AHP Connect Member Profile - Angelique Grant, Ph.D.
Angelique Grant, Ph.D.
Senior Consultant & Certified Diversity Recruiter
Aspen Leadership Group
AHP member since 2018
What brought you into a career in philanthropy?
Like everyone else, I fell into philanthropy, but I always felt like it was a wonderful fall. Coming from a journalism background, I had to remain in a specific geographic area for personal reasons, which was Washington state at the time. I was offered journalism positions right out of graduate school, and had worked as a television reporter before. Unfortunately, the job offers were coming from really far places or in rural areas, so I declined the offers. One day, I ended up meeting Connie Kravas, president of the Washington State University Foundation at a cocktail reception, and she offered me a position in the central office. It was an amazing opportunity to learn all aspects of advancement from establishing the first ever Faculty/Staff Drive, which raised $1 million, to becoming involved in WSU’s first ever capital campaign.
After working in higher education, what specifically drew you to the health care industry?
After Washington State, I spent some time in advancement at Princeton University. I had a great time in New Jersey but desired to move closer to family in South Florida, so I decided to join the advancement team at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. It was my first time with grateful patient fundraising, and I did not know what to expect. After a few weeks in the role, I caught on fairly quickly, raising a 6-figure gift in the first six weeks. It was just looking at it from a different trajectory. With alumni — as research shows — the longer you’re away, the fonder of the institution you become. With grateful patient fundraising and health care, gratitude for excellent patient care occurs earlier on in the relationship and fades over time. Regardless, whether it’s patients or alumni, these powerful gifts impact organizational mission, which is critical in today’s society. I’ve been in fundraising for over 25 years and spent half of that time in health care philanthropy, and I have to say it is still one of my favorite areas.
How do you work with organizations to implement diversity and inclusion programs?
Society is changing significantly, especially in regard to diversity. Our communities, the people we serve and the world are all evolving. Unfortunately, many of our organizations have not kept up with this evolution, and we have some work to do. From hiring diverse professionals to the way we approach fundraising, more and more organizations are now exploring how they can move the diversity, equity and inclusion needle within their organization — especially in the area of philanthropy. Therefore, I work closely with organizations to realize organizational outcomes and objectives by building more diverse teams and inclusive cultures, and by understanding the nuances of diversity both internally and externally across advancement and throughout the organization.
There is a difference between being passionate about diversity and being committed to it. We found that organizations are very passionate about diversity but are still trying to figure out how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion in their everyday practices — which is a commitment. They know it is important to them, their board and their teams, but they want to know: “Where do we start?” That’s how I start to become involved.
One important part of creating an impactful diversity and inclusion program is designing a culturally responsive recruitment and outreach initiative to attract diverse advancement professionals. From position description content to leveraging diverse networks, I guide and counsel teams and hiring managers on creating a more inclusive search process by assuring that diversity is emphasized in every aspect of hiring. Also, a successful diverse and inclusive recruitment program depends on a sound approach to retention. So we also work together to develop a regular program of activities to foster dialogue and engagement among teams.
Why do you think philanthropy is lagging behind in diversity and inclusion when compared to some other industries?
It’s partly because we are used to using the term “best practices.” If you see one organization using “best practices” you say to yourself: “Okay, let’s just do what they are doing and we will become successful.” We can learn important lessons from others, but diversity and inclusion improvement is more about adapting better practices particular to a given organization than just following one road. It is about changing approaches and behaviors of a team in response to its internal and external realities. Teams learn to open their mindset, practices and systems to approach, engage and solicit people differently.
As my colleague, Kathleen Loehr, author of “Gender Matters” shares, we have to reinvent fundraising to build meaningful relationships. I truly believe that we are not addressing our increased understanding of how diverse cultures give through updating fundraising strategies and practices. Simply knowing about how various donor groups (i.e., LGBTQ+, women, millennials, etc.) give differently is definitely not enough to change how we relate to them and gain significant and sustained support and funding. We oftentimes want to build these relationships as we prefer, when in actuality we must build relationships as they prefer.
