Diversity and inclusion have been on the top of the agenda for the third sector for the last few years, and there has been a vast number of blogs, podcasts, and articles written about the topic. We thought it was about time to speak on the subject from our perspective and give you some insight from black fundraisers in the sector. The sector needs to treat diversity and inclusion like biodiversity in nature; it is critical for life to flourish. Just like in nature, the environment is the first step.
Environment is key
For organisations thinking about engaging with black or ethnic minority fundraisers, it can be challenging to know where to start if you are not already on that journey. Well, the first place to start is with your staff and your existing environment. Very few individuals want to join an organisation that does not appear to represent things they are interested in or align with who they are as a person. Gone are the days that people join organisations and stay for life; we want our work environments to be more fulfilling and comfortable. We spend on average 90,000 hours of our life at work, so it makes sense that the workplace should be as welcoming as possible. Start by talking to your staff and getting a better understanding of the environment you have created. We sometimes make the mistake of forgetting about the people we already have around us.
If your workplace is not diverse, think about getting someone in from outside to give a different view. There are plenty of firms in the sector that conduct diversity audits and reviews of charities and social enterprises. These include The Equality Academy; The Diversity Trust; Charity So white and many others, but if you search you will find more. If budget is a concern, then you may wish to approach another charity that is either on the same path as you but a little further along or is more diverse than yours. The review should look at all aspects of the organisation from the board to the process of recruitment and internally and externally. Although your staff may not be very diverse, it is likely that your beneficiaries are as we live in a multi-cultural society.
Setting your aims and targets
Too often, people think that having the ambition of being more diverse is enough and then struggle to see a result because they have not thought beyond the aspiration. Set targets around your external and internal image; advertising, application and welcoming processes; communications; HR and management systems. These targets should be SMART but flexible enough to ensure you are not trying to force things to adapt too rapidly. The target will need to have a lead at SMT and board level to ensure real buy-in. Anything else may result in the feeling of resentment and frustration for your SMT and staff, which creates a terrible environment. Most important is setting KPIs and proactively tracking to see success or where adjustments are needed.
Advertising and wider recruitment
We all know that finding the right person for the role can be difficult and costly. So having an adequate budget set aside is essential but thinking about the whole process and understanding whether it is fit for purpose is critical. Where are you advertising? What networks can you access, both locally and further afield? What’s included in the advert? Are all the criteria that you mark as ‘necessary’ really needed? Could some of the criteria be a barrier for some communities? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself in the process. Removing unnecessary obstacles to the application process is an essential requirement. So, thinking about whether each requirement or essential criteria is really necessary for the role is vital.
If you are advertising in the same places and wondering why you are not getting a diverse range of candidates, you should not be surprised. That is not to say the candidates will be of a lower quality, but you must engage with communities where they are, not where you would like them to be. Afterall, you can only appoint from the people who apply, and you can only apply if you see the advert. So, where can we go and what networks are there to tap into? A little research is important to ensure you are engaging the networks close to your organisation. These might include networks like BYP (Black Young Professional network), Vercida – network for black and Asian professionals, BF-UK, the Ubele Initiative and many more.
Shortlisting and interviews
Reducing unconscious bias in the process is one of the first steps, which may require training for your staff. The process of reviewing applications needs to be blind in the sense that critical identifiers such as names, address locations, specific hobbies, etc., should be removed (known as anonymous recruitment, anonymised recruitment or blind recruitment). Despite training, it is hard to overcome our own experiences and a lifetime of external influence. Many identifiers can indicate a person’s background that are hard to miss.
Initial interviews are one of the first times candidates are introduced to your organisation, and the panel needs to be a clear indication of how your organisation thinks about diversity. Choosing a diverse panel is such an easy way to seem more welcoming to your new staff. Obviously, this depends on your existing staffing, but you may consider including a beneficiary or individuals from your donors or local corporate partners team. Besides, funders and donors love this type of approach and can be included in your applications. That one is free!
Seeking potential over the finished article
We as a sector need to ensure we are seeking potential and not just the finished article. The fear of failure has crippled the speed of change in our industry, and we need to stop restricting progress. If we keep ignoring potential, we will miss out on our opportunities for growth and innovation. What does seeking potential mean in practice? Well, we are talking about selecting candidates that have room for growth and development. Not just selecting the finished article who comes with all the bells and whistles we would like to have. We need more candidates who can show innovative thinking and are ready to explore different approaches.
Some of these approaches might fail, but they might succeed. Be prepared for the risk of failure. Afterall, Edison went through 1,000 experiments before getting it right and now we have the lightbulb. Innovation at its core depends on two factors: creativity and implementation. So, in a sector that is constantly seeking new donors and supporters to fund our causes we must seek new ideas and approaches, which cannot come from everyone thinking the same way.
Onboarding and support structures
By this point, you should have already created or are in the process of creating a welcoming environment for recruits. We know that having a welcoming and engaging environment is essential for staff retention with 1/3 of British workforce being unhappy in their current role. So, the onboarding process should provide a great introduction to your organisation and the internal environment that they are joining. Feeling supported is critical in the early stage and beyond; we have all been there as staff feeling unsupported, so having a great support structure in place is needed. Little things like having a point of contact in relevant departments, to having an assigned mentor at work. Videos and interactive sessions to inform the recruits understanding of your organisation. Introductions to key aspects of health and wellbeing available within the organisation. We know that having a space to raise concerns without fear of losing our jobs is fundamental to a welcoming and nurturing environment.
Being realistic and clear on your staff’s expectations and allowing room for them to develop in the role is vital, but this should be a compromise in the early stages to get them up to speed with your organisation. Many of us in fundraising are guilty of unrealistic expectations. But not recognising it is a genuine problem. A flourishing sector invests in development opportunities, continuous improvement and the space to do it with funds set aside being imperative.
Many aspects play a significant role in how your aspiration for a more diverse workforce plays out in the end. Still, these six steps are great first strides into becoming a better and more inclusive workplace that champions diversity.