Home / News from the Community: RVA Community Fund for Standing Together Launches with Mini Grants for Nonprofits

Archive For: Diversity and Inclusion

News from the Community: RVA Community Fund for Standing Together Launches with Mini Grants for Nonprofits

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities is pleased to announce a new resource for Richmond-area nonprofit organizations. Thanks to initial funding from the Robins Foundation and fund management from the Richmond Jewish Foundation, the RVA COMMUNITY FUND FOR STANDING TOGETHER was launched on August 21st, 2017.

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: LaToya Blizzard, Director of Finance and Operations, disAbility Law Center of Virginia

Tell us about yourself.

My name is LaToya Blizzard.  I am the Director of Finance and Operations for the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. dLCV provides legal aid and advocacy for people with disabilities.  Our organization is the state’s protection and advocacy system.  I’ve been with the agency for eight years.  I’m a native of Chesterfield County and attended Norfolk State University.  I started with the agency when it was a state agency known as Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy.  In 2013 we transitioned to become a nonprofit.

What is the focus of your work?

The focus of dLCV is to advance the independence, choice, self-determination of people with disabilities.  To protect legal, human, and civil rights. To eliminate abuse, neglect, and discrimination of people with disabilities.  Our vision is a Commonwealth free of legal barriers for individuals with disabilities.  We work to ensure that people with disabilities have the same quality of life as others.  They have the right to work and be active in their communities without physical and legal obstacles.  We do a variety of work on behalf of people with disabilities including assistive technology, traumatic brain injury, access to vocational rehab service, voting rights, seclusion and restraint, special education, and guardianship rights.  People have a right to know their rights and for those rights to be respected.  We want to empower people to be self-advocates and understand their rights and responsibilities.   We want to educate the community about ways that we should include people with disabilities

 

 What do you find most rewarding about your work?

The agency works to have major impact within individual lives but also on a systemic level.  If feels good to be on the right side of the law every time.  Knowing that we’ve given a voice to the voiceless.  Giving hope to someone that had no hope.  When clients contact us, they’ve been hurt or violated and are frustrated with the rejection and disappointments.  Knowing that we helped at least one person have a better quality of life is rewarding.

ABOVE:  Sandra shares her story of working with dLCVA

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

As most with most nonprofits, funding is always a challenge.  We want to do so much, but our funding can only be stretched so far.  In recognizing we can’t take every case, we will give every caller at least information and a referral source related to their situation.  Another major challenge that we have faced is we are still not very well known.  We have placed more efforts on getting out and engaging the community to let them know we are here.

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?  

Someone might be surprised to know that we do exist! However, probably the biggest misconception is that there is a fee for our services.

What interesting initiatives are on the horizon?

Our social media campaign to engage college students to let us know about accessibility issues on their campus.  We have a new transportation access project going on where we are surveying accessibility between public transportation and medical providers.  This is to ensure that persons with disabilities that use public transit have a clear path of travel to get to necessary health services and providers.  We also have a few trainings coming up on our special education manual (Pathways to Special Education) and one on transition services for youth.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

We regularly collaborate with other disability organizations throughout the state.  It is our hope to create partnerships with as many organizations as we can to reach and help as many as we can.  In August we will be working with VCIC to provide training on employing people with disabilities.  You can find that training here.

 

Anything else you would like to share?

Just a reminder that people with disabilities are people too.  If anyone is interested in learning more about dLCV and how they can aid us in our fight, they can visit our website www.dlcv.org or contact me directly at 804-662-7274 or by email at LaToya.Blizzard@dlcv.org

Read more →

 

Creating a More Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: Ethnicity

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.   Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of diversity and inclusion in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

In a recent blog post, we shared that diversity is the presence of difference generally related to one’s identity and might include ability status, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Inclusion is the accepting, respecting, and valuing of this diversity.  Working to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a fundamental part of fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit. It creates an environment of involvement and connection and allows for the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives to be harnessed to create value for the organization, clients and the community.

To begin moving towards active inclusion in the workplace, nonprofit leaders must 1) examine their own lens to have a deeper understanding of their perspectives and perceptions to create a framework for approaching and addressing their own bias – whether that be conscious or unconscious.  Nonprofit leaders must 2) ask and encourage tough questions to create deeper dialogue within their organization, especially with staff who come from different backgrounds than them.  This will allow the leader to develop a clearer understanding of how experiences affect work styles, behavior, communications, and relationships and eventually form an atmosphere of greater trust.  Nonprofit leaders must 3) acknowledge institutional bias, which are the practices, policies, structures and traditions that push some people up and others down based solely on identity. It’s important leaders realize that institutional bias may exist in their own organization causing barriers towards inclusion and ultimately, equity and justice.

Local Barriers and Suggestions for Interventions

What are some of the barriers that organizations, leaders and staff create in local nonprofit organizations that prevent diversity and inclusion (in both the workplace itself and with clients and the community)? What are actions steps that they can take to intervene and overcome these barriers, leading to a more inclusive nonprofit environment?  The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders group analyzed several different “Identities” in relation to their own organization and below are the findings.  This week we focus on one of nine identities – “Ethnicity”.  In later posts, we will focus in on the others – gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Make sure to read our previous posts on Ability Status and Age.

