By Vince Bayyan.
Many of you reading this piece may recognize “this is the way” as the creed from the hit Disney Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian. For those unfamiliar, these words are the often-repeated affirmation and code of conduct at the heart of the Mandalor community. Okay, if you haven’t guessed by now, yeah, I’m a sci-fi geek and proud “blerd” (Black Nerd).
It is often said that life imitates art. I was among a diverse group of some 200+ attendees at this spring’s CASE African American Development Officers’ Conference in Atlanta who were given a charge, that soon became a creed, that resonated for the duration of the conference: Say the thing and then do the thing. Note the parallel to the Mandalorian creed: This is the way!
Speakers Janelle Williams and Tene’ Traylor with the Atlanta Wealth Building Project, along with journalist Condace Pressley, captivated the audience in a session titled “Building and Understanding Wealth in Diverse Communities.” These dynamic thought leaders’ well-articulated ideas and experiences fell under the category of uncomfortable but necessary conversations.“Say the thing and then do the thing” was their call to action. It was a call not only for examination and discussion of antiquated, entrenched notions, ideas, and practices in the fundraising/development space, but to follow words with bold, creative, and strategic action on both a personal and organizational level.
We employ many of these principles to guide us in our work with clients. Consider ideas shared by conference attendees to help you and your organization:
Build a culture of innovation by initiating conversations around new technologies. In what ways can Artificial Intelligence be meaningful to your work? How can tools for data analytics be used for fundraising insights? Make the extra effort to connect with those in your world who can help understand advantages and downsides of emerging technologies.
Examine your organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) values. Are there people connected to your organization who say the thing but don’t do the thing? Or worse, don’t say the thing at all? Challenge those whose actions do not reflect your organizations stated values and commitment to DEIB.
Challenge assumptions around fundraising. Do you evaluate capacity, judge potential, or approach donors based on stereotypes? Have you considered asking people who your nonprofit has assisted if they would welcome the opportunity to contribute? Take a critical look at your assumptions.
Be intentional about creating change. Look for opportunities to define success more broadly, incorporate voices from diverse communities, or push back against the fear of doing something different. Don’t be part of the problem.
Create space that allows for leadership to be both bold and flexible, particularly leaders from the BIPOC community. Pressure to advance economic and social justice can be inhibited by barriers that make it risky to try. Ensure everyone feels free to contribute at their best.
We believe nonprofits can have a butterfly effect, where small actions can have large impact on a complex system. This is the way!