It’s time to make fundraising a more equal, diverse and inclusive profession

The Institute of Fundraising has this week launched a Change Collective that aims to improve diversity and inclusion within fundraising, says Sufina Ahmad

It’s no secret that there is an urgent need for action to massively improve equality, diversity and inclusion across the charity sector.  The Institute of Fundraising is building a movement to do just this within the fundraising sector.

The evidence highlights the issues starkly, despite improvements being made: 70% of fundraisers are women but only 27% of the top three most senior roles in charities are held by women. There are too few BAME and disabled fundraisers – not just lower representation than the national average, but lower than the percentage in the charity sector as a whole. Sadly we know that not all fundraisers feel confident enough to be open about their sexuality or gender identity in their workplaces, meaning we haven’t got enough information beyond ‘visible diversity’, such as education, economic background and faith.

In the fundraising community, we know a lot about the reasons and causes for the lack of equality, diversity and inclusion in the sector.  However, at the Institute we know that there can be no delays in pushing forward to make real and positive change within the fundraising sector.  That’s why we are launching the Change Collective, a sector-wide movement to join the Institute to change the status quo. The guiding principles, objectives and activities are set out clearly in a ‘Manifesto for Change’ which provides the backbone for the strategy we will develop to tackle equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising community.

So how do we tackle this critical issue?

First and foremost, we need to reject tokenistic approaches, and instead focus on creating long-term momentum that ensures that no matter characteristics or the way these intersect, you will be the “right fit” for the profession. I’m proud to work with the Institute, the membership body for professional fundraisers in the UK, to chair their work on embedding diversity in the fundraising community. With a panel of fundraisers with lived experience of the discrimination that exists plus equality, diversity and inclusion experts we have been working to inform the Institute on how we can move forward – and also take the whole community with us. As a British Pakistani woman living and working in London, it has been a privilege to discuss these issues openly and without fear of discrimination. Through the Panel’s work, we have been able to highlight key issues and offer solutions that have been prioritised for the benefit of the entire community.

The manifesto is based on a theory of change model, and clearly and concisely captures what needs to be done to change the state of play.  It will inform the Institute as they continue on this journey. It outlines enablers and activities that will help the Institute to achieve their outcomes, which are:

  1. To make entry into the profession diverse at all levels.
  2. Progression and retention within the profession is based on merit.
  3. Fundraising is, and is acknowledged to be, an equal, diverse and inclusive profession.

In order to achieve this, I strongly recommend you read the manifesto and 15 key activities, no matter what your profession or sector, to tackle entry, progression and build an inclusive profession. There are clear and tangible actions – such as banning unpaid internships and engaging diverse graduates – that the Institute, members and stakeholders will take on our journey to a better fundraising profession.

Second, sign up to be a member of the Change Collective and help us spread the word to your teams, your colleagues and your peers. This is a long-term project and there will be indicators of progress along the way – flashlights that will indicate we’re successfully chipping away at the problem.

This won’t be without its challenges and there will be tough conversations to be had within organisations. But I believe we all need to be better at challenging the obstacles that hold us back – within ourselves and our causes. I’m glad to be part of the solution in a proactive way, and I strongly urge you and your organisations to join too.

Sufina Ahmad is chair of Institute of Fundraising’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion panel