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Welcome to the Fit Fundraising Podcast, where we bring you game-changing fundraising topics, direct from our meetings with major donors and nonprofits nationwide. While most consultants are busy giving advice, Fit Fundraising stays on the front lines with nonprofits and major donors. This podcast is a glimpse into our world of work with non-profits, as we get on the field with them and successfully model fundraising. Get ready to get Fit with the hottest show in fund development, Fit Fundraising.

Roy Jones: Thank you for joining the Fit Fundraising podcast. I’m Roy Jones, the founder of Fit Fundraising and today we’ve got a special broadcast for you. We’re going to be talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, DEI and I’ve got really one of the industry’s experts on this. She’s spoken on numerous platforms, several national talk shows, and we’re just honored to have her here today. Amira Barger is a strategic, communications and marketing counselor working at the nexus of health equity, D. E. I. and employment engagement. She aids organizations and addressing society’s most pressing public issues. She’s executive vice president of DEI advisory and communications at a firm and as well as she serves as a professor at California State University East Bay, Amira thank you for joining us today. 

Amira Barger: That’s an absolute pleasure, thank you for having me again and I’m glad that we’re having this conversation and continuing.

Roy Jones: I am honored and, when we first met, I don’t know, 10 or 15 years ago, longer than we want to admit who would have thought we’d be doing this today, but but it has just been just so amazing to watch the trajectory of your career and just seeing how you’ve been used to impact the lives of so many, thank you for joining us, we’re so honored. 

Amira Barger: Thank you. Likewise. 

Roy Jones: Let’s begin with, you have become an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion on a national level. How do you advocate inside an organization at a real local level? 

Amira Barger: You have to create champions and change advocates at every level of the organization. In my work and practice of DEI, we talk a lot about employee engagement and how to arm everyone so that it becomes true, the DEI is everyone’s work and that everyone can play a part in creating more equity, more opportunity and access and I think a lot about a particular set of stakeholders in nonprofit organizations, middle managers. And we talk a lot in the DI space about power to the middle because middle managers, your direct line manager in your organization has the most power to impact your employee experience in material and powerful ways, positive or negative. And so I talk a lot about equipping managers of people with the tools that they need to understand what is DEI. How does that come to life in my day to day role? And how do I help create a space for the people, the humans, in my charge as a manager of people, to thrive within our organization and I think that’s one of the most powerful ways to advocate is if you’re in the DEI seat and HR seat or the C suite, you have the power to ensure that there are learning and development opportunities, that equip your middle managers, the managers of the human beings in your organization with the tools to advocate for DEI.

Roy Jones: Yeah, that’s really interesting because so often C suite executives are dealing with policy and paper and numbers and but it is the middle managers that are every day Interacting with co workers and that kind of thing. That is really interesting now I do have to one curveball and it’s an old guy I still struggle with this but talk to me about in this environment we’re in now where a lot of people are working remotely, working from home, talk to me about how you apply and use and implement. Again, I think it’s a little easier to model the right kind of behavior when you’re rubbing elbows, literally with people every day in the office, and you get to spend time face to face with people, how do you foster the culture in this wild oom world we live in.

Amira Barger: A wild west out here in digital meeting rooms and FaceTime on cameras, and it takes a great amount of intention, right? Because this is while we’ve been largely remote hybrid work from home the last four years, because of our collective experience with the pandemic, we learned very quickly how to pivot and there was great intention and necessity, and I think the same has to be true of, for those organizations who continue to be hybrid or even fully remote and offer work from home, they have to be very intentional about creating meaningful moments for engagement. And I believe in a world where there’s still necessity for in person elbow rubbing and engagement. I don’t think you need to be there five days a week. I certainly don’t advocate for that. First and foremost, as a DEI practitioner, advocate for choice. The choice to be flexible, work from home, hybrid, or in an office, some people love being in office five days a week, and I think they should have that choice, as well as the choice to stay home.

So you have to think about meaningful engagement, because there is something in our brain wiring and in our engagement that happens we’re in a room together. I work in the field of communications and DEI and workshops are a powerful tool to just getting towards getting to solutions for the challenges that my clients engage with and the body language and the in person interaction that happens in a workshop, there’s only so much of that you can recreate in a virtual, workshop room. So we’re intentional with our time in the office, we’re intentional, we create meaningful moments where it makes sense. Not every town hall needs to be in person. Not every one to one with your manager needs to be in person, but find the moments where it does make sense to engage with your teams, and I think when it comes to remote work and work from home, one of the great concerns, because we’re talking about DEI is for people at the margins that it might impact their trajectory and their advancement, because out of sight, out of mind so when it comes to performance reviews, promotion season, bonuses if your organization offers that the idea of leadership not seeing you and engaging with you, I do believe that there is a net impact on trajectory and there is a proximity bias. And that’s what I mean by intention.

