Reflecting the World
By Patrick Feeley
On a recent Air Canada flight, an article from the airlines’ President and CEO, Calin Rovinescu, entitled Reflecting Our World caught my eye. In it, Mr. Rovinescu highlights the following bold strategic corporate objective: “From promoting diversity and inclusion to building a workforce made up of people from a wide array of cultures, traditions and languages, Air Canada aims to reflect the nations’ social and cultural fabric—that of unity in diversity.”
I really like the idea of “reflecting our world,” because it drives home the point that if fundraising and philanthropy are going to remain relevant and vibrant—and continue to best serve our communities—we have to reflect what’s happening in our communities and the world around us.
One critical way is through diversity and inclusion. Like Air Canada, many of the most recognized brands in the world are embracing diversity and connecting it to their overarching goals of growth and expansion. In the same spirit, AFP International has embraced diversity and inclusion as a key strategic plan objective that will advance not just the association, but our entire profession and philanthropy overall.
Two programs exemplify our goals in this area, both of which can be lifted up as demonstration projects to replicate in other regions. The New Faces of Fundraising, launched by the AFP Cincinnati Chapter, gives a small group of diverse participants introductory classes on fundraising, site visits to nonprofit organizations, a mentor from our field, and a 120-hour internship. To date five of graduates are actively involved in fundraising, three are working in nonprofits and one returned to school to get a degree in Leadership.
Building on the success of its three-year From Diversity to Inclusion in Philanthropy: An Action Plan for Ontario’s Charitable Sector project, the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada has received another grant from the government of Ontario to launch its own fellowship program in the province. This project will support 70 fellows, who will each receive intensive professional development and mentorship opportunities, and will participate in organizational policy development on inclusion and equity issues.
But “reflecting our world” also speaks to the profession being more sensitive—and reacting more timely—to other changes as well. Technology is transforming how the world communicates with us, and more importantly, WHO can talk with us (everyone with Internet access). We have to be ready to adapt (quickly!) to these changes.
Public policy and awareness are two other areas. Our work does not exist in a vacuum, and the actions of others—whether it’s business, the government, or other charities—can make a difference on the impact we have. We can’t simply say, “charities are good, support us!” when different facts and stories are being presented to the public and others.
“Reflecting our world” isn’t just about doing good. It’s about being the most effective fundraisers we can be and giving our organizations a competitive advantage. It’s about being a consummate and complete professional—an acknowledgement that we can’t rest on our laurels, but have to continue to improve ourselves, our profession and our sector.
We have an opportunity to be more inclusive, to attract and train future fundraisers, and make our organizations more effective. But that only happens if we understand what is happening in our communities. We have to look outward and be prepared to change so we can truly reflect our world.
Patrick Feeley is the chair of AFP's board of directors. He recently joined Caron Treatment Centers as the new executive vice president and chief development officer.