Valuing the Right Things

I believe the charity and not-for-profit sector’s membership and trade bodies have a key role to play in changing the norms and defaults that currently cause our sector to talk a lot about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion without necessarily doing very much to change.

As an example of what I think membership bodies can do, I recently suggested to Charity Finance Group how they could encourage, enable and support finance staff (and others with a responsibility for charity finances) to progress DEI in their organisations and networks.  I also suggested how CFG could advocate for change so that the financial regulation of our sector supports effective action on DEI – and how CFG could work with other membership organisations to coordinate efforts to build a momentum for change – so that DEI becomes a default operating principle in everything we do.

Here is what I wrote:

How Charity Finance Group could help the charity and not-for profit sector enact Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

“I know that CFG recognises the problem our sector has with lack of diversity.  After the publication of the second annual MHA and Charity Finance Group charity trustee finance competency survey in March 2019, Caron was quoted as saying:  “We encourage trustees not to be complacent over the lack of diversity in the boardroom. It needs to be prioritised to ensure people from diverse backgrounds join our boards – better decision making depends on that diversity of thought and voice.”

As our sector is increasingly being challenged on issues of trust (eg by the Charity Commission) and on issues of power and exclusivity (eg by @CharitySoWhite, @NonGradsWelcome), I believe that all our sector bodies will come under increasing scrutiny – and will need to demonstrate how they are addressing issues of DEI internally, as well as in the work they carry out.  Even if the scrutiny is mainly external, I believe that all organisations will have some members (of staff and amongst their membership) who will be wondering what the organisation is doing on DEI issues.

CFG has an opportunity to identify what best practice will look like when it comes to DEI and finance – and then be able to champion that best practice, as well as supporting leaders to integrate it into their work.  CFG is also well placed to influence policy makers to consider DEI issues in the development of financial and associated regulation, reporting and good practice.

CFG’s current reach (1,400 charities receiving support – plus CFG’s policy and influencing work) means that CFG can make a significant difference on DEI – both through its own work and through a coordinated approach with other sector bodies and partners.

Working in coordination (and possibly collaboration) with other sector bodies such as ACEVO and the Institute of Fundraising, some of which have begun to develop DEI programmes focussed on their own memberships (please see below), CFG could also help to create momentum for change on DEI – so that it is more likely that good DEI practice becomes the default in our sector rather than the exception.

Having chaired a small membership organisation, I realise that membership bodies will always have a challenge when it comes to how far they believe they should simply reflect the interests of the majority of their members and how far they should seek to challenge and encourage their members – particularly when it comes to more challenging issues.  But I do believe that membership organisations in a values-led sector should be prepared to challenge their members on some issues – even if it means losing some of those members.  Membership bodies should also model what good practice looks like in everything they do – partly so they can indirectly influence their members.

Finance – and good financial planning and management – is at the heart of almost every organisation irrespective of its size.  As such, those charged with the responsibility to oversee an organisation’s finances (whether that’s a voluntary treasurer in a tiny organisation or a Finance Director in a very large charity) have an opportunity to look for ways to integrate DEI across the organisation as a whole.

Speaking to other sector bodies, rather than developing a DEI programme in isolation, makes it more likely that CFG will identify how its work on DEI can support and learn from the work being done by these other sector bodies – and it will also make it more likely that DEI issues which cross, or appear at the interface between, functions can be tackled effectively.

For example, in my conversations with someone involved in the Institute of Fundraising’s forthcoming DEI recruitment toolkit, they told me that several organisations had said they deliberately recruit fundraisers who they think will be acceptable to donors (ie people who look and speak a certain way).  This is backed up by research from the US:  “In line with this data, Building Movement Project’s “Nonprofit Executives and the Racial Leadership Gap: A Race to Lead Brief” found that executive directors of color were more likely to report challenges developing relationships with funding sources.”

