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Orange County Chapter Earns Charles Stephens Diversity Award

With the nomination period just announced for the Charles R. Stephens Award for Excellence in Diversity, it’s time to check in with one of our honorees from last year: the AFP Orange County Chapter.

The Orange County Chapter received the award last year for its comprehensive inclusion program that featured the Mosaic Scholarship Fund, which provides nonprofit professionals representing diverse groups in the community an opportunity to learn and explore fundraising strategies through involvement with the chapter and special programming.

To Better Serve the Community

Roughly five years ago, the AFP Orange County board, led by then chapter president Sally Lawrence, CFRE, developed and adopted goals of diversity and inclusion with a commitment to increase representation of nonprofit professionals serving the diverse needs of the county. The chapter aimed to create a welcoming environment that is open to all and appreciate the unique contributions of every member of the community. One of the goals of the chapter was to develop a membership base that reflects a broad representation of experiences, perspectives and cultures in order to build the best possible platform for innovative solutions and successful collaboration among all community partners.

The chapter started the planning process that evolved into the Mosaic Task Force, also referred to as the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, to oversee AFPOC’s broader diversity goals. One of the key strategies was the establishment and implementation of the Mosaic Scholarship Fund to address the need for professional development for diverse, underserved and underrepresented fundraisers and organizations.

“Creating a diversity program has to be a priority at the board level,” said Lawrence, who remains on the chapter board. “You must have members at the highest level of the chapter who believe in diversity and inclusion and can ensure that funding for those programs is prioritized. For example, Ray Bell was someone at our board level who was a real champion for this initiative and was involved in so many aspects of the program.”

The First Scholarships

After the first group of six Mosaic Scholarship recipients were chosen in 2014, Bell helped lead a chapter-wide survey to assess the values, interests and other views of the membership about the diversity initiative. The number of responses signaled to the board just how important the membership felt about the project, leading the chapter to approach and secure funding from CCS Fundraising for additional scholarships.

Recipients of the scholarship are connected to the chapter in a number of ways: mentors, bi-monthly Mosaic Task Force Committee discussions, monthly education seminars and luncheons on key topics relevant to fundraising and philanthropy. The monthly education seminars hosted by the chapter also serve as opportunities to educate other members about diversity and embracing a culture of philanthropy.

“It’s all about integrating the scholarship recipients into the chapter, ensuring a lot of good networking opportunities and letting them see the value of AFP and the chapter,” said Khushbindar Kaur Sood, CFRE, co-chair of the Mosaic Task Force Committee and past scholarship recipient. “As important as the educational opportunities are, making them feel part of the profession—understanding why it’s important that we come together as AFP—is equally critical. At the beginning, we weren’t sure if we were doing as good a job as possible of that, so we are constantly reviewing what we offer scholarship recipients and how we connect with them.”

The Mosaic Scholarship Fund awarded 11 individuals with chapter memberships as the second group in October 2015, allowing each member to benefit from resources through the chapter to strengthen fundraising within their organizations. Sood, one of the 11 who received the scholarships in 2015, went on to obtain a CFRE designation a year later and now actively serves as a co-chair of the task force.

The third cohort of recipients were chosen in September 2016; the chapter received 20 applications and awarded eight scholarships. Applications for the upcoming cohort will be available in August.

This year the task force helped organize the May educational and luncheon sessions, attended by over 50 nonprofit professionals in Orange County. The presenter was Iliana Soto Welty, executive director of the Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies and a current scholarship recipient. Welty works in the field of inter-ethnic relations and focuses on building the capacity of ethnic communities to have a voice, build civic leadership and create systems change to develop healthier communities.  She gave two sessions: “Orange County’s History and Diversity Through the Looking Glass,” a historical journey of key events in Orange County and discussion of community highlights and trends that make Orange County unique; and “Taking A Closer Look at Our Diversity,” where participants explored diversity through dialogue and interactive activities that encouraged building understanding of the foundations of culture, identify and perceptions.

Lessons Learned

The new chair of the project, Laura Corona Marcum, is a past scholarship recipient and serves on the chapter board. She shares that “it has been such a wonderful experience being a part of an organization (AFPOC) that makes diversity and inclusion a priority. Our scholarship program works to diversify our membership base in all ways, including gender, age and religious background. This program allows for an inclusive environment but more importantly, the scholarships we provide expose AFP to smaller nonprofits or younger professionals who would not be able to benefit otherwise." As a past scholarship recipient, Marcum sees the value of this initiative and takes an active role in integrating diversity in all aspects of AFPOC in her newly appointed role on the board of the chapter.

Lawrence emphasizes that the key is to figure out the role of your chapter in the community and the types of needs it must address. And remember that a diversity and inclusion program benefits not just individual members, but the organizations they work for and the chapter as a whole. “It’s a great chance for the chapter to really define what it is and what it does, and then help organizations understand the value that AFP provides.”

Steps for Your Chapter

The following are steps for the process that the Orange County Chapter initiated for the Mosaic Task Force and Scholarship Fund:

1. Adoption of diversity goals by the AFP chapter board at a broader level. A key champion should be identified to carry on this initiative.

2. Development of Diversity Plan by AFP chapter board for implementation by Diversity and Inclusion Committee (aka Mosaic Task Force). The plan should be updated annually.

3. Designate a board member to spearhead the Mosaic Task Force and report back on regular basis on progress, but being mindful of not hindering the creative process of the task force.

4. Initiate a survey to assess the membership’s thoughts, ideas and challenges pertaining to diversity and inclusion.

5. Designate funds for Scholarship Fund from AFP chapter budget. If needed, identify prospects for sponsorship.

6. Develop a scholarship application for Mosaic Scholarship Fund. Identify benefits, expectations and commitments as a recipient. Review by task force and AFPOC board. Review and interview scholarship applicants.

7. Once candidates have been selected, convene Mosaic Task Force. Review expectations and benefits. Encourage recipients to attend monthly meetings, networking mixers and webinars. Encourage recipients to participate in other committees.

8. Discuss topics on diversity with the Education/Program committee for consideration for future educational seminars or luncheon presentations. This would be an ongoing process.

9. Continue to raise funds for next year’s scholarship recipients and make adjustments as needed (in scholarship application, benefits or expectations as recipient, etc.)

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