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#inclusivegiving at AFP Congress

December 8, 2014

By Lisa MacDonald 

What does LGBT philanthropy, engaging the next generation in giving, intercultural competence and observations from the South Asian community on the changing nature of philanthropy have in common?

More than you might expect.

Attending multiple sessions on #inclusivegiving at AFP Congress last week opened my eyes to the many ways that issues of diversity intersect with philanthropy and the fundraising community.  These were no-holds-barred sessions that encouraged attendees to "lean into their discomforts" as sensitive taboo-topics were raised: tokenism, stereotypes, biases, persecution, homophobia, politics, activism and so on. And why is this conversation about culture and philanthropy so important? As Ken Aucoin, Vice President of Development at Inspire and one of the coordinators of the LGBT Philanthropy Conference simply put it, "The donor base is going to change. We need to understand and accept it. There are opportunities with new communities."


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Recap: The project

The Diversity to Inclusion in Philanthropy Series focused on understanding the philanthropic traditions and interests of diverse communities in Ontario while offering inclusion-oriented education, training and networking activities for Ontario-based nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, volunteers and donors.

Organized by the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, in cooperation with the Association of Fundraising Professionals Toronto and Ottawa chapters, the multi-year initiative, funded through the province of Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s Partnership Project Office, featured a series of one-day conferences, each focused on the charitable activities of one distinct community group.  The selected groups included:

  • African-Caribbean
  • Chinese 
  • Disabilities 
  • Franco-Ontarian 
  • Hispanic 
  • Indigenous 
  • Jewish 
  • Muslim 
  • NextGen (younger donors)
  • Sexual Diversity 
  • South Asian 
  • Women 

Themes: What did we learn?

Well, to start with, "one size fits all" doesn't work, and this is only the beginning of a much bigger conversation that requires more data, more analysis and more education and training. But the good news is that with this learning series, the conversation has been started! 

Hamlin Grange, President and co-founder of DiversiPro Inc. and Chair African and Caribbean Advisory Group, noted that in 2009 he was the only presenter at Congress doing a session on diversity.  Five years later, diversity and inclusion had become a key focus to the conference. As he also reminded us, "You often don't see a thing—until you're told to pay attention to it."

Another presenter, Ratna Omidvar, executive director, global diversity and migration exchange at Ryerson University, focused on the fact that representation and engagement make a huge difference in philanthropy. “People want to be seen and accepted by the part of Canada," she said.

"Intersection" was a term that kept surfacing in the diversity sessions I attended.  It was clear that the idea of sub-groups within minority groups is a very important concept and that the "diversity within diversity" is a critical factor that can't be missed.  All speakers encouraged attendees to look for points of commonality instead of just focusing on differences. Primary dimensions of diversity include: age, sex, race, and ethnicity.  Yet each individual is the sum of the dimensions of our diversity and in fundraising. It really does come down to a market of one: discovering what is unique about that one donor.

In 10 years?

At the conclusion of the LGBT panel discussion, the speakers were asked to envision diversity in ten years from now. Consensus was clear. In ten years, diversity will be mainstream with much more growth in philanthropic initiatives in diverse communities. One of the closing statements by LGBT panelist  Sharon Shelton (also Executive Director at Tropicana Community Services) had the ring of optimism and anticipation. "I can picture it," she said. "Diversity will be the true inclusion."

The twelve papers resulting from The Inclusive Giving Project are available online in both English and French.  Download them from the AFP Canada website at

As the editor of Gift Planning in Canada, and AFP eWire Canada, Lisa MacDonald helps frontline fundraisers stay connected with current trends and best practices across the country.  As the in-house book editor for Hilborn's imprint Civil Sector Press, Lisa has edited seven titles including the best seller - Excellence in Fundraising in Canada. Contact her at  or connect on Twitter, @lisalmacdonald.

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