Back to posts

August 15, 2018

Diversity

At our recent panel event, there was a great deal of discussion about diversity. We interviewed Kemar Walford about his experience.

Kemar Walford has over 10 years of experience in Fundraising and the wider Third Sector, which includes working with mainstream charities such as London Youth, Caritas Anchor House, Ladies Who Learn and the Bromley by Bow Centre.

He worked for the Big Lottery Fund for the bulk of his career in grant assessment, management and more recently supporting groups in the West Midlands and East & West London. He has a wealth of experience working as a fundraising consultant, mainly for small to medium size charities across London. Kemar is also the Chair of a special interest group of the Institute of Fundraising (Black Fundraiser’s UK).

What is your mission?

My mission is a simple one and that is to champion the accomplishments of BAME individuals and charities working in the sector, who make the world a better place with little steps or giant leaps. We are all struggling to make a difference and we all need a little helping hand from time to time. These helping hands are easier to find for certain communities and occur more often. So, I'm just one of many that are trying to level the playing field.

Why is diversity important?

Diversity is not only important but necessary, because it truly brings innovation, creativity and a greater understanding of the communities that we serve. It allows people to bring their cultural identity into the workforce, which brings spice and flavour to the way we deliver things and how engaged these communities truly are with the projects, programmes and activities we develop. Diversity in the private sector has for several years been evidencing the financial and internal environmental benefits it brings. Both in terms of the bottom line and expansion into new areas of work for the respective organisations. According to "Delivering through Diversity - Jan 2018", the top preforming companies have a more diverse group at executive management level resulting in a 33% increased likelihood of industry-leading profitability.

So why is it so difficult for the charity sector to understand the importance and need for developing a truly diverse workforce at all levels?

It sometimes seems as though, those in the sector don't fully grasp that making their workforce more diverse helps to inspire more people into that sector. This in turn increases the available pool of talent. Let's use the Black Panther film as an example and the buzz surrounding that film in the wider society. We can see the thousands of people from across the world, were inspired to believe they could become actors, directors and many more positions in that industry. The film industry will ultimately benefit from that for many years to come. I believe the phrase is "Seeing is believing", understanding this creates opportunities and options for individuals that they never thought were possible. Charities are usually at the forefront of doing good, so why are we letting commercial companies show us the way forward.

What are the barriers to creating more diversity in organisations?

I believe that there are a few barriers to creating more diversity in organisations. Some of the barriers are structural/cultural, some are motivational, and others are financial, but lets not forget the political. So, let's look at structural/cultural, there are so many organisations that see their structure or culture as the norm and therefore don't understand the need for change. They consciously or unconsciously seek to employ people that look, sound and behave like they do. These organisations have managed for years to attract generous income from many clients or donors, as they have targeted those that look and sound like they do. However, the mix of society is changing quickly and if you don't adopt you die.

Then you have organisations that have little or no motivation to make change happen. Motivation for change needs to come from the top down, as people at the bottom may want change, but don't have the power to affect change. Now these organisations have individuals that have been at the organisation for so long that they are part of the furniture. These individuals believe everything works well enough as it is and therefore nothing should be changed as they either fear or don't understand the need to make changes. Remember change can be scary and can feel destabilising, so many people try to avoid it. These organisations are usually well-established institutions with a long heritage and are typically proud of that heritage. I believe, we all know a few of these organisations in every sector. They may even say the right things externally, but internally they don't or won't make changes necessary to make diversity a reality.

For those with financial constraints it can be hard to make change happen, even if they want to. In the charity sector, this is typically down to the fact that they are heavily dependent on grants and donations. This makes it difficult to recruit in new ways and take different approaches without a serious financial commitment. These organisations need to make diversity an integral part of their future planning strategy and that requires resources. Typically, many of the people in the charity sector started their careers as volunteers and then after a year or so moved into employment. This is typically a difficult transition period for individuals, but easier if you have other financial means.

Many BAME individuals can't afford to work or volunteer for free, as there is a need to support their families or other constraints that prohibit this from happening. So, to attract these individuals your organisation needs to make it an attractive proposition for these individuals both financially as well as socially with flexible working and other benefits. However, all of this has a price tag, which is not always achievable or feasible. This is not all bad news, as there now seems to be a few funders that are offering grants to charities to help pay for the employment of paid interns, which opens the internship option for individuals from BAME backgrounds. More funders should be following suit and helping the sector to more representative of the communities they serve.

