Our commitment to racial justice

Murals in Balmy Alley, Mission District, San Francisco, 2014
Murals in Balmy Alley, Mission District, San Francisco, 2014

We’ve been thinking about this for a while and wanted to be thoughtful about supporting the movement. Thank you for taking time to read.

What we envision

A nation where attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors have evolved to the point where the culture of white supremacy is disavowed, and its structures, systems, and policies are dismantled and replaced with equitable, just ones. More positive outcomes at the individual, community, state, and national levels are immediately apparent.

People of color lead the way beautifully in a growing, sustainable racial justice movement. 90% of white people are humble, willing to learn, and become anti-racist (because 100% seems pretty unrealistic.) We embrace being uncomfortable because the urgency of justice has become too great to avoid this travesty any longer.

Many millions of conversations are had, most of them civil. Violence and generational racism are receding, because young people are discarding harmful -isms and -phobias in favor of inclusion, opportunity, and equity.

A period of reconciliation has taken place, and we have wisely learned from other countries who undertook similar journeys. Reparations have been made.

#BlackLivesMatter 

What we understand

Until Black lives matter, too, all lives don’t matter.

In practice, the U.S. has never treated people, especially Black and Brown people and their cultures, equitably. This country was founded on generations of racism and “othering”, beginning with the genocide and displacement of Native Americans, the enslavement and terrorism of African Americans and Black people, and the exploitation of Latinx communities – with LGBTQIA+ people marginalized in every group.

The racist systems, structures, policies, and laws that give white people advantages over people of color have not yet been dismantled – they’ve just evolved for a modern age.

We know this in part because disparities persist among racial groups that are not grounded in actual differences between us. Academic achievement for kids, educational attainment for adults, housing status, homeownership rates, labor force participation, earnings, household income, the wealth gap, mortality rates for mothers and infants, health outcomes…the list goes on. The data is a horrifying reflection of the human cost.

We understand fundraising and grantmaking in the nonprofit sector have practices and frameworks that uphold dominant cultures. Some we’ve argued against for years – the outsized importance of “major” donors, not asking communities what they need before writing grants, pay inequity, hiring white, privileged friends into leadership positions, racing for the lowest overhead rate. Doing so has occasionally led to the loss of jobs and relationships.

Still, as the organization’s leader, I own the fact that I’ve been complicit in subtle racism. Moving forward, I want to use our (individual and business-related) power to be explicitly anti-racist. Though I’ve been on this journey for a while, I still have plenty to learn and do.

It’s time for white people to listen, and it’s a lot to process in a pandemic, but there’s an argument that we’ve had 400 years to address racial justice. The slow, halting progress on this front is a testament to the thousands of smart, committed, brave activists who deserve so much credit. They would have achieved far more, were it not for the pernicious nature of white supremacy.

Our work as it relates to equity and justice

In essence, our entire consulting practice is geared toward equity – by supporting the people dedicated to improving community, health and well-being – we are working to create a nation where outcomes and experiences are more equitable for all groups. It’s exciting to think how that can evolve to become anti-racist.

Our strategic goals

  •  Help strengthen the safety net for vulnerable ones* by securing resources for programs and services
  • Advance knowledge and effective practice among nonprofit professionals
  • Develop a stronger nonprofit sector through facilitation, planning, and insight

*People of color, children, LGBTQIA+ people, survivors of abuse and assault, unhoused people, immigrants,  people with different abilities, Veterans, and residents of rural and remote areas.

The racial justice movement aligns closely with our work. Since 2008, Andi Kemp and other professionals working with Upward Development have supported 60+ nonprofits and school districts. We help community leaders fight poverty and develop programs, services, and appeals that are accessible and inclusive.

How? Through assessment, strategic planning, fundraising, and training.

In assessment and planning, we take a holistic approach to understanding organizations and use non-judgmental inquiry to learn about them. We are thorough – examining structure, policy, culture, HR practices, planning, programs, fundraising, finance, oversight, and outreach. We intentionally ask how each area reflects the community served, advances the mission, and contributes to equitable impact. We talk to everyone, especially employees with the least power and people of color. These are anti-racist practices we’ll continue to use.

