Stephen Cotterill: Too many Black fundraisers leave the sector due to racism

09 Oct 2023 In-depth

So many talented Black fundraisers to celebrate, but too many who have left the sector due to the lack of inclusivity and systemic racism.

By AJay, Adobe

It is Black History Month and I am very proud to count among colleagues and connections some truly inspiring Black fundraisers – several of whom have contributed to the extended cover feature of this issue. Special mention must go to guest features editor, Carol Akiwumi MBE, who gave up her time and resources to collaborate on the special cover features celebrating Black fundraising and Black fundraisers.

Putting this issue together was both a joy and a frustration – we were inspired by the people included in these pages while at the same time bemoaning the lack of diversity and the number of great fundraisers who had left the sector.

We couldn’t count the number of the many talented individuals who have moved on to other things, but struggled to count on one hand the number that had remained in the sector as professional fundraisers at a charity and climbed to the career pinnacles their skills deserve. It was frankly depressing – especially for those who, like Carol, have worked for decades to address the lack of diversity and equity in fundraising, funding and the wider charity sector. When so many of the communities the charity sector serves are complex, multicultural and encompass all forms of diversity, it’s both limiting and nonsensical to have a sector that fails to represent them fully. Recruitment is a start but through the many conversations I have had with people of colour who have either left the sector or are thinking of leaving it, recruitment isn’t the main problem; it is inclusivity in the workplace – genuine inclusivity. Suspicions of tokenism were often mentioned, or possibly even more insulting, the feeling that they were employed to fulfil some kind of arbitrary equality, diversity and inclusion quota, which is hardly going to entice someone to stay in the job.

Another issue is the tendency for people of colour to become the sole arbiters of everything remotely EDI-related in their organisation – like that is their area of expertise simply because of the colour of their skin, rather than, say, being bloody brilliant fundraisers.

But, we never wanted this issue to be about the lack of diversity in the sector or the forces that continue to keep it that way, but rather to celebrate the Black fundraisers we do have and look to a brighter, more colourful future. So, this October, let’s recognise the contribution these inspirational leaders have made to fundraising and work together for a more equitable and inclusive sector.

@stevejcotterill is editor of Fundraising Magazine

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