We think all funders have a role in supporting charities in advancing DEI, but this is probably the most relevant for funders that already support charities on their wider organisational development needs. Different funders have different relationships with their grantees – some are more hands-on, some are less; some focus on the whole organisation, some focus on specific projects. Funders would have limited leverage over charities’ wider goals if they only fund very specific projects; and it’s more likely that in-depth, trust-based relationships with their grantees would be lacking – which are critical for grantees to be genuinely guided in this direction. Thinking about DEI as part of organisational development needs is crucial. A lot of funders provide support for their grantees to improve on their finances, impact strategies, governance, etc but rarely think about DEI as part of organisational development.

We also think that funders should start immediately. We know that some funders often don’t want to engage grantees on DEI until they themselves got their own house in order. In a way – this is valid: it would appear hypocritical for funders to demand charities achieve gold standards on DEI if they themselves are so far away from that.  But in another way – this is further delaying the urgent issue that needs addressing: it will take many years for organisations to get their DEI right and we all need to start somewhere. People often share the parallel between safeguarding and DEI – safeguarding is taken as an urgent priority and all charities and funders ensure that there is mandatory safeguarding training (let’s debate the effectiveness of this another time); but we don’t take the same attitude in DEI, even though inclusion should be at the heart of the whole charity sector. Funders and charities should finally ask themselves the question: what are we losing by not making DEI our first priority?

Read the full article about DEI by Bonnie Chiu and Lily Lewis at Alliance Magazine.