Intention can be one acknowledging that proximity bias is a thing. And that’s, if people are working from home, there is data that shows that their trajectory of advancement within an organization is impacted, and as an organization, taking that into account and creating those meaningful moments and equipping your managers, equipping your HR teams and your DEI practitioners with information to create moments where we can still ensure people are advanced through the pipeline and their trajectory isn’t impacted because of proximity bias.

Roy Jones: Yeah, it really is about creating that meaningful, in the development space, the fundraising space, we use the term a lot, meaningful contacts. 

Amira Barger: Yes.

Roy Jones: And it really is a similar thing here, it’s a meaningful connection, it’s a meaningful conversation. Tell me more about maybe give me 2 examples of how you would continue to advocate for not necessarily a particular person, but it could be, but usually you’re advocating for a diversity policy or process and of course, and maybe there isn’t what you do in the digital world or what you do in person, maybe there aren’t 2 examples, maybe it is 1 example but any thoughts come top of mind there? Some experiences of how in a department, maybe. How you’ve seen a mid level manager with a specific situation or maybe a C suite executive making a recommendation for middle managers on how to deal with this or that, any this or that’s that you can share without divulging any confidences.

Amira Barger: Yes, right now, across a great many organizations, we are working to advocate and some successfully we have done so for coaching. In the world of DEI, there is so much nuance, and it is not intuitive, always, of how to apply this work or how to think differently about your policies and practices in an organization, and sometimes it helps to have a coach, whether it’s a coach that you meet with consistently.

Roy Jones: Is there a difference between a coach and a mentor, or are they the same person? 

Amira Barger: They can be the same person, when I think about coaching, it’s a bit more formalized than mentor, right? A mentor isn’t usually paid, right? But it’s someone you trust someone who maybe has the role that you want one day and can open doors, when I think about a coach I’m thinking about a formal coaching relationship with a subject matter expert that you can call upon. And coaching has blown up in the last, I think, four years in particular, mostly for leadership coaching, but also DEI coaching and so having someone that you, maybe you meet with them every month, or maybe you just have them on call.

Roy Jones: I love that idea. I love that idea. 

Amira Barger: You might have them on call for your organization for a certain number of leaders to be able to call and say, Hey, here’s what happened today. I need to bounce ideas off someone because I think this is a DEI issue and I don’t know how to respond. What do I say? Who do I go to first? And what are the actions that I take? And again, this work isn’t always intuitive when someone makes a comment that is sexist or racist, or when someone consistently, uninvites or refuses to invite a certain department or person to a meeting, and there is maybe an underbelly of something else going on there. It’s not always intuitive, what do I do? What do I say? How do I course correct? And how do I help people feel like they belong and they’re included? And it can help to have a subject matter expert on call to say, I need some help. I’m picking up the red phone. I need to know what to do. Throw me a lifeline so that’s something we’ve been advocating for across a great many organizations that I get to work with and sometimes it’s even the top leader, the CEO is saying I’m committed to this, I’ve made a commitment as an organization, we’ve invested in this. I’m working with our chief DEI officer, our head of DEI, but I don’t always know what to do and I don’t always know what I’m saying and people are looking to me for answers. And sometimes the CEO needs a coach. Just understand how do you lead more equitably? How do you support your HR team and your DEI team in order for this work to be sustainable and impactful? So coaching is a huge component of things that we’re advocating for because DEI isn’t always intuitive. I talk about how I’m a DEI practitioner by instinct, but that’s because of my lived experience, my mental models and how I see the world. It’s not intuitive for everyone and that’s okay. Many people are just learning and raising their understanding and awareness. And sometimes you need a coach. You’d get a coach for any other thing in life that you didn’t know how to do. 

Roy Jones: So smart and it’s especially in the nonprofit space now in the for-profit space, I do believe there’s a higher percentage of companies that have a DEI staff but in the nonprofit space, it tends to be the exception, not the rule. 

Amira Barger: Exactly. 

Roy Jones: And so all the more reason you should have a go to coach that you could reach out to. 

Amira Barger: Exactly, and if you can’t afford a coach, because I know we’re resource strapped many times in our nonprofit world, a community of peers, I have done that. I do that today myself, and I know many nonprofit executives I work with, they have a community of peers who have similar challenges. And they get together and they have conversation, how did you address it? And what was the outcome that can be a way to build your network, build your knowledge, and have ideas for how to create solutions to these very complex issues of DEI.

