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5 Steps to Building a More Diverse and Inclusive Organization

Dana Krauss
Published:  06/18/2019

Build a more diverse organizationThis article is adapted from a 2019 AHP Webinar Series event presented by Angelique Grant, Ph.D., Senior Consultant & Certified Diversity Recruiter, Aspen Leadership Group, and Alisa Smallwood, CFRE, Vice President for Development, Grady Health Foundation. 

As the focus of health care shifts toward community health, the reinvigoration of ideas is closely followed by the expansion of organizations’ teams to be more diverse and inclusive. Taking strides toward evaluating, understanding and progressing the diversity of your organization can not only defy the myth of sacrificing quality for diversity, but create marginal improvements in donor participation and fundraising. Starting with these four simple steps, you can begin making thoughtful decisions and having brave conversations to advance the levels of diversity and inclusion in your teams.

1. Get to know your organization’s current demographics.

Knowing how your current demographics stack up against national averages and organizations with similar goals is the first step in understanding your inclusive potential. According to the AHP 2018 Salary Survey, 89% of health care philanthropy professionals identify as Caucasian/White, with only 8% identifying as a part of a minority group. In the same survey, 47% of respondents are over the age of 50.

With these statistics in mind, begin talking to your coworkers and peers about their thoughts on the inclusivity of your organization. This can be done informally with candid conversations, or with more measured approaches that give data to refer to when you begin having these same conversations with your C-suite. Without knowing how the levels of inclusion impact existing internal work cultures, it can become challenging to fill positions with candidates who would improve the overall function and thought-diversity of your team.

2. Inventory your organization’s internal biases.

Everyone has unconscious biases. They are not our fault, nor do they make us bad people. These sentiments are helpful to keep in mind when you start to look at how your organization can diversify. If you are wondering where to find these biases within your organization, start with your hiring team. This is where the “dominant culture” of your organization grows. What do you think of when looking for the “ideal candidate?” When looking at piles of resumes and cover letters, hiring teams often look for people who would be the “right fit.” This is called an affinity bias. Affinity biases come from our tendency to warm up to or give preference to people who remind us of ourselves. This feeds into the mold of what someone who works with the organization “should be,” whether that be age, ethnicity, gender, level of education or any number of characteristics.

3. Understand how these biases affect your organization’s goals.

Health care philanthropy professionals are tasked with developing a thorough understanding of their donor bases. Making assumptions about donors and what they are looking for is often influenced by individual biases, creating a false belief that diverse professionals won’t connect with these donors. Underlying the major blockades to inclusivity is the myth that diversifying your team may sacrifice the quality of the work produced. Understanding the difference between the unconscious, biased perception of diverse teams and the reality they create is vital to improving the overall success of your organization.

Think about what the biases have prevented your team from achieving. Is there a singular way of thinking among working groups? Are the perspectives sitting at the table similar to one another? Building a team that challenges the status quo of your current work culture is not a bad thing — it encourages everyone to push their boundaries and create innovate solutions.

4. Develop new definitions by challenging preconceived notions about your donors.

Once the biases are evaluated and blockades are identified, you have gathered the needed information to create a diversity, equity and inclusion plan. This step is also the one that will take the most time. Inclusion is not a process that can be rushed, but developing a timeline with measurable goals can set you up for long-term success. Start by changing your definition of “best practices” and rethinking what groups of people could comprise your donor base — challenge the assumption that “minorities don’t give.” Style your communications to reach people of all ages, ethnicities and genders to broaden your potential donors. You may accomplish this by building inclusive language into internal and external policies to reach new donors in new communities.

5. Build new donor relationships and hiring strategies.

Encourage meaningful relationships with donors who may be isolated from other philanthropic outreach, like the work done at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. African Americans represented 74% of the individuals who each gave more than $1 million to the creation of the museum and 28% of the institutional support came from the engagement of black sororities, fraternities and civic groups. Even before you communicate with a donor prospect or job candidate directly, you can edit your website to include more diverse language that appeals to a broader pool of users. Finally, start looking at your applications for new hires with a broader lens. Throw out the old idea of what a “best fit” is and reinvigorate your team with fresh perspectives and new ideas.

While these steps are not the “end-all, be-all” for building a more diverse and inclusive organization, they have the potential to help you and your team see beyond the myths and assumptions of diversity in health care and health care philanthropy. Expanding your donor base beyond the preconceived notions that “best practices” create and building a team to reflect the needs of your donors can open up new doors of opportunity for your organization. Start having those brave conversations and connect with your peers on a deeper level. It is okay to be uncomfortable, especially if that uncomfortable conversation can be the catalyst for significant change.

To read more about diversity and inclusion, access the complete whitepaper, “Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare Advancement: Changing Behaviors and Outcomes.”

For more information on inspiring a successful diversity, equity and inclusion plan in your organization, watch the full webinar.



NEWS  /06/06/19
Angelique talks about shifting from higher education to health care, ways she helps organizations implement diversity and inclusion plans and the best practical advice she offers those organizations.
NEWS  /06/04/19
Learn how diversity and inclusion lead to better business outcomes and start having brave conversations about diversity.
NEWS  /10/24/18
Within the realm of fundraising, a dichotomy exists regarding retention. Although it seems contradictory, retention IS about money, but it is also NOT about money.

Meet The Author

AHP logo
Dana Krauss
Communications Team
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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