Commitment over comfort: creating a more diverse and inclusive charity sector

I feel uncomfortable talking about race.

I am a white, middle-class British woman, and I am aware of the privilege that entails. I worry that I don’t have the right language. I worry that I don’t have the right approach. I worry, simply, that I don’t have the right. But I do believe I have the responsibility.

Last week NPC held a seminar at which they posed the question: Will the charity sector ever embrace diversity? Speaking at the event, Samuel Kasumu, co-founder of Inclusive Boards, said that the sector would not embrace diversity until we have a plan, leadership linked to that plan and a positive attitude about the change we want to create.

Leadership is key to making this change, and as the CEO of ACEVO that’s where my responsibility lies, both in terms of encouraging change across the sector and in driving change in my own organisation. I hope the report that ACEVO and Institute of Fundraising (IoF) have released today is the beginning of that plan and articulates the benefits that are available to charities that embrace equality and diversity to create inclusive workplaces.

In creating this document my colleagues and I have had conversations with a number of partners in the charity sector, many of whom had differing opinions on exactly what ACEVO should be doing. I hope that we have reflected the majority of these opinions in the document, but if we haven’t, please tell us. I recently wrote about the need for leaders to nurture a culture of continuous improvement and nowhere is that self-improvement more important than when we reflect on and change our own beliefs or actions to create a fairer, more equal and inclusive sector.

There will not be a one size fits all approach to improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the charity sector, and diversity is likely to look different in different organisations. We have chosen to ask leaders to commit to principles in order to encourage them to think about what they can do to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace that values diversity of thought and experience.

In order to focus our work, and because of the inexcusably low numbers of BAME representation in the charity sector, ACEVO’s primary focus, and the focus of this guide, is race. The guide we have launched today, uses the inclusion of BAME groups as a lens to think about diversity, but we recognise that other groups (including those given protection under the Equality Act 2010) are also under-represented. We hope that these same principles can also facilitate improved recruitment in those groups. We also recognise intersectionality and that an individual’s identity is not limited to one dimension.

ACEVO is asking its members and leaders across the charity sector, and wider civil society organisation that want to improve equality and diversity, to sign up to eight principles:

  1. Acknowledge that there is a problem with racial diversity in the charity sector and commit to working to change that.
  2. Recognise the important role leaders have in creating change by modelling positive behaviour and taking action.
  3. Learn about racial bias and how it impacts leadership decisions.
  4. Commit to setting permanent and minimum targets for diversity that reflect the participants, donors, beneficiaries and the population of the area that my organisation operates in.
  5. Commit to action and invest resources, where necessary, in order to improve racial diversity in my organisation.
  6. View staff as the sum of many parts rather than a single entity and recruit to build a diverse group of talented people collectively working towards a shared vision.
  7. Recruit for potential, not perfection.
  8. Value lived experience, the ability to draw from one’s lived experience and to bring insights to an organisation that can develop its work.

I personally commit to these principles, fully aware that practice at ACEVO could be improved. I do not want our work on this topic to be interpreted as the preaching of a leader who thinks she is getting it all right. I am not getting it all right, but I am committed to learning, to listening and to taking action. I recognise that there are networks, opportunities and power available to me as a CEO and as a representative of the voluntary sector that I can share with others in order to catalyse change.

To improve our own practice I commit to do the following over the next 12 months:

  • Provide all ACEVO staff and trustees with unconscious bias training.
  • Review our staff and trustee recruitment procedures to ensure they are inclusive.
  • Arrange for all staff that wish to, to have mentors that can help them realise their potential.
  • Work with our chair to set permanent and minimum diversity targets.
  • On an annual basis, beginning in March 2019 we will publish a breakdown of the diversity of our board, staff and membership alongside progress against the objectives set here.

Writing and releasing this report would not have been possible without the generosity of everyone who shared their knowledge with us. This report represents the way ACEVO wants to work and the way that the charity sector will achieve change. By working together as a collective we will create a more inclusive, impactful, and innovative charity sector. It won’t always feel comfortable, but I look forward to working with you to build a plan that generates change.


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