Last but not least political, we have for the last few years been witness to the onslaught of race hate caused by Brexit. Much of the communications and messaging that surrounded Brexit focused on immigrants and migrants, despite many, if not all European countries having predominately white populations. This sent out a message of hate and disconnection between communities already settled here, which for the most part have lived harmoniously. This resulted in an increase in hate crime against all races and open season for racist approaches and behaviours. Now, I know this a strong statement, but there will also be an undertone of hate that sinks into the minds of certain individuals in the sector or wider society that creates unnecessary blockages.

What practical steps could we all adopt right now?

Change starts at the top

CEO's and leaders need to take their organisations on a journey, through creating a vision and a clear direction of travel for their staff, volunteers and beneficiaries/clients. This must be compelling for the whole organisation and tangible in terms of being able to see the actions and those that are going to be accountable. This cannot just be lip service as those in middle management will not truly buy into it and work towards its achievement. You truly need all members of your team to be committed to the vision and direction of travel.

Linking diversity to organisational performance

This will create a step change in the approach used by those in your organisation. As a sector, we are continuously seeking to increase income and meet targets to survive, so why not link your diversity targets to this for your organisation. This will allow you to show the positive impact that your increased diversity is having on your organisations bottom line. Sometimes seeing is believing!

Invest resources

There are very few things in this world that can be achieved without resources, whether that be people or finances. It is therefore crucial that you invest resources into developing your approach to diversity. Put your money, where your mouth is!

Making sure you tailor for greater impact

Now there is no point setting targets that are not relevant for the local geographic context. This is particularly for the larger organisations that operate across the country and internationally. You need to ensure that any policies or approaches are appropriate for the communities you serve. Having a one size fits all approach doesn't work for diversity, as there are so many different fascists to culture/ethnicity that you will end up turning said communities you are trying to represent, away.

Remember this is no short-term initiative

Creating a diverse workforce is no picnic, whether your starting from scratch or have a small number of BAME individuals in your workforce. It will take time and effort on your part but remember once you start you can no longer continue with the status quo and real change doesn't happen overnight.

You need to create a welcoming environment beforehand

Seek to find out the experiences of the BAME staff in your organisation and be open to constructive criticism. This will help you to understand their career journey within your organisation and their perceived barriers. Knowing this will help you to understand what you can do to support making changes to bring a more positive working experience for your staff. Following this learn and develop an understanding of racial bias and its impact on decision making. This will help you create a better environment to recruiting BAME individuals and help them to flourish. Ensure your policies and procedures are the same in practice as in writing. Create policies that are flexible and accommodating for your staff. Ultimately, ensuring your organisation not only showcases your commitment to the approach, but represents it in all its internal and external actions.

Recruit for potential

In todays market, its harder than it sounds. We know the pressures that exists in meeting targets and achieving outcomes. This often means that we automatically seek to recruit individuals that fit the exact criteria or are highly experienced in a field that we consider transferable. If we keep seeking the finished article we will miss out on hidden gems and those that will become the leaders of tomorrow, if given the chance. We need to ensure that people get opportunities in the variety of fields available or risk losing out on great future talent. Now, there seems to be a trend in the sector that expects people to have degrees or significant qualifications, but this automatically creates a barrier for some individuals who just need that chance. So, for every great position that comes up we should make room to take a chance on Potential. Even if that means negotiating a smaller salary with the opportunity to increase after they prove themselves.

Have you ever had a coach or a mentor?

Although I have never had a coach or mentor, I've had individuals that have played that role in my life. They have inspired, motivated and challenged me to operate and think differently about my approaches and actions. They have been my sounding board and my filter, as there are always moments where we let anger or disappointment guide our thoughts. This is despite considering myself a well-rounded and thoughtful individual in many of the activities I undertake. Although, recently I've been looking for a mentor or coach, as I truly feel that everyone should have one. It offers you all that I've mentioned, but it can also develop into a wonderful relationship that pushes your career forward. I love organisations that have a mentoring approach built into the way the work, as I think they are ahead of the game. This creates an environment that helps the development of your staff both in terms of career and their emotional stability, which often ends in a better outcome for the company.

Tips, advice, news and more straight to your inbox

Sign up to our newsletter