Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in Fundraising and Philanthropy – Part 1

Part one of a four part series

On September 13, 2018 we were asked to speak to the Memphis Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). The following is part one of our remarks. We share these as we believe they are important to all of us who care about the future of fundraising, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector. Remarks were written by Melvin and Pearl Shaw and delivered by Pearl Shaw.

A little bit of history

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in Fundraising and PhilanthropyWe are a husband-and-wife team, operating a fundraising consulting business that works locally and nationwide. Melvin is African American, Memphis born and raised, though he left Memphis 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 very diverse San Francisco Bay Area. When we decided to move to Memphis, we had to pause and ask, “Will people accept us?” We didn’t know what Memphis would think of us as a mixed-race couple, or how our business would be accepted.

We have found that the Memphis we live in is very different from the Memphis of 1968. We have been welcomed by diverse leaders from across the city. We write for you – for this paper – every Tuesday, and have for the past eight years. And we love it that the paper runs our picture with this column. You’ll see in a moment why that is an important part of our story. We have worked with black-led organizations, traditionally white organizations, faith-based organizations, social justice groups, Latino Memphis, OUT Memphis, the city, private businesses, and philanthropy here and across the country.

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.

While we value and love our clients, the diversity of our work did not come easily. For many years Mel wondered if having his photo on our website and 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, anti-American sentiments or connections.

Changing Times

What we have found here in Memphis is that times have changed. The leadership of this city has been willing to meet with us, to explore how we can add value. It is because of today’s welcoming leadership that we are recommended as consultants. Today we are not immediately excluded because we are a black firm.

While this column is future-looking, we must realize why these values are important and why we must be conscious in our practices and policies. It is because 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

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Our city is moving forward with inclusion, diversity, equity and access. For help growing your fundraising visit

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