Quite apart from the #MeToo aspects of this “recruiting for aesthetics” – it shows there is clearly a piece of work to be done between the Institute of Fundraising and the Association of Charitable Foundations to ensure that this practice is ended.  CFG already partners with ACF on the Finance in Grantmaking Special Interest Group – and it may well be that ACF and CFG could identify aspects of ACF’s recently published DEI Pillars for Trusts and Foundations that the Special Interest Group could discuss and develop ideas to support its implementation (as mentioned below).

It seems to me, the finance function (which will be different in organisations of different types and sizes), and those with finance responsibilities, can encourage and support every part of an organisation to consider DEI issues – particularly at crucial points such as planning, budget setting, performance management (eg selection of indicators and targets), reporting, etc.

Why DEI:

As you know from my blog, I believe there are 6 reasons to make DEI a core operating principle in everything we do:

  1. Fairness and Engagement:  Embracing diversity and practising inclusion is part of our commitment to social justice and equity.

As a values-based sector, no other reasons should be needed.  But there are also these:

  1. Knowledge and Experience:  We can better understand the needs and capabilities of the communities we are trying to reach if we reflect those communities at all levels.
  2. Efficiency and Impact:  Different perspectives are more likely to generate new ideas and innovation – helping us to deliver our mission more efficiently and effectively.
  3. Scale and Sustainability:  To find and retain a wide range of supporters and partners to help further our work.
  4. Legitimacy and Accountability:  To help promote public trust in the voluntary and community sector generally.
  5. Lawfulness:  The legal/regulatory context – eg the Equality Act 2010.

If it would be helpful, I can send you a list of resources to support the case for DEI – eg research findings about the lack of diversity and the “diversity premium” (eg how much effective DEI can add to an organisation’s bottom line) – in addition to the MHA survey and the Robertson Bell survey we discussed on the phone.

Integrating DEI into CFG’s Work:
Having previously been a member of CFG and benefiting from its work, and looking at CFG’s current offer, I think there are several ways in which CFG can integrate DEI into its activities.  For example in its Training, Events, Resources, Policy & Influencing, Awards and Partnerships.

It may be that part of CFG’s approach on DEI would be to identify finance-specific elements or perspectives in order to make the argument for DEI being relevant to the finance function as well as being a “rights and values” issue and a cross-cutting issue.  For example:

Risk:  the reputational risk of not getting DEI right, the sustainability risk of not diversifying the funding base because the organisation is perceived to be “for” not “of” a particular community (or not truly welcoming to everyone), etc.

Listed below, I have suggested some options for what CFG might do under each of its current main activities:

  • Resources (eg job descriptions and competencies):

CFG could develop and publish a range of resources on DEI issues with a particular finance focus, as well as cross-promote resources produced by others.  For example:

CFG should produce a ‘Finance and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ toolkit to help finance staff and other leaders to embed DEI in budget setting, financial reporting and performance management across their organisation.

It may be that the current version of the CFG Annual Handbook has incorporated a DEI perspective.  If not, the next revision should be produced with a DEI lens.  I think there is a need for both a specific DEI Finance toolkit and for the general Handbook to have a DEI component – because DEI should ideally be a mainstream issue – but to get to that point we have to take targeted action for the foreseeable future.

Similarly, if the current edition of the “Writing Your Charity’s Investment Policy” doesn’t have a DEI perspective, the next edition could possibly be produced with input from, or in partnership with, the Diversity Forum (see below).

Its recruitment offer also makes CFG ideally placed to encourage its members to adopt a DEI-informed approach to recruitment – eg incorporating some of the principles from the @NonGradsWelcome campaign.  This could involve developing model job descriptions and person specifications for finance-related functions.

In terms of recruitment, CFG could look at BOND’s Diversity Apprenticeship programme ( as an example of how a trade body can help to change the profile of the workforce within its area of interest.

