy, safe and inclusive for all.

These questions are personal to each individual, however we kindly as that you be honest in your responses so that we may recognize our strengths, areas of development, and to discover initiatives that will direct a human equity strategy. Responses are strictly confidential and anonymous. You may skip any questions you prefer not to answer.

The survey should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete.

1. Gender

  1. Female/Woman
  2. Male/Man
  3. Trans-identified
  4. Genderqueer/Gender nonconforming
  5. Other gender identity
  6. Prefer not to disclose

2. Please select from the following list the categories that best describe your racial and/or cultural group(s):

  1. White
  2. Chinese
  3. South Asian (East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.)
  4. Black
  5. Filipino
  6. Latin American
  7. Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Cambodian, etc.)
  8. Arab
  9. West Asian (Iranian, Afghan, etc.)
  10. Japanese
  11. Korean
  12. Indigenous (First Nations, Metis, or Inuit)
  13. Other
  14. Do Not Know
  15. Prefer not to disclose

3. What is your sexual orientation?

  1. Bisexual
  2. Gay
  3. Heterosexual
  4. Lesbian
  5. Queer
  6. Two-spirit
  7. Other
  8. Do not know
  9. Prefer not to disclose

4. What is your religious or spiritual affiliation?

  1. No religion (including Agnostic, Atheist)
  2. Roman Catholic
  3. Ukrainian Catholic
  4. United Church
  5. Anglican (Church of England, Episcopalian)
  6. Baptist
  7. Lutheran
  8. Pentecostal
  9. Presbyterian
  10. Mennonite
  11. Jehovah’s Witnesses
  12. Greek Orthodox
  13. Jewish
  14. Islam (Muslim)
  15. Buddhist
  16. Hindu
  17. Sikh
  18. Do not know
  19. Prefer not to disclose
  20. Other
  21. Please specify

5. Do you consider yourself to be a person with a disability?

  1. Yes
  2. No

PART B: Diversity and Inclusion Culture Survey

The Foundation aims to understand, assess and further enhance organizational culture. One of the key strategic initiatives is to promote and foster a culture of diversity and inclusion. This will enable us to continue to attract and retain talent and ensure we have an inclusive environment that inspire people to excel, innovate and grow. In order to understand where we are at and where we need to go, we are requesting your feedback and perceptions about our current state of diversity and inclusion.

The survey should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

1. Please state your department.

  1. Events
  2. Major Gifts
  3. Gift Processing
  4. Finance
  5. Marketing & Communications
  6. Community Giving (Monthly, Annual, Leadership)
  7. Stewardship

2. Please select your role (or the one that best describes the nature of your responsibilities).

  1. Associate/Co-ordinator
  2. Officer
  3. Manager
  4. Director
  5. AVP/VP
  6. Executive Office

3. The Foundation shows respect for a diverse range of opinions, ideas and people.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

4. The Foundation is committed to providing all employees with equal opportunities in the workplace.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

5. I believe the Foundation recognizes the contribution of all employees who excel at their jobs, regardless of their backgrounds.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

6. My personal characteristics do not influence performance decisions.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

7. My personal characteristics do not influence pay decisions.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

8. I believe that personal characteristics do not hinder or help an individual’s career progression or development opportunities.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

9. Ethnic and cultural preferences of staff are accommodated through time off for religious observances/holiday

  1. Yes
  2. No

10. The Foundation provides the flexibility needed for work-life balance.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

11. The Foundation has family-friendly policies in place.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

12. There are well-developed mechanisms to handle an employee complaint about harassment and discrimination.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

13. If the Foundation could make one change to strengthen diversity and inclusion within the organization, what would you suggest?


The following key points are important to consider when setting up a Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Diversity is a reality in all of our work and bring unique perspectives to our organization.

1. Visible and invisible diversity

Representation on the committee, beyond identifying based on gender, race/ethnicity, and age is important. Consider employing a survey to allow individuals to self-identify to understand the true landscape and demographic of your organization. Representation includes, but is not limited to:

  • Gender
  • Indigeneity
  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Age
  • Power and position (social/administrative/economic/other)
  • Disability
  • Sexuality

2. Representation – avoid tokenism

Consider a range of professional experiences and life experiences – invitations, grounded in respect for both professional knowledge and life experience, are less likely to be felt as token representation. Invite participants with both diversity knowledge and identity-linked perspective that relate to the goals of the committee rather than just their identity.

