A Holistic Approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Elevate

Elevate is excited to share two new partnerships that we have started in 2023 to support our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Justice (IDEA+J) efforts.

Read more below to learn about our partners, our plans, and our journey.  


April Walker, Philanthropy for the People 

In February, we kicked off a year-long partnership with Philanthropy for the People, and its founder April Walker. April’s expertise centers specifically on racial equity and justice in fundraising and grantmaking

April is facilitating conversations and workshops for Elevate staff about wealth, philanthropy, and fundraising justice throughout 2023. Our aim for this portion of our work is to build a shared vocabulary and understanding among Elevate staff about these topics so that we can be better partners to our clients and drive meaningful change in the nonprofit sector. 

April’s unique focus on equity in philanthropy is particularly important to Elevate, given the nature of our work to support nonprofit fundraising in an inherently inequitable philanthropic sector. This context has major consequences for our nonprofit partners, and Elevate is committed to hastening change in the sector. 

Interested in hearing more about April’s expertise and her advice on what it will take to transform the philanthropic sector? Look for our next blog installment!

Dominique Hollins, WĒ360: 360° of Workplace Equity

We have likewise engaged Dominique Hollins, Founder and Connector-in-Chief of WĒ360, to conduct a company-wide equity audit. Our work with Dominique is internally-focused and designed as the primary information-gathering step in developing Elevate’s long-term IDEA+J strategy. 

Dominique will conduct a company-wide IDEA+J assessment that highlights strengths and areas of development for sustainable IDEA+J implementation in the years to come. Her assessment will include surveys of Elevate staff and a review of relevant internal policies and procedures. This information will inform the design of our long-term IDEA+J strategy. We intend to repeat this assessment every two to three years to measure and evaluate progress. 

Dominique is a sought-after consultant, coach and speaker who has been quoted in the Washington Post and recognized by Fortune for her work. She develops customized strategies that bridge the gap between corporate responsibility and organizational accountability to enable equitable and inclusive business practices. 

Why Two Partners?

Elevate strives to be an inclusive and equitable workplace where all members of staff are accepted and recognized for their contributions.  It is therefore critical that any work we do to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion is inclusive of our company operations and practices. 

At the same time, Elevate operates within the larger context of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, as we support our clients in their pursuit of funding from institutional donors. Our clients are in part dependent on the largesse of donors, and we are cognizant that philanthropy itself is inherently imperfect. Philanthropy writ large is a product of the income inequality and disparity rooted in a capitalist system –  a system in which much of this country’s wealth is and always has been generated by Black, Brown, and immigrant laborers. 

So, when tasked with identifying the right partners to support Elevate’s journey, the IDEA+J working group identified the need for two partners with distinct expertise who could support our work with both an internal and an external focus. While it took some time to lay the foundation for these two partnerships, we are optimistic that our collaborations with April and Dominique will facilitate the holistic and multidimensional approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion that we’ve been looking for.  

Laying the Groundwork

At Elevate, we believe that to build a workplace that is inclusive and equitable requires a values alignment, an invested leadership team, financial resources, and staff capacity for a sustained, long-term commitment, as the work is quite simply never finished if it is substantive rather than performative. 

Individual Elevate staff members have consistently expressed enthusiasm and demand for the company to invest more in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. While wanting very much to heed this call to action, founder, President and CEO Alayna Buckner, wanted to enter into this undertaking responsibly with sufficient internal assets in place. Equally important to Alayna was for Elevate to do its due diligence to avoid engaging in DEI that was superficial, counterproductive, or harmful. This was especially true in light of the proliferation of ill-conceived DEI pledges and initiatives in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. We also did not want a disproportionate amount of emotional labor to fall on staff belonging to marginalized communities, as often happens when initiatives are entirely staff-directed. Finally, we wanted to look both inward at ourselves and our organization and outward to our sector to better understand how intrinsic injustice and power imbalances are to the core of fundraising.  

Accordingly, we made certain we had the financial resources that would allow Elevate to invest in the necessary expertise to guide this journey. We hired Vice President of Personnel, Letese Lamb, to act as the executive sponsor of our DEI initiative. We also reduced staff workloads so that they would have the space to participate in IDEA+J working groups and committees. Then, we undertook a thoughtful year-long partner selection process as an IDEA+J Committee. 

Now that we are here, we know that this transformative work will challenge us in ways we may not expect. All the same, we are eager to begin this collective learning journey and to share our progress with you! 

Check out a few of our previous blogs for more on how philanthropy is changing and why it is critical that grant writers use empowering language in their funding requests. We also offer a webinar on Power Dynamics in Grant Writing as part of our Learning Collection on How to Prepare Expert Grant Applications. Join us on May 25, 2023 for a session that will explore the role of fundraising in creating equitable partnerships among communities, the social sector, and philanthropy.

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