  • Policy and Influencing:

I know that CFG has the aim of inspiring a financially confident, dynamic and trustworthy charity sector – and David Ainsworth has recently suggested that annual reports are key to promoting and sustaining public trust in charities.  CFG can play a key role in ensuring that the sector responds to this challenge and integrates DEI as a core component of this as part of a new approach to reporting:

Here are some other current examples of how CFG might use a DEI focus in its policy and influencing work:

CFG is ideally placed to advocate for DEI to be included in the new SORP.  CFG could also develop guidance on how the new requirements on stakeholder reporting and employee engagement might be met, incorporating a DEI perspective:

CFG is also ideally placed to advocate for a diverse range of organisations (including BME-led, small, etc) organisations to be represented on the SORP review stakeholder groups.  CFG could also seek the views of its members and more widely about how DEI issues might be addressed by the SORP review process:

As part of a DEI-informed comms strategy, Charity Finance News could be used to demonstrate DEI informed approaches to charity finance (as well as illustrating a diverse finance workforce) and featuring (and supporting) some of the DEI focussed campaigns such as #CharitySoWhite and assessing how they relate to the world of charity finance.

There may also be a research agenda for CFG to develop around DEI and the charity finance sector – eg to use to help build a case (and seek resources) for CFG’s own work in this area.  I will need to give this a bit more thought.

  • CFG Awards:

Offering a ‘DEI in Finance’ award – similar to the award offered by BOND to recognise organisations in the UK NGO sector that nurture diverse and inclusive workforces:

There is already a Diversity in Finance award:

However, this is aimed at the commercial sector – and it seems to me that CFG could add a Diversity in Finance award to CFG’s current awards to encourage better DEI practice in our sector.

CFG’s award could be to recognise both organisations and/or individuals who have advanced DEI issues in some way in the previous 12 months – and I’d suggest considering bringing in someone with DEI experience as one of the judges.  There might be an opportunity to identify a sponsorship opportunity – eg with one of the bigger finance, accounting or law firms (either charity specialist or with a good CSR record) which has a commitment to DEI.  Perhaps someone like Pesh Framjee could suggest a firm?

  • Training and Seminars:

As well as designing the delivering a seminar on DEI issues as they apply to the finance function, CFG could include a DEI theme in the members’ regional meetings.

The thematic conferences and webinars (eg Risk) could also be designed with a DEI perspective – eg the risks of not understanding or addressing DEI issues.

  • Events and Special Interest Groups:

National Conference:  Given the challenge issued during the panel session on diversity at the CFG conference in May 2019, there is an opportunity to use the 2020 national conference to respond to that challenge by launching CFG’s new DEI strategy.

  • Special Interest Groups:

CFG could encourage all 4 current SIGs to consider how DEI applies to their work and discussions.  As mentioned above, the Grantmaking SIG could discuss how to support the implementation of ACF’s DEI Pillars – and the Overseas SIG could discuss some of Diaspora for Development’s challenge to the overseas aid sector on DEI (@d4devNGO) – all from a finance perspective.

Using its Special Interest Groups as a precedent, CFG could offer to coordinate a group for staff from minority and under-represented communities working in finance in the sector.  This could be developed to be a programme aimed at recruiting, developing and retaining a more diverse finance workforce – using an approach similar to that recently developed by the Institute of Fundraising – as described in its DEI strategy:

  • Partnerships:

There is a wide scope for CFG to work in partnership with other organisations – both to take forward some of the things listed above, but also to support and influence the partner organisations to encourage their members to think about the role that the finance function can play in supporting DEI.

Within CFG’s existing partnership model (eg with Community Leisure UK/Sporta and the Association of Independent Museums), there is a big clear opportunity for CFG to help those networks and their members to maximise their sustainability by encouraging and supporting them to integrate DEI into their offer – based on the 6 reasons listed above.

  • Potential Partners:

It seems to me that are several organisations – both within and outside the charity sector – that CFG might approach as potential partners to develop a finance-focussed programme on DEI – or at least look at as a potential source of ideas or information.  For example:

Honorary Treasurers Forum:  For example, CFG could work in partnership with HTF to develop joint initiatives (resources and/or training).  CFG could also suggest to HTF that the next edition of The Honorary Treasurers Handbook should include a DEI perspective (and possibly offer to work with HTF on such an update).

