I regularly hear industry professionals speak. A recent speaker, and industry professional, however gave some very problematic advice. She said the best way to succeed in this profession is to “know when to keep your mouth shut.”
Her implications were clear. Tow the line. Don’t speak up about injustice. Be “politically correct” when you must, but otherwise, don’t let that get in your way. This term was accompanied by air quotes and an eye roll. It’s important to note that the current use of the term politically correct is being used as a weapon. It is being used to shame those who avoid using language that causes harm or perpetuates violence, while protecting others’ right to be biased or offensive.
But I am here to tell you that we will not “keep our mouths shut”. As the next generation of fundraisers, it is our job to do the precise opposite. Will I keep my mouth shut if your charities hiring practices are exclusionary? No. Will I keep my mouth shut if you building is inaccessible? Or your employees ableist? No Will I keep my mouth shut if your organization employs practices that would prevent traditionally marginalized groups from wanting to work there?
And I am not alone.
We are seeing a shift in the sector to broaden our organizations. We are seeing a shift towards more diversity and inclusion. And if that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should evaluate why. The sector needs to be more representative of the communities we live in and the communities we serve. Without striving for diverse representation, are we not just perpetuating the same barriers we’re trying to correct in this world?
Those in the industry that are telling us to “keep our mouths shut” are those with privilege. This particular speaker appeared to be from a very wealthy upbringing and appeared to be in a position of power due to her lineage and access. Her rhetoric screamed of white and class privilege.
These are not the colleagues and leaders that I want to learn from and be mentored by. These are not the people I want representing an organization I am employed at, and these are definitely not the leaders I want giving advice to a group of students. I want to see leaders that are taking on these issues.
I want to hear from “the disruptors” who are shaking up the industry. I want to hear from leaders who are actively tackling issues of diversity and inclusion - not within the beneficiaries they serve, but within the very organizations that strive to make this world a better place.
I do not want to be told sarcastically that I am being “politically correct” for honouring inclusive language. I do not want to be told that I should silently stand by while watching my classmates get left behind due to exclusionary hiring practices, and I do not want to be told that it is not our problem to fix any systemic issues that are facing our profession.
As humans it is our duty to point out the injustices in this field, but to also help you rise above them. None of which we can do if we are forced to “keep our mouths shut.”
JoAnna Black is a passionate and driven individual pursuing a career in non-profit fundraising and development. Currently enrolled in Humber College’s Fundraising Management program, JoAnna hopes to make a big difference in helping charitable organizations thrive.