The nature of Association Management Companies is to “fix it”. We roll up our sleeves and face challenges every day in support of our clients as they push their missions forward.
After the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, many of us were quick to want to identify and fix the issue. . . because that’s what we do. We fix it. But RACISM. That’s more than an issue. It’s more than a word.
As a white woman, I have not and will not personally experience the pain of racism in its many loud and quiet forms. Because of this, it is our duty and honor to recognize our privilege and leverage it to the benefit of this important movement. We’ve had conversations with friends and family about how to apply privilege in our personal lives, but the scope has broadened. How can we apply our conviction to our company and those we serve as well?
There is a lot of work to be done, and it feels overwhelming. Like many in the association industry, we’re always wanting to jump in and make things right. Make a difference. Be the change. We want to get right to it, “What could we do right now to help?” “What are the right words to use” “What makes this better?” In the case of this movement, humility is a key ingredient. We first need to pause, listen to the black community, and others who understand racism first-hand. Trust what they are saying. Accept their reality. We need to study the facts, examine issues with an open heart and mind, and be truly willing to look right at racism and stare it down. Before we can start fixing anything, we must be sure we are educated, open, and aware of our own unavoidable biases. Only once we’re honest with ourselves, can jump into action and get busy fixing.
Establishing diversity and inclusivity in our own lives and businesses doesn’t just happen overnight. With today’s tense political climate and societal pressure to speak out, words and actions sometimes feel like double-edged swords. But in this case, our company believes that
“Black Lives Matter” is simply that – recognizing and acknowledging that we still have work to do until we see equality and justice for all.
Change of any type is uncomfortable. How often have we struggled to get an organization to make a necessary and mission-critical change of any type? No doubt you can look back with a board of directors who took brave steps down a path of progress, only to realize it really wasn’t that bad. Change is necessary, and it’s happening whether we resist or dive right in and face it. So here we are, with a great opportunity to do better for our companies, our clients, and our world.
“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” —W. Edwards Deming
How will AMCs and Associations become better allies, and how can this be applied to our industry?
Put your money where your mouth is – make a donation or lead a fundraiser for a nonprofit whose mission is centered around helping the black community. For example, NPR sponsored a “Sweat for a Cause” fitness class where all proceeds were donated to the National Urban League.
Support employees who enact change – are you willing to allow employees time off to protest, or take off time to go vote? Keep lines of communications open to ensure you are supporting employees’ personal initiatives.
Unconscious Bias Training – require all staff to take training and quizzes on implicit bias. The results might surprise you!
Look at your staff – we’ll be the first to say our own company has a long way to go on this one! We operate in a state where 85% of the population is white and have not had diversity come to us, but we are now actively seeking it. We’re looking for ways to diversify our staff, without engaging in tokenism. One client’s advice is to look at internships through HBCUs or cities that enjoy more diversity in their population. Use diverse channels and job boards to post your openings or ask for diverse referrals as a way to create your own health profile. Diversity isn’t just going to fall in your lap, you might have to create it for yourself, as we’re actively starting to do.
Recruiting board diversity, the right way – statistics vary by industry and client, but the fact is, many nonprofits and associations lack diversity on their boards. Jim Taylor wrote a great article on how to enhance board diversity, without taking part in “Tokenism”. READ HERE.
Lean into tough conversations about diversity. It should not be taboo to address diversity, or lack thereof, within your company or client organizations. Starting the conversation and raising awareness is the first step. You might be surprised that your leadership team is eager to take this on, they just needed a brave opening discussion to take their first steps. Be that brave voice, and smile knowing leadership will feel great about enacting change.
Representation – include BIPOC in marketing and promotional material for your client organizations.
Lifting voices – are the ideas from BIPOC being heard and recognized by board members and staff? How can you ensure that those voices are being lifted?
Create diversity networks within client organizations. Support and networking groups for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) members is a great way to not only encourage diversity but also grow your membership base. Encourage black stakeholders to adopt leadership positions.
Our suggestions are only scratching the surface, and we know that we are standing on the outside looking in. But we will continue tune into the Black community and hope you join us in these efforts. We can all listen, learn, and actively engage to drive long-lasting change through the #BLM movement. What are some of the ideas and initiatives your org has started to become better allies?
There is no simple or easy solution, but history was never changed through complicit behavior. So, let’s get to work and so what we do best… fix it! #blacklivesmatter