We were recently asked to speak to the Memphis Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The following is part one of our remarks. Remarks were written by Melvin and Pearl Shaw and delivered by Pearl Shaw.
We are a husband-and-wife team, operating a fundraising consulting business that works nationwide. Melvin is African American, Memphis born and raised, though he left in 1968, a time he describes politely as “tense.” I’m from New York. My mother immigrated from Egypt in her early 20s. My father is white. Mel and I met, married, and started our business in the diverse San Francisco Bay Area. Today we call Memphis home. When deciding to move South, we had to pause and ask, “Will people accept us?” We didn’t know.
We have found that the Memphis we live in is very different from Memphis 1968. We have been welcomed by diverse leaders from across the city. We work with black-led organizations; traditionally white organizations; faith-based organizations; social justice groups; Latino organizations; historically black colleges and universities, and more.
We know the diversity of fundraisers because we work with them: lesbian, gay and transgendered; black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander, Indian, Arab, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish …We have worked with organizations as they develop the talents of those who have been under represented or unrepresented in fundraising.
The diversity of our work did not come easily. For many years Mel wondered if having his photo on our marketing materials would “turn off” prospective clients. We knew that because of our company’s name people might feel uncomfortable working with “foreigners” or worse, that we had terrorist connections.
What we know is that times have changed. People are willing to meet with us, to explore how we can add value. Today we are not immediately excluded because we are a black ﬁrm.
While this column is future-looking, we must realize why the values of inclusion, diversity, equity and access are important and why we must be conscious in our practices and policies: we are still emerging from a time when race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, physical abilities, and even marital status were a criterion for “how well you could do your job.”
Part two is next week. For a copy of the full remarks please visit saadandshaw.com/blog.
Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
[Our city is moving forward with inclusion, diversity, equity and access. For help growing your fundraising visit www.saadandshaw.com.]
This article originally appeared in the Pasadena Journal.