One of this site's aims is to make the third sector more collaborative. So, with this in mind, I wanted to bring something that's been on my mind to this forum to ask you all what you think…
I fear that we are failing to promote diversity and inclusion in the charity sector - and that we are losing out.
Let me tell you why.
I have met very few black fundraisers. Fewer still in senior roles. Even fewer for whom English is a second language. I haven't met any fundraisers who would be classed as having a disability. I haven't met many over 50. We still struggle with gender equality. And I live in London - one of the most diverse cities in the UK (if not, the world).
This is a problem. Simply put: we are missing an opportunity. We aren't representing the world around us. Our donors, our customers, our beneficiaries - they don't just look like us; they look like everyone.
The most eloquent and simple analogy I have come across is ketchup - originally via Gimlet Media's podcast Reply All (skip to 24 minutes and 30 seconds in if you’re interested). The theory goes something like this:
In some cultures, you keep your ketchup in the cupboard
In others, you keep your ketchup in the fridge
If two people run out of ketchup, the condiments they choose instead will be very different - depending on whether they’re looking for the next best thing in the fridge or the cupboard. And, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to look for ketchup in a stranger’s house, you will look in the place you would normally put it. You wouldn’t think to look anywhere else; your life experiences haven’t encouraged that thinking. If you can't find it, you will assume the ketchup isn't there.
The danger arises when your teams - if they all come from similar backgrounds - all come to the same (potentially wrong) conclusions. They don't know any differently to you, so will follow your lead. But that doesn't mean the answer hasn't been in the fridge the whole time.
What about your beneficiaries? Your supporters? Will they be looking for their ketchup in the same place as you are?
Harvard's Project Implicit study into unconscious bias shows that humans are attracted to familiarity, and that we have an innate preference towards people who look, sound and think like us. It's not inconceivable to think that we are (unconsciously) hiring teams of people who also look, sound and think like us. It's human nature.
So, how can we overcome it? The first step to be aware of it. Check yourself - be consciously aware of the decisions you make. Take active steps to hire people from different backgrounds. Encourage your teams to be representative of the communities you serve. Don't frame diversity as a box-ticking exercise, or a nice-to-have: frame it as a fundamental part of your charity's survival...
... And, if in doubt, ask potential candidates where they keep their ketchup.