FYI Blog

DEI-Informed Fundraising: Hiring and Change

This post is part five of a five-part series on DEI-informed fundraising.

In part one of this series, we explored the connection between list strategies and DEI—and concluded that lists alone cannot make an organization more diverse. In part two, we offered six principles for DEI-informed messaging. Part three was a dive into the connection between DEI and data practices. And part four shared tips on how to use digital marketing to help further your DEI goals.

All of this focus on what to do and how to ensure DEI is a part of your fundraising doesn’t happen in a vacuum—who is creating and informing this work also matters. In this post, we will talk about DEI and hiring at Avalon. Like many agencies and nonprofits, we are in process on this initiative. Here’s a peek behind the curtain at what we are doing and where we are going:

First, we commit to an expansive vision for internal DEI.

We aim significantly higher than checkbox diversity, which according to Nicole Anand and SSIR, “ultimately misses the point of deeply understanding differences for genuine, impactful collaboration.” Avalon is working for a DEI reality that empowers each person, invigorates our teams, and informs and deepens our mission and daily work. We believe this is possible.

Second, we have expanded search and recruiting. In addition to the usual job placements, we now seek pipelines that are explicit in their reach to marginalized communities, such as HBCU recruiting and LGBTQIA+ sources. In addition, we are committed to more inclusive job listings and meaningful, inclusive benefits.

Third, we have broadened our hiring mindset. We know that Avalon excels at growing and promoting fundraising experts, so we have begun to emphasize core skills like problem-solving, customer service, and project management over formal credentials—really focusing on “must-haves,” rather than a detailed suite of nice-to-have knowledge. In doing so, we hope to push back against narrow pipelines, resist biased definitions of “professionalism,” and replace them with more equitable standards.

Fourth, we view onboarding as the springboard for inclusion. This is a challenge while we work in a fully remote environment, but we remain committed. Here at Avalon, onboarding currently entails fun perks like a welcome gift and a celebratory meal, but also strong foundations like a Clifton StrengthsFinder profile, a peer buddy, one-on-one introductions to our entire senior staff, a 3-month feedback loop, and a new-hire survey that informs future HR processes.

Fifth, we embrace the idea of widening the pipeline for our entire industry. We are committed to sharing our processes with you and learning from best practices elsewhere. This includes creating new opportunities, auditing our screening and interview processes, learning how to deepen feelings of inclusion, and getting feedback from both our recent hires and long-tenured employees. We can’t do this alone, of course, and we won’t pretend that we have everything figured out. However, we will do what we can.

Finally, we recognize that we’re still learning. DEI at Avalon entails continued improvement, learning, and feedback—a process led by this task force and supported by both DEI and HR consultants. We use internal, anonymous surveys to understand how we are doing and where to direct our resources. We invite conversations with clients, industry peers, outside experts, and even our competitors. As we learn, we evolve.

We would love to hear from you: How have you evolved hiring in your organization to reflect and deepen your DEI commitment?