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  • Writer's pictureMaribeth Canning

Come As You Are

Welcome mat that says "come as you are"

Yesterday, a nonprofit client and I were discussing which stakeholders to prioritize as we launched their strategic planning process. Most nonprofits have developed diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, policies, and practices. My experience as a consultant has exposed me to a variety of DEI continuums. Those nonprofits who are well positioned began to address inequities in leadership, staffing, approach, and philosophy long before George Flyod’s tragic death and have accelerated their efforts.

Fundraising and philanthropy have been rightfully criticized as forces which historically have maintained the status quo. Nonprofits have begun to reckon with their history, accept, admit, and apologize for the roles they or their predecessors played in creating and reinforcing inequalities and systemic injustices within our society.

Radical change through broad inclusion and community ownership is the only path forward. Without the voices of those we serve, countless well-intentioned initiatives have failed or never reached their potential. Inclusion leverages the wisdom within diverse communities that have so often been overlooked.

Strategic planning is the perfect opportunity to bring our community to the table, where their perspective is an invaluable resource. Working with nonprofit clients to create inclusive partnerships has led to more innovative and sustainable solutions. If nonprofits’ wish to develop stronger strategic plans and diversify their stakeholders, expanding the table at the onset of strategic planning is mandatory

During the assessment stage of strategic planning, interviewing stakeholders is also an opportunity to engage and cultivate relationships. External community stakeholders provide an opportunity for organizations to listen and reflect on feedback from a broader perspective. These interviews provide crucial feedback and uncover unique perspectives.

The nonprofit and philanthropic sector have a responsibility to create a more just and equitable society. Nonprofits who are intentional about DEI principles and practices facilitate partnerships, and greater collaboration. Accountability that is mutually negotiated between the community, nonprofit and donor/funder builds trust and levels the playing field. Mutual respect generates credible strategic planning that empowers communities and individuals. Strategic planning informed by the community builds resilience and ownership. Solutions that are resilient accelerate a nonprofit’s ability to create greater collective social impact and facilitate transformative systemic change.

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