How to help your non-profit weather the storm of rising intolerance

Fundraisers in Canada and across the Western world find themselves serving their stakeholders in an era of unprecedented political, economic and social division.

I had the honour of facilitating a panel on this very topic last week at AFP Fundraising Day here in Toronto – it was a wide ranging and illuminating conversation about diversity and inclusion in our sector with leaders Hamlin Grange, Ann Rosenfield, Philip Wong and Ken Wyman.

It's a complex topic, and it's hard to do it justice in a brief blog – but I wanted to share just a few of my personal takeaways in this week’s post.

The antidote to polarization

We are living in a polarized environment, and Diversity and Inclusion Strategist Hamlin Grange says our non-profits need to make some serious adjustments in order to navigate that new environment.

Hamlin believes we need to roll up our sleeves, and get curious!

I think curiosity has been emerging as a bit of superpower – it’s one of the most important skills you can have as a leader and fundraiser, and in this era of division, it’s ever more important for us to cultivate curiosity in our conversations with donors, colleagues and other stakeholders.

This idea has been backed up by some interesting research out of Yale about the polarization of political opinion on scientific matters such as climate change - curiosity was identified as a strong antidote for countering biased thinking about science.

Does all this have you feeling curious? You can read more of Hamlin’s perspective on the damaging politics of polarization on his blog, and more about the study on curiosity and scientific bias here.

Be ready for the rage donation

Ann Rosenfield is an American, an award winning non-profit professional, and a founding board member of Rainbow Railroad, an organization that works and fundraises globally to help LGBTQ people escape state-enabled violence.

Over the past year, Rainbow Railroad has seen their donations increase ten-fold, in response to a rise in news stories about violence against LGBTQ communities, like the persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya.

This time last year, Rainbow Railroad had raised $30,000 – and this year, they’ve already blasted past the $300,000 mark.

Is your organization ready for the rise of the rage donation? How are you making sure it’s easy for donors to give, if they are moved to take action by a news story?

Google the meaning of entitlement and privilege

Philip Wong, Director of Development at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and co-chair of the LGBT Giving Network’s Advisory Board, shared a great, pithy quote with the room that I can’t resist passing on here:

"If you can look up how to make a soufflé online, you can google the meaning of entitlement and privilege. You can't expect people to meet you halfway on an issue if you don't do your homework."

This quote makes a great point.

Don’t understand what intersectionality means, or cis-gendered? Or how your privilege protects and benefits you on a daily basis?

Exercise those curiosity muscles, and do some research. Educate yourself, take responsibility, and don’t depend on others to do the work for you.

Nothing about us, without us

Or, in the wise words of the Ken Wyman, no donations without representation.

Ken has 35 years of fundraising experience, and has been a driving force with the Humber Fundraising Management program since its founding.

If you serve a community, and raise money from a community, people from that community must be on your board - Ken suggested the idea of starting a volunteer diversity task force to widen your circle of potential board members.

Our panelists all agreed – the tone starts at the top. We urgently need to see senior leaders in our organizations stepping up, and taking action on diversity and inclusion in our sector.

What do you think? What action must we take as individuals and organizations to tackle the rise of intolerance? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Special thanks to Cheryl Blackman, AFP senior volunteer extraordinaire, and AVP Audience Development at the Royal Ontario Museum (this panel was her brainchild!), and to all our panelists for sharing their thoughts and insights.

If you're interested in this topic, I’d strongly recommend following these folks on Twitter – here’s where you can find them:

Cheryl Blackman - @cblack1025

Hamlin Grange - @HamlinGrange; @Diversipro

Ann Rosenfield - @AnnBRosenfield

Philip Wong - @MediaWong

Ken Wyman - @KenWyman

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