At the end of last year I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest of the AFP to their conference in Toronto, as part of a reciprocal agreement we have with North American fundraisers to share learning and best practice. Unlike the weather, the welcome from AFT Toronto and the conference delegates was wonderfully warm and inclusive, which just happened to reflect the learning and key theme of their conference.
Since then I’ve been considering the issues discussed by delegates. Having kicked around the voluntary and public sector for many years now, inclusivity is not a term that is unfamiliar to me. Actually it is one very close to my heart; but I have to admit that I hadn’t come across fundraisers giving it as serious attention until now.
Toronto opened my eyes to how we could approach this in the UK, and to lots of learning I think UK charities and UK fundraisers can benefit from.
Canada’s Inclusive Giving Project, launched in 2012, was a three-year initiative to strengthen diversity and philanthropy within the non-profit sector. It focused on understanding the giving traditions and interests of a wide range of communities in Ontario. One of its goals was to better understand and mobilize giving amongst a number of ethno-cultural and immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, women, youth, individuals with disabilities, Francophone-Ontarians and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered populations.
And while the project was started with the aim of discovering strategies to help strengthen the capacity of the not-for-profit sector in Ontario, the conversations and insights about giving and volunteering it has encouraged I believe have much to offer us in the UK.
Having already developed an online philanthropy and inclusion toolkit for fundraisers and donors, there was a whole track of seminars feeding back the learning from the project across three days, including an inspiring and insightful plenary, championing three philanthropists from diverse backgrounds.
It’s something I would love to emulate here in the UK. In the meantime I’d like to share some of the nuggets of wisdom I retained from the sessions with you.
Understanding culture is key. We were powerfully reminded that a huge amount of research had identified culture as one of the critical risk issues that the International Space Station had to consider as they engaged and selected astronauts from different nationalities. We should not ignore it as fundraisers.
And that cultural understanding then allows us to consider a range of factors that we as fundraisers can benefit from considering, some of which I’ll list below.
- Are you properly engaging with communities of interest in relation to your particular cause? For example Ken, a fundraiser from Indspire - a charity that works with indigenous communities in Canada - asked how many charities were specifically identifying their gay and lesbian supporters as potentially able to give larger legacy gifts, as they were less likely to have children?
- Have you considered whether you’re engaging with particular communities in an appropriate way? For example, an Indian philanthropist told a simple but very powerful story about being approached by a certain symphony orchestra. Their ask centered around taking him to a classical concert. But he had never listened to classical music before, didn’t know when to applaud and felt thoroughly uncomfortable throughout. He was then asked for a gift.
- Do you understand the philanthropic approaches – and causes – that interest your local communities? For example, an Imam explained that previously it was considered to be of higher value in Islamic society to give without taking credit, whereas now they were encouraging their philanthropists to make their donations public, so the wider community understand their generosity. A Jewish fundraiser explained that while for a period of time Jewish philanthropy had focused on survivors of the Holocaust, Jewish communities are now considering giving to a far wider range of causes. Similarly an Indian donor said that for many years his giving had been focused on causes in India, but as the country had become more affluent, he and fellow Indian Canadian philanthropists were already focusing their giving in Canada.
- Many causes cut across cultural divides. Mental health, cancer, homelessness are issues that affect and interest all communities, yet many charities still end up only approaching those communities they feel ‘comfortable’ asking for a gift. The Imam in Toronto told a wonderful story of the Mosque having to reach out to support the building of a local hospice, because the community hadn’t approached them for support, despite the fact the hospice was next door to the Mosque.
These learnings are just nuggets, and I would encourage all fundraisers to ask whether their teams (see the IoF report on Diversity in the profession) and the strategies you’re adopting are inclusive not just of techniques but also of communities and cultures.
For more information about the initiative, which includes a range of factsheets and research gathered by @afptoronto volunteers, visit www.afpinclusivegiving.ca