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AFP Southern Arizona: 2014 Charles R. Stephens Award Honoree

May 12, 2015

In 2014, the AFP Southern Arizona Chapter was designated a Friends of Diversity Chapter. In the past few months we presented two diversity programs thereby expanding awareness of topics in diversity. We doubled the number of diversity presentations offered by our chapter in previous years. By presenting one of these sessions at the Arizona Statewide conference in Tucson, Ariz., our audience was 5 times larger than in previous years.

The collective size of our audience from these two efforts grew from approximately 30 to a total of about 180 individuals. About 150 people attended the first session at the Arizona Statewide Conference, and about 30 individuals attended the second program at our regular Monthly Breakfast Meeting.

During the Arizona Statewide Conference, hosted by the AFP Southern Arizona Chapter on July 17, 2014, our breakfast keynote address featured an eye opening program. Vu Le presented We Are All Unicorns: Diversity and Cultural Competency in Fundraising.

Vu Le is director of the Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit based in Seattle which focuses on developing immigrant and refugee leaders and organizations. He spoke at length and about the pitfalls of cultural stereotypes. His presentation encouraged fundraisers to approach diverse populations with respect, understanding, and the necessary resources that allow full participation.

Our chapter’s monthly breakfast meeting on August 8, 2014, was also used to present and discuss important information about how we approach the topic of disabilities and the considerations we need to be aware of as fundraisers. Dr. Amanda Kraus, assistant director at the University of Arizona Disability Resource Center, was the speaker of a program titled Reframing Disability. Her program addressed how we frame disability in practice and its direct implications on our organizational membership outreach, development, and communication.  She introduced new ways of thinking about disability and discussed ways to represent disability progressively across our language and design.

These two presentations have encouraged additional discussion and implementation of ideas related to diversity. During the networking portion of the Arizona Statewide Conference, Vu Le’s message continued to be a hot topic. His plea to ask what works for other populations rather than assuming what they want even resonated when considering dinner menus.

Amanda Kraus’ presentation left us with practical strategies for serving disabled donors and clients. Suggestions included everything from disabled access to special events to ensuring printed materials and websites were accessible to those with limited vision. She cautioned fundraisers to address disabilities directly rather than labeling individuals with disparaging though well-meaning terms such as “special needs” and “wheel chair bound.”

Our board feels it is critical to address issues of diversity in order to build a welcoming and inclusive culture. Promoting understanding of many cultures will allow us to serve our profession and donors more effectively.  Currently the demographics of our community are not reflected among our board or members. As a Friends of Diversity chapter, we continue to implement a diversity plan and incorporate diversity awareness in our programming, board meetings, and membership recruitment.

Our board will hold a strategic planning retreat focused on long term goals. Both of these presentations will be fresh in our minds as we discuss how to improve the quality of our AFP chapter, and market our organization more efficiently. We intend to increase our recruitment efforts so that 30% our membership base and board come from Hispanic backgrounds. Our ultimate goal is a larger membership and board whose demographics reflect Southern Arizona’s population.

Every chapter can easily incorporate diversity programming into its regular monthly meeting schedule and conferences. By including a session at each chapter’s conference, preferably a keynote session, attendance at diversity presentations automatically grows. Those who might not attend regular monthly meetings are more likely to devote time to an annual conference.

In the case of Arizona, our conference rotates between 3 locations: Tucson, Phoenix, and Northern Arizona. In 2015, the conference will be hosted by the Northern Arizona Chapter. A board member from our Southern Arizona Chapter in Tucson will represent our interests during the planning process. Although we cannot require that another chapter offer diversity programming, we can advocate for a diversity presentation and lead by setting a successful example in our chapter.

Recruiting speakers who focus on diversity is not difficult. We suggest contacting local universities. In the case of Amanda Krause, she delivered her program for free because she believes in the importance of these conversations. Bringing in influential fundraisers of varied backgrounds from around the country can have a huge impact. The advantage of a speaker such as Vu Le, from another geographic area, is their objective view of diverse topics.  While diverse populations in Seattle, Wash., may be primarily Vietnamese, Samoan or from Eastern Europe, they share many of the same challenges as Hispanic residents and Somalian refugees in Tucson.

By adding the position of Diversity Chair to their board, each chapter can be assured that there is someone to focus on inclusion. The Chair essentially reminds the board of the need to represent diversity in all communications through visual images and written statements. The Chair is also responsible for recruiting a speaker for a monthly breakfast meeting.

Due to the success of this year’s programs, and our commitment to being a Friends of Diversity chapter, we will continue to include a diversity presentation annually and again in 2017 when we are slated to host our next statewide conference.



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