Diversity Forum:  is a collective which aims to make social investment more inclusive.  They have developed a manifesto and a range of activities to achieve this aim:  There is both intrinsic and instrumental value inherent in promoting investor diversity within social investment. To help the UK achieve our common vision of a “bigger, stronger society” as stated in the 2011 government strategy on social investment, we need to ensure that our sector is also grounded in principles of inclusion, representation and justice.  We believe that improving the diversity and inclusion of social investment will benefit three main groups – VCSE organisations, individuals working in the social investment space, and the funds and investors themselves.”

Finance Innovation Lab:   “The Finance Innovation Lab incubates the people, ideas and movements building a financial system that serves people and planet. We work with innovators developing new business models, campaigners calling for change in the rules of the game, and mainstream professionals who want to change finance from the inside.”

FIL recently held a “People of Colour in Financial Innovation” event in London Naomi Alexander Naidoo @nainaydoo

Diversity Project: is a cross-company initiative championing a more inclusive culture within the Savings and Investment profession:

Association of Corporate Treasurers:  “Treasurers have a fundamental role to play in business and the global economy, and we are here to support them. For 40 years we have actively contributed to and grown the treasury community globally, and we continue to do so through ever more challenging times.”

I’m aware of a number of other diversity programmes focussed on finance staff which might provide examples or ideas for how CFG might develop is work in this area.  For example:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – Diversity Community

  • Future Focused Finance – An NHS programme – in conjunction with the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA the professional body for finance staff working in healthcare).  This programme would appear to me to have a lot of elements which CFG could possible replicate under a DEI programme:  

Other Sector Bodies – DEI Programmes:

I know you are aware of how some of the other sector bodies have begun to respond on DEI issues – including these (all of which are CFG members):

  • Association of Charitable Foundations – Stronger Foundations programme.   This programme has 6 strands – one of which is on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.  The DEI Working Group has just reported but ACF has yet to say how its work programme, including its professional development programme, will support trusts and foundations to implement the recently published DEI pillars:

CFG’s Membership:
There is an important question that all membership bodies have to ask and answer in terms of DEI.  “How representative of the diversity of the sector is our membership?”  There is also a supplementary question:  “How representative are our members (in terms of staffing, governance and service delivery) of the communities they seek to serve?”  How these questions get answered – and how that informs its strategy – may be different for each membership body.

In terms of CFG’s corporate members – the “How representative?” question may not be so pressing.  But it may be that CFG could use its corporate members to help CFG develop (and resource?) its DEI programme – either through sponsorship of DEI events or products or by lending expertise on how they have begun to address DEI issues within the financial sector.

CFG’s Internal Development:
You mentioned that CFG is a predominantly female organisation in terms of staff and trustees and that this provides CFG with a certain perspective on DEI issues.  I believe that CFG also has a diverse staff and trustee group in relation to ethnicity – and may also be diverse in relation to other characteristics.  That having been said, I would strongly recommend that CFG considers asking an organisation like Fearless Futures to come and lead a session with CFG’s staff (and possibly trustees) on DEI to help ensure a basic level of understanding on DEI issues – including unconscious bias, intersectionality, etc.  I have been on one of Fearless Futures’ courses and found it very helpful.  I understand that ACEVO has done something similar as part of the development of its response to DEI.

London Funders is a good example of how a membership body can begin to open up its governance in terms of DEI.  For example, in advance of its AGM and the election of new trustees it publishes the diversity breakdown of its Board so that members can consider this when voting for new trustees:

Measuring Change:
Measuring the impact of work on DEI can be difficult – because change may happen slowly, or it can be difficult to attribute cause and effect.  Defining indicators and targets for impact on DEI in CFG’s work will depend on what data is available, what CFG decides to prioritise, etc.  Again, the Institute of Fundraising’s DEI strategy has a set of targets that offers a useful suggestion for how CFG might approach this.”

This blogpost should be read in conjunction with the blogpost “15 People on a Room – not another bloody toolkit” which suggests how the voluntary sector’s main infrastructure / membership organisations could begin to coordinate their efforts on DEI.

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