Grantseeking in 2017: Demonstrating Inclusion

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This post originally appeared on the TechSoup blog. We thought our library community could also benefit from Cynthia Adams' advice on grantseeking trends.

In my last blog I talked a bit about transparency and how it will apply to organizations seeking grant awards in 2017. In this post I would like to share my thinking around the importance of demonstrating to the grantmaker that your organization reaches out to, and includes, varying cultures.

Over the past several decades, inclusion has been a hot button for both grantmakers and grantseekers. But recently it has taken on new significance — and I would say new meaning — for many of us.

I think we have all come to realize that just adding a minority seat to your board of directors, or consciously making an attempt to fill that open position with someone from a different cultural background, simply isn’t enough. Both our boards and our staff, not to mention our membership, need to reflect the cultures of the communities where we work and live.

Demonstrating Inclusion

So what does it mean to be inclusive? I think many of us are pretty clear that inclusion simply means to not exclude people on the basis of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc. I am certainly not the right person to lecture on inclusion. I do know, though, that it is of paramount importance to demonstrate inclusion to grantmakers and major donors. You must show that your organization — your mission, goals, and objectives — reflect the local, regional, or national makeup of the community you serve.

I believe you have to take this one step further and not just look at how to create a culturally diverse staff or board but really consider how you can incorporate different cultural views into your overall strategic operating plan.

This is a great board discussion, especially for your annual meeting. See if you can come to a consensus on the meaning of inclusivity as it applies to your organization, and talk about ways you can practice it.

Let me share with you a few things you can think about and resources you can use to help create an inclusive atmosphere.

How Can Your Organization Be More Inclusive?

Paul Petrone, Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, posted a blog in late November called 5 Steps That'll Make Your Organization More Inclusive, which shares some great ways to create an inclusive culture within your organization. The five tips included:

  1. Create diversity networks.
  2. Take these networks one step further with employee resource groups.
  3. Invest in diversity training.
  4. Evaluate your conflict resolution process.
  5. Have an open door policy, and really mean it.

He sums up the post with, "Having a diverse workforce is useless if you don't have an inclusive culture. If people of different groups don't feel comfortable at your office, then they aren't going to share their ideas and contribute in the way that will most help your organization." This post is a quick, easy read and might give you some good ideas for creating inclusivity within your organization in 2017.

Those You Serve

I like the Denver Foundation's definition of inclusiveness because it takes into consideration both the importance of having a diverse staff and the importance of considering different perspectives as you grow your organization. Here's their published definition.

Inclusive organizations are learning‐centered organizations that value the perspectives and contributions of all people, and they incorporate the needs, assets, and perspectives of communities of color into the design and implementation of universal and inclusive programs. Furthermore, inclusive organizations recruit and retain diverse staff and volunteers to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the communities they serve.

I think it is important for your board of directors to articulate their own vision of inclusivity and to share that vision via your website, on printed materials, etc. And as a leader of your organization, you need to start talking about inclusivity. It's important to be able to explain why diversity matters in your organization, as well as how it has helped to shape the work you do.

Part of being inclusive is establishing a safe place for people to share their views. This, as we all know, is easier said than done. When discussions drift into uncomfortable territory, we often shy away from exploring that discomfort and quickly move on to safer ground. But what if we didn't? What sorts of new insights could we uncover that might make addressing the social, community, or environmental problem we're discussing easier?

Diversity at Work: The Practice of Inclusion, edited by Bernardo M. Ferdman, is a wonderful book that might be helpful if you are interested in learning more about the concept of workplace diversity.

This Harkens Back to Transparency

Once you have adopted inclusion and adapted your organization to be much more inclusive, you can then share this information by weaving it into all of your documents, including your website. Obviously you don't need a section on the site called Inclusivity! But you do want to publish such things as your board's policy statement on inclusivity. This all harkens back to being transparent in the work you do and in who you are.

What Might You Do Now?

There are a number of things you can do fairly easily to make inclusion a priority for 2017.

  1. Encourage the board of directors to articulate an inclusivity statement for your organization
  2. Establish an advisory committee that reflects the cultural makeup of those you serve and use them to review organizational policies
  3. Revamp your hiring process. Consider practicing "name blind" hiring for staff and for the recruitment for volunteers. Blind interviews are becoming more popular as a need for diversity and unbiased hiring decisions is growing. GapJumpers is a new type of job board that allows employers to recruit applicants by posting projects for them to complete before meeting them. An applicant can view all the projects and choose which one sounds like the best fit for them, all without having to see or speak to an interviewer.

I am sure you can think of many more ways that your organization can become more inclusive in both the work that you do and in the board, staff, and volunteers that make it all happen.

Upcoming Grantseeking Events from TechSoup

On January 24, take a tour of GrantStation and learn how to use all of the valuable resources GrantStation offers, including the extensive funder databases that can help you identify the grantmakers most likely to fund your programs or projects.

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On January 26, sign up for a free webinar on practical information to help you write successful grants. Alice Ruhnke, owner and founder of The Grant Advantage, will outline ways to infuse your organization's strengths into your proposal to create the best application possible.

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On January 31 and February 1, you'll be able to get a GrantStation annual subscription for just $99! The regular discounted cost of an annual subscription at TechSoup is $299, and the retail price of this same one-year subscription is $699. Mark your calendar now for January 31 and February 1!

Learn more

About the Author

Cynthia Adams, President and CEO of, Inc., has spent the past 40 years helping nonprofits raise the money needed for their good work. She opened GrantStation because grant seeking requires a thorough understanding of the variety and scope of grant makers and a sound knowledge of the philanthropic playing field. Her life’s work has been to level that playing field, creating an opportunity for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Image 2: Cynthia M Adams