By Elisabeth Hyleck, Programs and Initiatives Director, Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers
Diversity, in all its aspects, is an essential ingredient of good governance, and has been shown to result in better financial and organizational performance; increased capacity to connect to new markets and communities; expanded access to talented staff and volunteers; enhanced innovation and creativity; and stronger professional relationships. ABAG believes that its governance and programs will improve if the perspectives of individuals of different backgrounds are included in its board, staff, programs, and decision-making. For ABAG, inclusiveness means creating a welcoming and trusting environment that facilitates learning and incorporates viewpoints of diverse communities.
Our Association is guided by our Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness Policy, which defines what we mean and what we will do. It specifies that ABAG will use its diversity, racial equity and inclusiveness principles when contracting for goods, services, and recruiting, hiring and retaining staff. We feel we’ve had recent success in this arena and want to share with our members how we go about this work.
We know that people connect with jobs and opportunities mainly through personal connections. We also know that many people of color have been excluded from networks that provide them access to opportunity. ABAG staff strives to develop and maintain connections with networks that will bridge divides of race and class. We then share job postings with these networks. Examples of this include the Annie E. Casey Foundation Program Assistant Network, ABFE, Morgan State University Graduate program, and programs such as Baltimore Corps.
We also use the standard language on our job descriptions, “The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is an equal opportunity employer and seeks a diverse pool of candidates in this search.” It helps to be explicit!
Even in outreach to our personal/professional networks we are explicit in our desire to reach a diverse pool of candidates – again being intentional prompts colleagues to be intentional in their thinking and ultimately their referrals.
Have you attended a lunchtime program at ABAG recently? Did you know that we strive to use local, women- and minority-owned businesses that serve high-quality, healthy, delicious food? Our top caterers are: Mt. Vernon Stable (long live the turkey club!) owned by Lori Yagjian; Station North Arts Café, owned by Kevin Brown and William Maughlin; and Cazbar, owned by Haluk Kantar. Over the years we’ve tried out several other caterers and social enterprises and are always on the lookout for other options that meet our criteria. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for us!
We also contract with KJones Consulting, LLC, a women- and minority-owned enterprise, for our accounting services and with SB & Company, LLC, a minority-owned enterprise, for our annual audit. We also work with HR Strategy Group, a women-owned enterprise offering customized human resources support and consulting. We believe that directing our funds in this manner grows minority businesses, increases minority hiring opportunities and is good for our local economy.
Each of our contractual relationships has expanded our network and our ability to access a strong pool of diverse candidates and vendors to meet the needs of our organization.
Today, we are proud of the expertise and skills our diverse staff bring to our organization, for the benefit of our members. We also recognize that in order to retain staff, ABAG needs to be an organization where all people feel welcome and valued. We strive to be a team of welcoming colleagues, offering support to new team members and encouraging continuous learning and the close collaboration that ensures growth and success for each of us as individuals and as a team. We know embracing diversity and inclusiveness and focusing on racial equity in its governance and programs will help us achieve ABAG’s mission to maximize the impact of giving on community life through a growing network of diverse, informed and effective philanthropists.