The catastrophic events of 2020, for many, represented a long-overdue breaking point in regard to systemic racism and injustice. The institutionalized issues that people of color have experienced for generations have become vitally important topics of conversation for organizations across sectors. This shift has illuminated equity gaps in everything from program design to hiring practices and communications plans, and has forced organizations to confront areas where careful education and unlearning are needed.
With philanthropy responding to this shift and redirecting immediate resources to both Black-led/Black-serving nonprofits and white-led organizations requiring additional capacity to undertake racial equity training, many Fairmount clients have needed to articulate their positions on a topic that may have sat in the strategic planning “parking lot” for far too long. For this reason, it’s vital that principles of racial justice and equity be embedded in all planning and strategic processes, from committee building to program design and marketing, if organizations want to remain responsive and accountable to the communities they serve and the funders and donors that support them.
One example comes from a client that navigated the distance between its mostly white, affluent supporters, and its constituents, who are mostly people of color, at the start of a major fundraising campaign. While the organization has facilitated inclusive and diverse programming for years, its public perception skewed otherwise. To help design an inclusive campaign with proactive communications about the organization’s plans to authentically engage communities of color, Fairmount engaged a Black-owned strategic consultancy with whom we frequently partner to extend our in-house expertise and facilitate community engagement sessions with people from multiple industries and backgrounds. These conversations, which illuminated not only the organization’s most clear challenges, but its potential for opportunity, will inform campaign planning moving forward, and will inspire new initiatives for years to come.
While institutionalized racism and systemic bias will take generations to dismantle, the work begins now, and in the smallest of ways, from the questions framed to a potential job candidate, to the words used in your latest newsletter. It will take much more than a statement of solidarity on a website.
For years, employees and leaders of color within white-led organizations – including our own – have done the invisible work of educating and informing, often without recognition or compensation. White leaders and change-makers owe their colleagues of color a debt of gratitude – and a break. By engaging in proactive education (enlisting the expertise of racial equity trainers and facilitators), individual unlearning (participating in webinars and reading anti-racist literature), and community trust-building (engaging in active allyship or building authentic relationships with POC-led partners), white-led organizations can help to work towards authentic equity that’s rooted in action, not performance.
While Fairmount does not hold expertise in racial equity or literacy, we have guided hundreds of organizations in thinking through tough questions and consequences, and built trusted partnerships with POC-led organizations who offer distinct and culturally competent knowledge and experience. With our core values of courage and candor at the forefront, we can help organizations across sectors to confront essential equity issues and establish thoughtful, action-oriented strategies.