Congratulations … Welcome … Happy to Have You on Board!

A few short months ago I was right where you are – embarking on a journey to explore the complex world of Diversity and Inclusion in the philanthropic sector. Not just me, but 35 curious, passionate do-gooders who had already started charting a course to help improve what we call life on this planet. We were ready to take the next step. Sound like you?

In addition to your curiosity, you may be feeling a bit of apprehension. That feeling that always seems to accompany you into the unknown. And with it, a bunch of questions floating around in your head. You’re wondering what to expect. Will this be kinda like going back to school? Will you be able to commit and deliver on your commitments? Do you have what it takes to see it through to the end? Will the program meet my expectations? And so much more.

Fret not. You’re coming into a very supportive network. One that transcends the camaraderie of Fellows. Your support system will include program organizers, mentors, AFP leadership and external resource people – all with a common goal of helping you succeed at making the most of the opportunity. What will success look like for you? It will likely look different from person to person. However, regardless of what you determine this to be, the following tips will help guide you towards it.

  • Be clear about what you want from the program and set personal objectives to accomplish this.
  • Remember that whatever you invest in the program will highly influence what you get out of it.
  • Monitor your progress and make adjustments where necessary.
  • Tap into resources available to you, including people.
  • Stay connected to what’s happening within the program.
  • Apply new learnings from the program wherever there’s opportunity.
  • Make sure you have some fun in the process.

For those who may be new to fundraising, this is a great launching pad in understanding how to navigate the nonprofit/fundraising landscape, accessing resources and professional development opportunities, getting to know who’s who in the sector, building your network, and so on. AFP Congress, Fundraising Day and the many webinars in which you’ll participate, will serve you well as tremendous growth opportunities. At times you may feel overwhelmed by all that you think you need to take in. Word of advice: Keep a clear mind and prioritize based on the goals you set.

This may be the first time many of you will have the opportunity to dive deep into diversity and inclusion as a subject matter. While there are numerous takeaways from the program, undoubtedly, one of the more compelling ones is the complexity of diversity and inclusion. It’s simply not simple.

Tyra Sidberry captures this quite aptly in Diversity: Sitting in the Fire (edited version):

This is complex stuff and, as humans, we would prefer a quick and easy route to achieve the ends we desire. In a world in which two clicks of a computer mouse provide complete information on countless subjects, we want to check off tasks accomplished on our perpetual to-do lists.

The work of diversity and inclusion, however, is not linear – with a beginning and end on a checklist. It is instead the constant process of trying to work together to get it right. Each new level of insight can result in growth and new experiences.

Yes, this type of work is uncomfortable and yes, the territory may be unfamiliar. The question is: Are we willing to live with that discomfort for a time in order to achieve healthy, whole communities – with parity for all?

So, are you ready to make your mark?