3. Create a safe space for contribution

A strong introduction to allow everyone to share their own perspectives and lived experiences, as well ground rules to participation is important to ensure a safe space has been created. Employees with ‘less power’ might fear repercussions for not agreeing with a majority perspective. It is therefore important to consider and attended to the group dynamics. When setting up the committee, it is also important to consider and assess any participation-related needs and/or access barriers.

4. Voting – an unpressured decision-making tool

Consensus can be challenging when everyone has diverse experiences and perspectives. Whenever appropriate, voting by secret ballot can allow participants to influence the direction of the group without having to publicly stating their opinion or views on a topic.

5. Leadership – include a decision maker at the table

To ensure that the ideas and goals of the committee can move forward in a meaningful way and within the bounds of the organization, include an individual that is a ‘decision maker’. They are your ally at the leadership level that can advocate and move forward the mandate of the D&I committee.

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.

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.

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.

Respectful Curiosity

One of the most beautiful approaches to conflict resolution that I have heard recently came from a podcast that I listened to, where the host, Whitney Johnson, interviewed Dr. Donna Hicks on the topic of disruption. (https://whitneyjohnson.com/donna-hicks/).

In this exchange, Dr. Hicks shared stories of her experience exploring the concept of how at the core of major conflicts lay a deep sense of lost dignity. Dr. Hicks is a Harvard professor and has studied and led mediation initiatives for some of the most relevant modern strife and wars around the world in the past decades and uses these experiences particularly around recognition and protection of all parties’ dignity to build cultures of trust in organizations today.

This expert talked about the acknowledgment of lost dignity as a first step to build trust towards peace and reconciliation and how ‘we are all guardians of dignity, and we owe it to ourselves, others, and the greater good to educate ourselves in the inherent value and worth of everyone around us in order to flourish.’

During my reflection on the idea of lost dignity, I was also reading and exploring the concept of ‘respectful curiosity’, a phrase that I coined in a conversation with a colleague around the topic of how diverse communities bear a high burden when speaking out to discrimination and injustice. How they seem to be penalized and how important it was that people sitting on the fence of understanding these issues – including me on many occasions – should exercise the practice of ‘respectful curiosity.’

I am still developing this concept but as I listened to that podcast, the idea of honouring my own dignity and that of others, the fullness of what I feel ‘respectful’ meant finally came into place.

In the social profit sector, we all seek to redress injustices, undo systemic wrongs and ultimately honour the dignity of those who we serve.

My journey to understanding the deep-rooted displays of racial, gender and socioeconomic injustices in the Canadian context has just started, and the only way I felt I could begin to learn has been through curiosity.

Yes, reading, listening to podcasts and lectures can help but, how can you feel moved to act and speak up and stand up to injustice when you witness it if you have not connected with people with those lived experiences?

And how can we connect with others when our structures seem so homogenous that the systems we are immersed in, are not conducive to connect with others with diverse lived experiences. There is so much that individuals can, and would do, for example setting up collaborative teams that reflect the diversity of participants to tackle organizational challenges, if this is an individual driving change in one department without structural support and acknowledgement in the ample sphere of the organization this practice will not be permanent. Therefore it is paramount that structures shift to build spaces for diverse connections.

Diversity, inclusion and access to power in our sector will require individual actions and systemic transformation. So as an individual I call you to move to a space of no fear through respectful curiosity and to step up your actions for inclusion because you have the power to change the system.

So be curious and ask the tough questions. What can we do to make our team diverse?. How can we bring in our beneficiaries into our decision-making process and truly represent them?. Do managers/leaders have the skills to manage talent that is unlike them? Why is this person not at this table? How can we all learn about addressing and including other’s life experiences without judgement? What did we learn from a diversity and inclusion initiative that died out?

Through this questioning, you will be bearing the burden with your colleagues from small minorities and as you do this, you will not only be guarding their dignity but yours too.

The Many Layers of Storytelling in International Development

Growing up, the only time I would see kids who looked like me was in charity ad campaigns. Same skin tone and dark hair, but their reality was very different from my own. They were orphaned, malnourished, and the best way to help them was through a donation to [Insert Charity Name Here]. At least, that was the story that the narrator was presenting on screen.

Those ads, along with images I saw in National Geographic or the news, were my first exposure to “where I was from”. As new immigrants settling in Halifax at the time, my parents had to focus on making enough to house and feed me and my two older sisters, so passing on our culture and language couldn’t be their top priority.

