IDEA: A new approach to imagining a better future

publication date: Nov 30, 2017

As members of the philanthropic sector, we have the unique privilege and opportunity to challenge our communities to think differently. In sharing our ideas, we not only provide others with an opportunity to help create a better future for themselves, we also invite them to help make it a possibility for others. The great news is that we’re getting better at doing both.

A key driver behind this improvement has been the conscious effort to use a broader understanding of community that encompasses a diversity of individuals, communities, and ideas. These voices, each with a unique set of perspectives and experiences, expand the breadth of our own imaginations and push us to envision new and more inclusive futures together.

Recognizing the potential that it’s 33,000-plus members could help unlock, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) initiated a review in 2017 of its programming and practices that would support and foster Diversity and Inclusion as a strategic priority.

Guided by its members, this review found that despite the widespread practice of Diversity & Inclusion across the sector, much progress still needs to be made to increase the diversity of those participating in and leading these initiatives. Their findings have been captured in a new framework for action called IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access) that adds Equity and Access to the already established values of Inclusion and Diversity.

The addition of Access was motivated by the need to re-examine the pathways through which we communicate and their accessibility to those with different lifestyles and circumstances than our own. The Inclusive Fellowship program, developed by the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada, is a great step in this direction, offering mentorship, professional development, and training at no cost to the individual. In just two short years it has supported over 60 diverse professionals—representing a spectrum of age, ability, genders, cultures, and sexuality—to establish or advance their career in the philanthropic sector. The enthusiasm this program has generated, and the praxis it provides, has spurred the Foundation to work to spread the model across Canada.

The contributions of these Fellows, and other professionals like them, have the potential to be significant, but we can do better than create potential – we can empower it. This will require us to revise and refine our processes so that diverse ideas and opinions are elevated and barriers that would minimize their participation disrupted. To do this requires creating Equity.

Putting Equity into practice means using the same feat of imagination we ask of others when presenting an opportunity to fund a scholarship, a hospital, or a shelter. Some will understand right away why it’s important, but for others it means becoming comfortable with uncomfortable ideas and will take time. The benefit of this difficult work is the creation of a platform that strengthens everyone’s ability to disrupt the status quo and create the changes we need to move towards a better future. This is a new approach for many of us, but one that AFP is excited to develop and grow.

At the core of IDEA is the belief that Diversity and Inclusion is more than just being inclusive of others persons—it is about being inclusive of their thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. IDEA is about changing how we think and who is thinking it. IDEA is an idea that is meant inspire you to revisit how you practice Diversity and Inclusion.

There is much work left to be done. The IDEA proposals that were just approved by the AFP Board are but the first step in a long road as we open up this very important conversation. I hope you’ll be there to engage and debate us about these issues—we need to hear your voice!—and imagine the best possible future for the philanthropic community and those it serves.

Darius Maze, CFRE is the Development Manager for The Bloom Group in Vancouver, B.C., and a tireless advocate of inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Find him on LinkedIn at

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