Why grant-givers and fundraisers need to work together to create a diverse sector

Why grant-givers and fundraisers need to work together to create a diverse sector

Guest Bloggers | 13 May 2019

The Grant Giver’s Movement, which explores the best ways in which philanthropy can be used to advance social change, have been in discussions with the IoF on our shared objectives of increasing equality, diversity and inclusion within fundraising and grant-giving. The movement explains how and why they are pushing for this change.

A brave new voice within the structures we seek to challenge

The Grant Giver’s Movement sprung from the enthusiasm of alumni of the Ten Years’ Time Grant Givers Programme; a seminar series which brings people working in the grant giving sector together, to take a step back from the microcosms of their own organisations and look critically at the sector more widely. It encourages grant givers to challenge the status-quo on issues such as where endowments are invested, where power lies, systems change and the role of philanthropy in tackling some of society’s most pressing problems.

As the programme concluded, inspired participants needed a place where they could channel their energy and ideas; united by both a strong belief in the power that foundations have in bringing about positive change in the world and a realisation that the changes needed in our own organisations are not often encouraged or even heard.

Given the hierarchical structure of foundations and the often solitary nature of our roles, many find it hard to challenge the views of our trustees and senior leadership. To push such ‘progressive’ and ‘radical’ ideas such as making the foundation sector more equitable, accountable and transparent we wanted to build a collective voice and movement from within.

Taking the pulse: Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Growing quickly in membership in 2018, our first activity was to conduct a ‘Sector Pulse Survey’ on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion because we were concerned that a lack of diversity would be at the root of many other issues we care about. Distributed through our own mailing list and other grant-giving networks, the survey was completed by 135 grant-making staff, CEOs, trustees and consultants working within a variety of grant-making organisations.

Some findings of the survey were concurrent with voices from other main bodies and served to reinforce what we as a sector already know – that trustee boards of foundations continue to be overwhelmingly white, male and middle class, and that the sector continues to value ‘professional’ experience over ‘lived experience’.

But the survey also highlighted worrying insight into the impact a lack of diversity might be having on the decisions grant givers make. An overwhelming 84% of respondents felt that the lack of diversity at trustee level influences who charities recruit to their own boards and perhaps even influences the individuals they recruit as staff. Even more concerning is that 70% of respondents felt that trustee and staff diversity levels affect which organisations receive funding.

Our interpretation of this feedback is that some charities led by working class or BAME leaders may feel pressure to appoint board members or even fundraisers who reflect the organisations that finance them – rather than representatives from the communities they serve – in order to be seen as ‘fundable’.

In this way, grant-giving organisations could be unconsciously encouraging charitable organisations to imitate them to better their chances of funding, impeding social mobility, diversity and inclusion within the sector. At the same time as we hear charities being questioned on their own lack of diversity from funders who may not be leading by example.

If patterns of privilege are allowed to perpetuate, power dynamics are strengthened

For these reasons, we see a real overlap in the work that the Institute of Fundraising is doing with the #ChangeCollective movement. The fundraising profession is less diverse than the charity sector as a whole, and less diverse than UK society, and as a result there are implications on the power dynamics of organisations.

We believe these findings are important to you as fundraisers because they present an obstacle to the Institute of Fundraising’s Manifesto for Change which sets out a journey for a more equal, diverse and inclusive fundraising profession, where fundraising is seen as a career choice for people of all backgrounds and is made up of people which reflect UK society. If a lack of diversity in grant-giving organisations is reflected across the charity sector, then we have an urgent duty to address it throughout the entire sector.

We met with Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, to share our findings and he immediately invited us to connect with you, the membership, and the #changemakers within IoF’s Manifesto for Change.

We are concerned this is just the tip of the iceberg and want to work with fundraisers to build a collective voice which highlights these realities and together begins to harness the power to erode them.

Find out more about the work we are doing and help us open up the conversation between funders and fundraisers here.

The Grant Givers' Movement sets out to make the voices heard of those involved in trusts and foundations.


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