Making fundraising for everyone

Making fundraising for everyone

Peter Lewis and Sufina Ahmad | 29 August 2018

It’s been six months since the Institute of Fundraising launched the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Panel. In that time, our expert panel, has analysed the current state of affairs and drawn out the specific issues that we need to address in order to increase the diversity of the fundraising profession.

The panel has also insisted that this is not just about equality and diversity, but also about how the Institute can lead the way in helping the fundraising community become more inclusive.

It became apparent from the first EDI Panel meeting that there was both a deep feeling of injustice about the current state of affairs, but also a commitment and energy to help us do the right things. The panel was clear we shouldn’t rush into immediate action, but rather make sure we do the right thinking before we launch into new initiatives.

Evidence from outside the sector showed specific programmes worked to address inequalities similar to those within the fundraising profession. We knew that pricing and prejudice were two key factors preventing some people from diverse backgrounds from attending events. So our panel guided us to launch our first ever Diversity Access Fund to enable a wider diversity of fundraisers to attend Fundraising Convention.

We were overwhelmed by the response to the access fund. From 43 applications we were able to award 23 bursaries to people. The fund covered the ticket price, travel and accommodation costs so more people could participate in, and contribute to Convention.

And the benefits are mutual. We as the Institute, and the fundraising community more widely, benefit from the contributions of a greater diversity of experiences and knowledge. The feedback from those who attended through the access fund has been of an incredibly rich and powerful learning experience. Win, win! A programme we will need to grow over time.

Fundraising Convention also gave us another platform to tease out the dialogue around diversity. Our sessions on the challenges faced by women, LGBT+ and BAME fundraisers were well attended, and included powerful stories and advice to delegates wishing to better understand issues, share their experiences or take action.

We heard from women about casual sexual harassment, their struggles for equal recognition and seniority; from people whose sexual identity had lost them professional opportunities; and those who were being stereotyped into tasks and roles that were associated with their ethnicity.

The panel is also keen to ensure we have a better diversity of speakers moving forward. We made a start this year and are already planning how to ensure we have a much greater diversity of speakers across the whole of Convention moving forward.

And we have had many offers of support, from both individuals and agencies. We like the pro-bono ones best! So a particular thanks to Open, Good Agency and Burnetts for their respective help. Much appreciated.

But we still have a long way to go to meet our vision of an equal, diverse and inclusive profession. The current priority is to finalise our theory of change and turn it into a plan of action. We know people are anxious for more action, but we are adamant we need to do the right thinking first.

The need for action, the need to do things differently, and the need to allocate resources differently to make a difference must be recognised. Gaining buy-in for this from the fundraising community, CEOs and trustees and the wider sector is likely to be our immediate priority.

We know there are many advocates for EDI out there already, but there are also people turning a blind eye and happy to accept the ‘same old, same old’ practices that will result in the same type of people entering the profession. We need to win hearts and minds and inspire people to do things differently. And we welcome the Government and Charity Commission’s commitment to support the sector in this endeavour as outlined in the new Civil Society Strategy.

The panel is likely to recommend that we identify role models with integrity (‘real’ models, as some are saying) – fundraisers, CEOs and trustees with lived experience of the prejudices and barriers that exist, and who will be figureheads for this work, as well as give real time, support and inspiration to others to enter and progress within fundraising.

We also know that recruitment practices will need to change, unconscious biases will need to be identified and managed, and organisations will need to use different channels to recruit their staff. Unpaid internships will need to stop, and flexible working practices should be fully embedded and publicised.

Another priority is likely to be undertaking more research. We know women are not proportionately represented at a senior level in fundraising teams, but do we really know why this is? We need to find out. We suspect, but have no data to show, that BAME, LGBT+ and disabled fundraisers once in the profession also do not progress equally. We need more research to understand the barriers that exist, in order to identify the right actions to remove the barriers and enable people to progress within the profession based on merit.

While identifying areas where the fundraising community performs worse than society at large, the panel also acknowledged that many of the issues faced by BAME, disabled and LGBT+ people, are also issues within society at large. But that should not be a message for complacency, that needs to be seen as a challenge for us to live up to our values, to make sure we can do better than society at large. We should endeavour to help tackle differential employment rates for disabled or BAME people and ensure that anyone who is LGBT+ feels confident enough to be open about their sexuality or sexual identity in the workplace.

Finally, the panel is already clear that the Institute should also continue its journey towards chartered status, confirming fundraising as a true profession, that people from all communities will want to get involved in as a career. And within that we need to be seen not just as a profession but, as stated in our vision, as an equal, diverse and inclusive one.


The IoF Board will discuss progress and priorities at its next meeting in September, as will the panel later in October to agree next steps.

Watch this space, and please do contact Peter if you want to help us on our journey.


Peter Lewis, CEO at Institute of Fundraising and Sufina Ahmad, Corporate Strategy Manager at City of London



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