We’ve advanced pay equity, created reasonable expectations for employees, budgeted for training dollars, convinced leaders to improve their hiring practices, shared a metric ton of resources, written better policies, and helped leadership think strategically and understand what diversity and inclusion truly mean.

When it needed to happen, we’ve tried to disrupt the status quo by changing culture and executive leadership. Sometimes we were successful. Does the arc of equity bend as slowly as its twin toward justice? Seems to. Still, we’ll continue to try, though it means some contracts will end early and others will never materialize.

We’re strategic and engaging when it comes to grant fundraising – we insist that organizations think carefully about sustainability and never chase money. We’ve created dozens of inclusive, attainable plans, proposals, and programs with clients. It has led to us raising more than $100 million together over 12 years!

In workshops, we train development professionals using a framework of justice, pragmatism, and inclusion. We encourage nonprofits to solicit gifts of all sizes from a broad spectrum of donors, say thank you far more often than they ask for contributions, and invite many different perspectives in decision-making.

We’ve learned so much from other professionals who are thought leaders in this realm – our thanks to Vu Le, Beloved Community, Community-Centric Fundraising, Meyer Memorial Trust, Grassroots Fundraising Institute, and many others. We’re thoughtfully considering how we can do more; taking the time to listen and learn.

Finally, we (Andi) have taken feedback over the years on how to be more inclusive and culturally competent (some of it was painful to hear, but no less true for having been spoken, and made me better). I’ll continue to recognize and dismantle implicit biases, and weave anti-racism into our business practices moving forward.

 Equitable practice – 10 strategies we employ

  1. Insist that leaders seek diverse perspectives, include all voices, and share power.
  2. Advocate for the people impacted by services and programs to be involved in decision-making.
  3. Encourage frequency, variety, and anonymity in requesting feedback from key stakeholders.
  4. Define diversity and constituent groups broadly.
  5. Insist on designing grant proposals with input from all key stakeholders.
  6. Call out barriers to awareness, access, service delivery, advancement, and volunteerism.
  7. Address exclusive and discriminatory practices in governance and employment.
  8. Offer detailed recommendations for organizations centered on inclusion and equity.
  9. Deliver strategic plans and assessments to boards of directors personally. Insist they be part of the process to develop them.
  10. Encourage nonprofits to deconstruct stereotypes about clients, donors, boards, and geographic areas.

How we are improving and will continue to improve  

  • Read and hear more from people of color and marginalized voices (future blogs coming; see Twitter)
  • Adapt assessment report language to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people are seen in population studies
  • Name the Native American tribes whose lands we occupy – Siuslaw, Kalapuya for Eugene home base
  • Ask people of color to help develop and improve any report, plan, policy, or appeal that affects them
  • Hire consultants of color, trans people, and other LGBTQIA+ individuals on larger projects
  • Intentionally seek out BIPOC-led organizations. Ask how our efforts make sense in supporting them.
  • Donate and volunteer more.

Areas of focus for anti-racism work

Economic Justice

  • Anti-poverty efforts (housing, food security, education)
  • Comprehensive sex education in schools
  • Access to sexual and reproductive health care, including free contraception and hormone therapy, and meaningful access to abortion
  • Financial literacy for youth and adults
  • Broadband access, especially in rural areas

Safe, Affordable Housing

  • Supportive housing (subsidized housing with wraparound services)
  • Transitional housing (up to two years with case management support)
  • Public shelters and homeless services for youth and adults
  • Homeownership programs for first-time buyers (education and down payment assistance)

Education

  • Early childhood education (Head Start and Early Head Start)
  • Access to arts and cultural opportunities
  • Life skills for youth and adults

Defund the Police*

*We understand defunding to mean the significant reallocation of resources away from police department budgets toward reinvestment in social services for communities. We are not abolitionists.  

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