Reflections on a journey towards a more inclusive sector
Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, reflects on the HR Network and our #ChangeCollective movement – and acknowledges that it’s important that debates on this subject take place so that we can explore and continue to learn.
I had the pleasure of speaking at the Charities HR Network annual conference this week, a room jam packed with directors of people and HR in charities from around the UK, sharing and learning from each other.
I was there to talk about the work the Institute has been doing on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the fundraising profession; about our Manifesto for Change developed by our Expert Panel on EDI; and our #ChangeCollective campaign to get our profession to become one where everyone feels that they’re the right fit.
It was an excellent event, I had lots of useful conversations with HR people from across the sector, and had lots of great questions during my session. I left with a clear feeling of common cause between HR professionals and fundraisers in relation to creating a more equal, diverse and inclusive profession. There was tangible enthusiasm for working with us and supporting us on key activities set out in the Manifesto for Change, including the recruitment toolkit we are planning to develop, and our work to develop an exemplar flexible working policy. I was, and am, genuinely delighted by the engagement and energy that the Manifesto for Change and #ChangeCollective campaign have sparked, with one HR director saying that it was the most practical approach to delivering change in this area she had ever seen.
At the same time, I had several conversations with people about how difficult it is to create change, and how this can be a sensitive area when we are talking about how to tackle systemic inequalities. Indeed one of the questions I was asked was triggered by the article published by Third Sector a few weeks ago based on a concern that the person appointed to project manage our EDI activity is a white man.
I explained my and our approach, that it is an agenda I’m personally committed to, and that I understand there are rightly strong feelings about the right way to take forward work in this area, not just within the IoF, but throughout the charity sector more broadly. I also believe it’s important that debates take place so that we can explore and talk through issues. Inclusiveness doesn’t just mean listening to people that agree with you – it’s not an exercise in group think. It means recognising and understanding that people have different views, ideas, and opinions, and ensuring that those are brought into, not excluded from, the conversation.
And we have tried to do that throughout the development of our work in this area. We knew we needed to bring in different perspectives and expertise to drive forward our EDI ambitions, and established our Expert Panel, with people both of lived experience of the prejudice that exists, and policy expertise in this area to lead our work. We have all learnt a huge amount from Panel members, the discussions we’ve had and the wider engagement that has triggered over the course of the development of the Manifesto for Change and our strategy, which will be launched at Fundraising Convention in July.
Based on the strength of the work of the Panel, and the importance of EDI to the profession, our Board of Trustees, outside our budget cycle, agreed extra resource last autumn to drive forward our activity in this area, in the form of a new part time Project Manager role. As a staff team we moved quickly last year to recruit into that role, carefully choosing to focus our advertising through the EDI Forum (now Equally Ours), and through the networks of our Panel members in addition to all our usual channels. We had a diverse group of candidates at longlist and shortlist stage, and the process and panel interviews were made up of senior staff here at IoF, all with long experience of fair recruitment processes.
At that time were we aware that the appointment of a white man into the role might raise debate and discussion? Yes, we were. But we were confident that we had selected the candidate with the broadest experience and expertise in EDI and project management to support the work of the Expert Panel and the wider staff team in delivering our Change Collective agenda.
We will be discussing all the issues raised at the Expert Panel meeting in June, and will feed our learning into all our future work, including informing the planned recruitment toolkit to help everyone across the sector recruit in a more equal, diverse and inclusive way. Will all of this learning also inform our recruitment practices moving forward? Yes it will.
The EDI Panel’s role was always time limited until Fundraising Convention this year, where we will launch the EDI Strategy developed by the Panel, and a new formal EDI Committee of the Institute. In early June we will be launching the biggest ever survey of the diversity of the fundraising profession in partnership with PWC, and insight on how the profession is perceived as a career in partnership with YouGov. Later in July we have our Facing the Change co-creation event, in partnership with brap, to develop our approach to Affinity Networks and Role Models, both identified as a priority by the Expert Panel.
In the meantime I’d love for you to get involved in our work in this area through our Manifesto for Change and the #ChangeCollective. Sign up to hear more on our website. We are absolutely committed to delivering on this agenda, and to learning on the way.
Peter Lewis is Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising.