Fundraisers have been challenged not to use the coronavirus pandemic and the looming recession as an excuse to delay having conversations about equality in the sector.
Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s virtual fundraising convention as part of a panel session on diversity and inclusion in the fundraising and charity sector, the fundraising consultant Jaz Nannar said that, despite increased momentum across the voluntary sector to commit to equality, some people had said to her that they were “not quite sure if this is the time to be having this conversation”, given the current crisis and likely future recession.
But she added: “If not now, then when? And what does it say about where the power and privilege lie if you’d like us to wait longer because the timing isn't great for you now.”
She said although the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd had highlighted the structural inequalities that existed, she asked charities to consider what they were doing before the outbreak to tackle the issues.
Nannar said charities should look at what they were “doing for black and brown people, like me, pre-this current spotlight” when it came to issues including timely cancer diagnosis, treatment for mental health and other health issues.
She said that, when looking through charities’ brand guidelines and strategy documents, she had been hard pressed to find rules written on inequality and exclusion in strategies, in goals and in their measures of success.
“Equality, diversity and inclusion, if it’s done well, exists centrally to your strategy and how you’re going about your work”, Nannar said.
Also speaking on the panel was Lena Bheeroo, committee member at the campaign group CharitySoWhite, who echoed that view on the effect of strategy and structure on inclusivity.
“The problem with framing the discussion around diversity and inclusion is that it becomes a shield and far too often an excuse,” she said. “What is needed instead is a conversation about power and privilege, and by power and privilege we mean the ability of organisations and individuals to set the agenda. We want to see the shift in this power.
“We ca start to dismantle the structures in place and shift that power only once individuals and organisations recognise the power they have.”
As well as the sector’s power imbalance, Bheeroo addressed the need to trust the BAME voluntary sector.
“To best reach those most affected by the crisis, we need to work with organisations that work closest to them," she said.
Bheeroo urged organisations to “avoid knee-jerk relief efforts and ensure they have built in the mechanism to work directly with community leaders”.