But when I was 8, my parents saved enough for what was my first trip to Sri Lanka. It was nothing like what I had seen on TV. It was a world of contradictions. My extended family were living in what seemed like luxury to me, especially in comparison to our small family apartment. And yet, there were also many families or children with nowhere to live. The huge gap between the rich and the poor was apparent on every street corner.

My parents could have had a pretty good life in Sri Lanka, but they left at a time when there was a lot of civil unrest because they were worried for our safety and wanted us to have the freedom to live our lives the way we wanted. Like many immigrants, they sacrificed and left everything they knew behind, for their children. That act of love, and all the privileges that it’s given us, taught me how important it is for everyone to have access to the same rights and privileges, no matter where they live.

On that trip, I learnt that every story has many layers. The real power lies with the narrator or writer of the story, and how they choose to tell it.

As a fundraiser for an international non-profit, my passion to tell the stories of people from around the world has been my driving force. The women and men who have to fight for their rights every day, who are building up their communities and giving their children access to health and education are my personal heroes. And I see it as my mission to introduce and connect Canadian donors to these often hidden heroes.

Storytelling is all about creating that personal connection. And in fundraising, it’s about communicating in a language that the average Canadian will understand, focusing on the need, and making sure the donor understands the impact that their dollars are making.

But because of my own story, I can see that extra layer to our storytelling that often gets overlooked. The stories we choose to share with our donors in international development not only represent the people we work with, but they can also unintentionally represent the immigrants from those countries who have built their lives in Canada.

With repeated exposure to our fundraising content, and a lack of other content in the media, our stories come to define the Canadian understanding of immigrants who have come from the countries where we work. By simplifying the message so that our donors will understand the need, we are also simplifying the life stories and experiences of these immigrants.

At a time when the “other” is so often discarded and misunderstood, we can be unknowingly perpetuating stereotypes that so many of us are constantly fighting against. In addition, we are also turning away potential donors. A study by Statistics Canada in 2010 shows that immigrant (and diaspora) communities are more likely to give than those born in Canada. But if they find that the stories told in international development don’t fully represent the realities of their countries of birth, they may choose to find other organizations to engage with or other ways to give back.

Fundraising is all about testing, and the final decision usually lies with what our donors respond to. But should we always play to the majority in order to raise the most funds? Or as leaders in improving our societies, can we also find opportunities to educate, and help our donors better understand the complex issues facing people around the world?

I believe that as storytellers, we need to take the time to consider the larger effect of the stories we tell. Our sector is changing, and as our donor base continues to become more and more diverse, there is going to be a need to not only have these conversations, but to reconsider how we frame our stories.

How to Create a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at Your Small Non-Profit – Part 1

Photo: Toronto’s Don Valley, November 2018

If you’re like me, you work for a small non-profit organization where the lean realities of funding mean that there are limited resources to devote to diversity and inclusion (D&I) work.

It’s not the easiest kind of work but I believe that diversity and inclusion work is some of the most rewarding work an organization can invest in. Not only are there numerous studies and reports that prove diversity in staff leads to more productivity, but organizations that live the values of inclusion, and do the work to redistribute power and privilege to more people, become better equipped in every way. One recent study suggests that inclusive organizations make better decisions as much as 87% of the time, and at twice the speed.

Most meaningful, to me, is that inclusivity is a practice that aims to encompass the full and expansive range of human diversity in the workplace, including ability, language, culture, gender, sexuality, age and class. It moves away from the traditional, corporate model that is based on a top-down model of authority, as well as on a socially conservative mindset that tends to favour binary thinking (e.g. white/not white, male/female).

In this three-part series, I’d like to share insights I’ve gained from developing a D&I initiative which will result in a customized training session for staff conducted by a local facilitator. As I lead my organization through the process, I hope to share what I’ve learned.

In this part of the series, Part 1, we’ll review the planning stages of a D&I strategy.

1. Is there organizational readiness?

Having great ideas only gets you halfway there. Before you make that pitch, take stock of where the organization is. Are there signs that leaders and colleagues would be open to D&I and already know why it’s needed? Have efforts already been made to address issues of inclusion in your programs? You need to know that others already get the basic concept of systemic and organizational bias and are ready to take the next step.