Roy Jones: Wow. That is insightful. And I hadn’t thought about having a coach in this area but wow, how important. It’s a great idea. Can you give me an example of how you make your direct reports? Feel a sense of inclusion, belonging, equity, and can you really do that on a daily basis?

Amira Barger: With significant intention and energy? Yes, no one gets know I’m right. 

Roy Jones: That’s the answer I wanted to hear. I was hoping you would say that. 

Amira Barger: When I think about the workplace, there are also external factors that impact how we show up during the day, I think about even my own experience to be vulnerable as I’ve had a significant amount of loss in the last 12 months, and that absolutely impacted how I showed up in the workplace. I was grieving, but I had a job to do and I had humans in my care, that were entrusted to me that needed me, and sometimes as a leader, one of the best ways to create belonging psychological safety and support your team is to be forthcoming to say, I’m grieving, I’m not my best self today. And I just want to posit that so that you’re aware and I’m aware, and I’m going to do my best to still show up for you.

I also think that as a leader, a way to create inclusion and a sense of belonging on a daily basis is to actively listen and to know when you need to pick up the phone for your team and say, Hey, Roy, I noticed in the team meeting today you seemed a little down, what does support look like for me today? What do you need? It might be, I need a long lunch today. I need a week off, I need a coffee. You don’t have to have the answer as the leader, but opening the door helps to create that psychological safety and that inclusion and just the simple, ask that question. What does support look like for me today?

Roy Jones: I love that. What’s really interesting, just lots of great thought, lots of great insight here. Having a DEI coach, which is really different than a mentor. Having a group of peers that you can bounce ideas off of those are so insightful, practical helps. And we’ve directed most of our questions towards management or mid level management and how we can lead in this space. But when you look at people of color people in that minority sector, that are working in a job day to day, what kind of training needs do they have? What kind of things do they need to help everybody build the right culture? 

Amira Barger: Yeah, I would start 1st by reframing that they don’t need training. We need more of in organizations, particularly if you’re new to the nonprofit sector, the fundraising world is capability building, and I say that more so than training because the difference with capability building is it means that you have to meet people where they are. 

Roy Jones: Oh, I love that. I love that. This isn’t a cookie cutter approach, is it?

Amira Barger: No. Where is that person’s level of maturity in fundraising training and nonprofit understanding and meeting them where they are to build their capability and to build their capacity to operate successfully within the organization and that takes a little more time, a little more intention, a different approach, but I believe that what people need is, a leadership and development team, a human resources team, a DEI team, a leadership team that understands build capabilities, don’t train people.

Roy Jones: I love that. 

Amira Barger: The second thing I would say to help people thrive is that there’s this concept called the forgetting curve and even current studies, the forgetting curve is almost a hundred years old, but even current studies today will underscore that 90 percent of what people learn in a training is forgotten if not implemented in 14 days. 

Roy Jones: Wow.

Amira Barger: Even if you take copious notes, handwritten notes, even I’m a big fan of those. I’m still very analog, but as a organization, as a leader, if you are the person who has the power to provide training, a.k.a capability building for your people, do it in a way that it is sustained and not one off and do it in a way that you build in time for them to apply the learning to real world scenarios in order for that learning to be sustainable and useful to the organization.

Roy Jones: Wow, powerful. Amira, thank you so much. Every 10 minutes I’m with you, I learned 10 new things. Thank you so much for joining us today. I know there are people out there and you’re not going to have the time to be everyone’s DEI coach, but if somebody wanted to reach you, maybe they’ve got another Interview opportunity for you, maybe they want to find out about more what you’re doing or more help how does somebody reach you? I know you’ve got a newsletter as well.

Amira Barger: I do linkedin is the best place to find me actually have all of my contact information as well as my website listed there on my linkedin profile, so linkedin. com forward slash in forward slash Amira Barger, you’ll find my phone number and my email there and i’m very active there If you message me, you’ll get a response back.

Roy Jones: Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today, we are so honored and it has just been a great time. I’ve learned so much and applying things to my own personal business, including coach, including capability, training I love that idea, I so love that idea. And we appreciate this so much and appreciate the investment, that you’re making in the movement as a whole. So we are so honored. 

Again, thank you everyone for joining us here at the Fit Fundraising podcast. I want to remind you last year we helped 41 nonprofits, with free fundraising council. If you need some help, call us. Of those 41, eight did end up hiring us on retainer, which we are thankful for. Our goal this year is to help 50 nonprofits. So I’m hoping you’ll call us, reach out. We’d love to help you love to be a part of what you’re doing. Again thank you for joining the Fit Fundraising podcast. We’ll talk to you next episode.

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