Some of us are in the mindset and habit of one size fits all, and others are simply following practices built for a very different donor demographic, practices that worked in the past but are outdated. As a result, many organizations are leaving engagement and dollars on the table.
What challenges do you think organizations face in diversity and hiring, and how do you help organizations with that process?
We are now seeing numerous organizations focus their attention toward their diversity recruitment efforts, which is a positive sign of change. And we are also seeing a slight growth in organizations hiring nontraditional candidates with transferable skills — which is by the way still a challenge in the industry. Most of us have “fallen” into advancement — very few of us expected to enter the field while we were in school. However, we lose sight of this fact, and many are not as receptive as better practices require to leaning in on nontraditional candidates.
Additionally, on average there are more women in philanthropy (approximately 70%) than men. However, there are more men in leadership positions. When it comes to racial diversity, we have seen a relatively stagnant 8%-12% representation in the industry.
It is so important to define what diversity means to you. It is not always about racial diversity. For my team, diversity may mean something totally different than it does for your team — it could also mean age, gender, class, religion or ability. You have to be intentional in hiring based on those parameters.
Based on our experience, most diverse candidates are not looking for perfect answers to all questions. But they are looking for thoughtful responses that demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion on the part of leaders and a culture that embraces and celebrates diversity, viewing diversity and inclusion as essential contributors to organizational success.
What are some of the challenges you face as a consultant when helping an organization implement a diversity and inclusion plan?
Being proactive — versus reactive — in developing a plan is the best approach, with unconscious bias being the biggest challenge. Because we all have biases, oftentimes people shy away from becoming knowledgeable about their own personal biases — not to mention their team and organizational biases. Becoming aware of them is a first step, followed by understanding where they come from, and then behavioral change as a result. We all have biases. It is not our fault, and it does not make us bad people. However, if we ignore the fact that we all have them and fail to truly understand how it impacts our work in advancement, we will not grow personally or organizationally.
For example, we tend to have a bias to hire or give preference to people like ourselves. Unfortunately, people often think that people who are similar to themselves are better than others. This repeated cycle results in a homogenous culture, which in turn limits diversity and inclusion.
Our unconscious biases affect our actions and decisions in an unconscious manner — from the way we approach recruitment and hiring, to our interactions with volunteers and donors. It is difficult if not impossible to maintain a diverse and inclusive team without advancement-focused unconscious bias training and without developing bias-breaking habits.
What is the most practical piece of advice you would give to an organization that is passionate about diversity but doesn’t know where to start?
First, have brave conversations internally to start identifying what diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and in your organization and what “success” will look like. Once you’ve defined what success looks like, start developing strategies on getting there. I’ve conducted diversity audits and assessments to help organizations with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts — with inclusion often becoming an afterthought. Be sure to assess whether or not you have the inclusive environment that will be required for sustained improvement in diversity and equity. A third party can help ensure you get honest feedback from all members of your team. Finally, don’t try to fix everything at once, or you will likely only wind up with short-term solutions that don’t result in lasting change. Measure progress on your plan, adjust the plan as needed, and get help — from your diversity and/or human resources offices, or from a consultant — as needed.
For somebody just starting out in philanthropy, what advice would you give them?
Understand the industry, everyone’s role and the impact that we are making in society. It is not as easy as it looks, but it is enormously rewarding. We have all heard people say naively, “Oh, you’re a fundraiser, so you beg for money,” which is a sad but prevalent perception of our profession. We are not asking donors for a favor, but to become a partner. Our organizations are making a transformational impact in the world, and we are inviting others to take part in it. Whether you are a gift officer or someone who manages the donor database, you have the chance to be part of a team charged with advancing the mission of an important organization. Fundraising is about filling a bucket; a career in philanthropy is about fulfilling vision.