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Thought Leader Column

Recently, I received an extremely kind note from an AFP leader inviting me to join a panel at his monthly chapter meeting. The topic was diversity, and I could present any opening remarks that I chose. Afterwards, the floor would be open to questions from the audience—and hopefully a healthy discussion about the issue would ensue.

This courageous volunteer had heard me present at a previous AFP function and felt certain that I would add significantly to the dialogue. At that previous meeting, he made a simple, but important observation: The waitperson serving the meal and I were the only diversity in the room. It was a correct assessment—on the surface, at least.

When considering diversity, it is often the obvious absence of a specific group, philosophy, ideology or topic that raises our suspicions about the comprehensiveness of our understanding of a particular issue such as diversity. The well-informed professional has a desire, if not the responsibility, to investigate diversity’s many facets. This is especially relevant if he or she wishes to significantly effect change.

A fresh, new way of looking at a problem may actually provide the solution to a dilemma heretofore unsolved. Could it be that the waitperson may have had a profound philosophy about giving in his community—and that his philosophy could have added significantly to our professional understanding about the giving patterns of people who are different from the ones we normally serve? I would venture to say that the answer is “Yes.”

For many years, I have felt the void from the absence of people like me in the professional marketplace—those whose motivation is similar to my own. Often I have commiserated with friends who say they represent their entire race or culture. I have had intense conversations about how fundraising in underserved populations is different, and how few educational courses, seminars, research and periodicals speak to our individual professional needs.

Most our colleagues who are a part of the traditional professional network will never know the additional commitment, time and effort required to nurture a newcomer to the profession whose presence is seen as the exception rather than the rule. Even for those who are daring, our traditional colleagues would know very little about how to address issues that are most critical to our professional well-being.

Why would they? I would suggest that the best person to get at the crux of the matter is you—if only given the opportunity or the platform to deliberate it.

Kaleidoscope is the outgrowth of an idea held by a number of individuals who were committed to seeing that diversity got a voice in print. Initially, we wanted to learn about the various initiatives that AFP was doing—or should be doing—to meet the needs of an underserved population. We believed so strongly in making this communication piece a reality that I drafted the first several issues with a desktop publishing program.

Yet, we still see the need. As the philanthropic universe has changed, so has the need increased for us to know and understand the requirements, desires and motivations of professionals with various backgrounds. Communication is central to this understanding. The reintroduction of Kaleidoscope is a monumental step in providing a tool that will bridge the gap by informing, educating, teaching and sharing with others the best practices of nontraditional professionals.

This means that more people will have access to cutting-edge information on issues brought to the forefront:

• Knowledge about professional challenges within your community • Information about how others handle problems that are of major consequence to you • Opportunities to highlight generous donors in your community and learn why they are motivated to give back • A master schedule that will become the repository for all upcoming nontraditional fundraising professional events

Looking ahead, I hope that Kaleidoscope will become the newsletter that we all anticipate and look to for information that is most relevant to our professional enlightenment. In it, we will see the reflections of our efforts in years to come because we have chosen now to become engaged and answer the call, “If not I, then who?”

AFP Chair Alphonce J. Brown Jr., ACFRE, is vice president of development for the National Academy of Public Administration in Washington, D.C.

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