2. What kind of initiative is most needed in your organization?

Diversity and inclusion can be, at first, an abstract concept that can seem difficult to translate into concrete action. Here is a list of the types of practices that larger organizations with formalized programs have adopted:

  • Recruitment techniques for diversifying staff
  • Anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies
  • Accommodation policies to support health or other needs
  • Unconscious bias and allyship training
  • Pay equity audit
  • Mentoring programs for diversity groups
  • Disability access initiatives
  • Respect for religious observances

3. One size does not fit all, a.k.a. try not to Google it.

When I started this process, I reached out to an established gender equity consultant for her advice. She convinced me that the delicate nature of the work means that you cannot simply apply a “best practice” model. Changing workplace culture means examining the specific legacy of your organization and then considering the unique mix of people who each bring lived experiences to bear (also see #5). What works for one organization shouldn’t necessarily be replicated in another.

4. You’re in the business of changing culture, which means changing minds.

It’s not going to happen overnight or with one day of training. It’s a process. Approach it with patience, perseverance, lots of optimism and compassion for people (even yourself!) who may find the process challenging.

5. Be collaborative.

You need buy-in from colleagues as well as folks in leadership positions. It also seems obvious to mention, but yes, you need to have an inclusive process as you work towards inclusion! Seek input from staff at every level in order to design a program that, most importantly, involves the people who will essentially be doing the work, and isn’t following a cookie-cutter approach—or worse, is seen as a top-down, make-work project. Ground yourself and others by asking the question: why this group of people, now? And tie it to the organization’s vision or priorities to maintain clarity around the outcomes.

6. Consider how best to seek input.

Another D&I consultant I spoke with advised me that staff may withhold certain feedback if it’s a colleague that they are sharing the information with—even if they have a great relationship with that person. This withholding may result from the assumption that the feedback is being shared with leadership.

You might consider sending an online survey that guarantees anonymity, for instance, and allow individuals to have the option of following up in person with you—or have a D&I facilitator handle this stage for you if it is prior to a course of training. Ask open-ended questions, such as “What would make this a more inclusive workplace for you?” and piece together common themes that emerge from the answers.

In Part 2 of this article series, I will list five more steps to a successful D&I strategy. These include how to navigate difficult conversations; how not to publicize your D&I program; and more.

Thanks for reading.

Caroline Chan
Senior Development Manager, Canadian Art
2019 Fellow, AFP Fellowship In Inclusion & Philanthropy

Pace and Breathe: Running the Marathon of an Individual Giving Program

For every fundraiser out there whose primary focus is individual giving, you have experienced a week similar to this. On Monday morning, you review your annual individual donation revenue goal and make a promise to yourself: I must close at least five donations by the end of this week. By the afternoon, you send out 20+ emails to the prospects on your list. Then by Wednesday, you’ve got four coffee dates lined up in the next two weeks. On Friday morning, you meet with one of your top prospects. You talk for an hour about his hobbies, his philanthropic interest, and at the end of the meeting, he assures you that he will seriously consider giving. That afternoon, you sit at your desk, look at the unchanged revenue number, and you sigh:

“Did all my work this week matter at all?”

Like any kind of fundraising, running an individual giving program is a long-drawn battle. Most of the time, it’s a marathon. Impacts are not made apparent overnight, and coffee after coffee, it becomes hard to measure the ROI of the work that you put in. At the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, I have been overseeing our membership/individual giving program for three years now, and I must confess, there are many instances when I ask myself this very same question.

But just like running a marathon, we must not solely focus on the finish line. We need to know how and when to slow down, pace ourselves and change course if necessary. Today, I challenge all of you to take a break from your busy schedule, breathe, and ask yourself the following questions about your individual giving program strategies:

1. How many NO emails have you received from your prospect donors?

This question is not just meant for you to gauge whether it is a good time to stop pursuing a particular prospect. More importantly, it is for you to distinguish the ones who care to reply a NO from the ones that have no interest at all. I was inspired to think about this question after listening to a talk that a fundraising strategist, Maeve Strathy, from Blakely (@fundraisermaeve) delivered at AFP Fundraising Day earlier this year. When identifying mid-level individual donors, Maeve advised that we take a closer look at our mailbox and see who have responded a NO to our event invitations. If a donor is willing to take the time to explain why he or she is not coming to a screening, an event or a fundraiser, it is an excellent sign that this donor cares about you or your organization! A NO email is not a stop sign; it is a yellow light for you to turn green.

