The Inclusive Fundraiser: 3 ways to battle your bias

If you want to be a more inclusive fundraiser, you need to start with yourself first.

One of the most challenging things you’ll wrestle with in this work is identifying and dealing with your own implicit biases.

Change starts with you – but you have to be willing to work at it!

Let’s look at a few different ways you can start battling your own biases.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll end up feeling uncomfortable along the way – I’d be worried if you didn’t!

Discomfort is an important part of growth. In fact, it can often guide you to the place you most urgently need to pay attention.

Do conversations about racism and white privilege make you squirm? Do you find yourself proclaiming your "colourblindness" when faced with cultural differences?

Then you’ve found yourself a great place to start.

Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington have developed a tool called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). It’s a free on-line test that measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report.

So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and see discomfort as a signal to dig a little deeper.

Notice when you’re being influenced by bias

Take the time to self-reflect, and notice when your responses, decisions and behaviours have been influenced by stereotypes and bias.

Notice that’s when you have been influenced by implicit bias, not if – it’s pretty much a guarantee that bias impacts the choices you make each and every day.

While bias shows up everywhere in your day to day work, there is nowhere it has a greater impact than the hiring process. In the U.S., white people hold more than 80% of the leadership roles in the non-profit sector (don’t feel too self-righteous, Canada and beyond – I assure you, we have a similar problem).

A recent must-read report called Race to Lead identified implicit bias as significant barrier for leadership candidates of colour.

Recruiters and boards are hiring leaders based on undefined intangibles like “cultural fit” - a notion that is loaded with bias, and often an excuse to hire someone who looks like them, acts like them, and thinks like them.

Is your organization still hiring based on the notion of cultural fit? Maybe it’s time to start a conversation about the ways looking for “cultural fit” in a candidate can cross the line into employment discrimination.

Don’t trust your gut!

Everyone from Oprah to Malcolm Gladwell has touted the idea of following your intuition when faced with a difficult decision.

Trouble is, your intuition is not immune to implicit bias. In fact, it may be quite the opposite.

That feeling in your gut is simply our unconscious mind – and your unconscious is the place most of your biases first take up residence!

While your gut can serve you well in certain situations, make sure you're using your head when it comes to identifying and overcoming implicit bias.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list - just a few ideas to get you started on addressing implicit bias in your own work. If you have additional resources to share with other readers, please leave a comment below.

The Inclusive Fundraiser series will be taking a break for a couple of weeks, but we’ll be back to talk about how we can advocate for greater diversity, equity and inclusion at our non-profit organizations.

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