What Can a Grant Professional Do to Further DEI? A lot, actually…

I took the helm as President of the Grant Professionals Association on January 1, 2020. Our membership was climbing. Our annual conference was selling out often. The educational offerings provided by the organization were growing, too, in terms of the number and type of courses as well as the level of content. I was looking forward to an incredible year, ready to build relationships with other organizations to further expand the reach and brilliance of GPA.


But you already know the ending to this timeline – March 13, 2020, hit, and the world stopped in my corner of the country thanks to COVID-19. (Your “last day of normal” was also probably somewhere around that time.)


We had a worldwide pandemic to survive; people died. And if that wasn’t enough, George Floyd was killed by police – and tragically, he was just one of many that year (and the years before and after). Suddenly, I was asked if GPA should make a statement. And I’ll admit it: I panicked. What did I, a middle-aged white woman who spent her career writing grants, know what to say in a moment like this? So, I punted and took a wait-and-see approach.


But the more I read and heard, the more I realized that staying silent wasn’t the right thing to do. So, together with GPA staff and our Board of Directors, we issued a statement about the values held dear by members of the grant profession, including asking our members to join us in the deep and difficult conversations about racism as we grew to become an association known for unity, support, and action.


To some, it was the springboard needed for just that. To others, it wasn’t enough. I could easily spin my wheels wondering what I should have done, but I learned something from my conversation with Kia Jarmon on the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast. Conversations surrounding racism and the need for DEI policies and actions have been happening, and they need to keep happening. We also need to move past conversations and start doing the work. We can start small. We can make mistakes. We can ask forgiveness and keep moving forward towards getting it right. You can listen to our conversation here:  https://haydayservices.com/dei-black-philan…building-bridges/.


You might wonder what grant professionals can do if your organization is stuck and doesn’t know what to do about DEI? I suggest you take a play from my co-host, Kimberly Hays de Muga, and “blame the funder.” Many grant applications ask if your organization has a DEI policy. If you don’t, that requirement can be a good starting point to move your organization into action. Create one – it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can and should improve upon it.


Foundation proposals often ask about the diversity of your board and staff – it’s a good segway into conversations about diversifying the makeup of both.


And yes, these can be tough conversations– but not as tough as living in a world where diversity, equity, and inclusion are not part of our everyday lives. As our guest Kia said, no one must solve all the world’s problems. We must build small bridges as we go, and eventually, we’ll reach our destination.


I know I don’t get it right half the time, but I must be willing to put myself on the line to start the conversation. Otherwise, I’m not helping at all. And isn’t that what grant professionals do? We make the world a better place one discussion, one grant proposal, and one funded program at a time. So don’t be afraid to use that power for good, even if you stumble a little along the way.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 6 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 5 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here

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