2. How many times have you gotten a face-to-face encounter with your prospective donors?

Do you remember the last two events that your prospective donor attended at your organization, where you actually got a few minutes with them? If not, find the right opportunity to get a face-to-face interaction with the prospect as soon as possible! In order to honour the interest of a particular potential donor, we must first explore that interest a little deeper and push it a little further. In my personal experience, some of the most serendipitous conversations that have resulted in long term relationships with donors come from chatting with audience members going into shows at the line-up of the film festival.

Are you the right person to talk to this prospect?

Peer-to-peer communication and solicitation are one of the most talked about topics in fundraising. If you are working in a small non-profit and you have a 1-2 person development department, you would naturally feel overwhelmed by the amount of work and the number of people that you need to communicate with. But have you taken a step back to assess whether you are even the right person to talk to a particular prospect? Engage your board and staff today, tell them about your individual giving program and ask them to help you! On this subject matter, my AFP fellowship mentor, Cindy Wagman, has an abundance of insights on how to build a culture of philanthropy within an organization and make everyone take ownership of fundraising. Check out her weekly video series at www.thegoodpartnership.com

In the end, to all my fellow marathon-runners of individual giving programs, I must reiterate: whenever you feel defeated, please don’t forget that this is a journey that all of us are part of. Like the fellowship in diversity and inclusion, there are many groups and resources that fundraisers can tap into. As you see finishing line on the horizon, there are cheers and support along the way.

Congress 2016 – My Learning Experience

My first Congress – My realization to Lead from where I stand

Wow, what a great theme for Congress 2016 – Lead from where you stand! During the opening plenary, Liane Davey said, “Every person has the ability to change the team for something better.” These words showed me the power of one, the power of believing in yourself and encouraged me to reach for the stars. I started my three days of Congress with this positive mindset.

Day 1:

There are two top learnings from the sessions I attended on Monday. The first one is to ask every single donor the question, “What inspired you to give today?” This question is so critical for every single donor, regardless of the amount because it gives you a better understanding of why people give.

The second learning was how we involve the donor in the challenge at hand. In other words, how to present the proposal. The proposal should contain: What is the ‘need,’ the ‘solution’ and how the donor can help? If this picture is portrayed the right way, the donor will feel engaged and confident that they are making a difference. As a fundraising professional, this is the art of the job and the end result will depend on the tools used, the efforts put in and the trick used to differentiate from others.

Day 2:

After the first day, I was pumped to start the second day of Congress, not only because of the interesting session I was about to attend but also because as a Fellow in Inclusion and Philanthropy I would be graduating that day. This Fellowship deepened my understanding of diversity and inclusion and demonstrated the role these elements play in our fundraising profession. Along with this, I got to know my mentor, Celeste Taylor, who made me look at my career and determine what goals I wanted to set for myself. I am ever so grateful to this program and all the people involved in making it a success. Receiving the certificate of completion for the Fellowship at Congress while in the presence of all involved and my manager, Roger Ali, made the day even more spectacular.

My top two learnings of Day 2 were totally different than the first day. My first ‘Aha’ moment was when the a session highlighted that the world is changing. Donors have many options to choose from when they feel philanthropic. Websites like gofundme.com and change.org are just a couple examples of outlets where donors can go to help people in need. The donor chooses who he/she would like to help and can donate right at that time. They get a rewarding feeling right from the moment they donate to the needy. Need + action = reward. This means that we as fundraising professionals need to think creatively and find different ways for donors to find us.

My second learning was that there are many paths to Rome and that in order to navigate the path as Foundation fundraisers, we must step into the diverse community we are approaching. This will us give us an understanding of their culture and help others understand what we do. The process takes time and and a lot of effort but once the relationship has been established, the results will make the efforts worthwhile. Approaching and including diverse communities unites us all together to achieve greater impact.

Day 3:

I was very excited for my last session on the last day of Congress, “Exercising your ask muscle.” When this session started, the presenter said something that was very important for me to hear and take in: Think of yourself as an opportunity offerer! During this session, he discussed the five components of making a philanthropic ask and then we practiced through role play. Congress ended with the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Philanthropy Awards, where great community leaders were highlighted. I always find it fascinating to see the young philanthropist, as they are the future of tomorrow.

And that’s it – the end of Congress 2016! Now, I got to drive back home with novel ideas to implement, new learnings to build on and some great new connections with other fundraisers. This event is very inspiring and gave me the tools to do my job even better than before. Thank you, Congress!