 

Ethnicity

A main discussion from the group was around the difference between ethnicity and race.  Often, the words are used interchangeably but the two words do have separate meanings.  According to the World Atlas, race is the word used to describe the physical characteristics of a person and might include everything from skin color to eye color and facial structure to hair color. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is the word used to describe the cultural identity of a person. These identities can include language, religion, nationality, ancestry, dress, and customs.

Regarding ethnicity (we will discuss race in another segment) the group mentioned several barriers that they’ve observed in their workplace.  One well-known barrier in the nonprofit sector is under-representation of ethnic and cultural diversity on nonprofit boards.  The participants observed that many organizations that serve low-income communities that are often ethnically diverse have few board members from diverse backgrounds.  They extended this notion to upper-level management as well.  This makes serving and understanding the communities being served much more difficult.  One specific barrier related to this is a language barrier from those providing the services and those receiving them in the local nonprofit sector.

Another common occurrence is the lack of individual donors from diverse cultural backgrounds.  Nationally, this is true, as well.  According to Blackbaud’s latest “Diversity in Giving Study” nearly three-fourths of donors today are non-Hispanic whites, even though whites make up only 64 percent of the population. Conversely the study finds that both African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in the donor universe. Asian donor participation appears congruent with the Asian population size.  The study goes on to say that the under-representation of African-Americans and Hispanics suggests that organized philanthropy is not doing an adequate job of engaging non-white communities. For instance, African-American and Hispanic donors say they are solicited less frequently.  Furthermore, they suggest they would give more if they were asked more often.  The group agreed that understanding the differences in giving traditions in various cultures and creating engagement strategies accordingly would help to make the individual support base for their organizations more diverse.

The participants went on to express the importance of their organizations becoming very intentional in making all aspects of their organization more ethnically diverse.  This strategically could include training (that’s mandatory!) within their organizations to build cultural competency, professional development and looking at outside resources that might be available.

Regarding attracting more diverse talent, the group said that the organization should intentionally recruit for ethnic diversity within all levels of the organization as well as the board. Bridgespan has some tips on recruiting ethnically diverse staff and in an earlier post on D&I Jonathan Zur gives some examples of best practices for recruitment.  Here are some practical tips from Blue Avocado for recruiting for board diversity.  Board Source has a ton of great tools like this Diversity and Inclusion Assessment.  The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities also has a training coming up on June 14th through their Workforce Inclusion Network (WIN) on “Measuring Diversity and Inclusion Efforts” that can help you get started.

Read more →

 

Creating An Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: Age

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.   Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of diversity and inclusion in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

In a recent blog post, we shared that diversity is the presence of difference generally related to one’s identity and might include ability status, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Inclusion is the accepting, respecting, and valuing of this diversity.  Working to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a fundamental part of fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit. It creates an environment of involvement and connection and allows for the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives to be harnessed to create value for the organization, clients and the community.

To begin moving towards active inclusion in the workplace, nonprofit leaders must 1) examine their own lens to have a deeper understanding of their perspectives and perceptions to create a framework for approaching and addressing their own bias – whether that be conscious or unconscious.  Nonprofit leaders must 2) ask and encourage tough questions to create deeper dialogue within their organization, especially with staff who come from different backgrounds than them.  This will allow the leader to develop a clearer understanding of how experiences affect work styles, behavior, communications, and relationships and eventually form an atmosphere of greater trust.  Nonprofit leaders must 3) acknowledge institutional bias, which are the practices, policies, structures and traditions that push some people up and others down based solely on identity. It’s important leaders realize that institutional bias may exist in their own organization causing barriers towards inclusion and ultimately, equity and justice.

 

Local Barriers and Suggestions for Interventions

What are some of the barriers that organizations, leaders and staff create in local nonprofit organizations that prevent diversity and inclusion (in both the workplace itself and with clients and the community)? What are actions steps that they can take to intervene and overcome these barriers, leading to a more inclusive nonprofit environment?  The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders group analyzed several different “Identities” in relation to their own organization and below are the findings.  This week we focus on one of nine identities – “Age”.  In later posts, we will focus in on the others – ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Make sure to read our previous post on Ability Status.

Age

Ageism is the stereotyping or discrimination of a person or group of people because of their age.  Typically, ageism refers to older individuals but more recently, the definition has broadened to include “any prejudice or discrimination against or in favor of any age group.”

Local nonprofit leaders saw a few patterns and occurrences in the workplace – particularly relating to ageism perceptions and the negative implications they can have.   The group discovered that individuals are often grouped into categories related to interests and abilities based on age.  For example, younger staff were considered more tech savvy, while older staff were thought to be uninterested in technology and not willing to learn.

Other occurrences included assumptions and perceptions based on age related to one’s viewpoints, work styles and work ethics.  Younger participants reported having issues with their perspectives not being valued or taken seriously, as well as having a perceived “lack of experience” and not being given the opportunity to give input or perform.  Older participants reported that their perspectives were considered outdated, and therefore not valued, as well as feeling discriminated against in the hiring process – with assumptions being made that “an organization can’t afford to hire me”.

A recent article in Profiles in Diversity Journal confirmed many of these sentiments saying, “Within each generation is a relatively benign but present ageist view on the surrounding generations. Boomers think Millennials are careless and, although educated, only educated topically; they can do their jobs, but take away their computers and they won’t have a clue, unlike Boomers and Generation X. Millennials tend to think of Boomers and Generation X as behind the times as well as technology-resistant and inept. What all generations need to understand is that that everyone benefits from generational diversity in the workplace.”

The group had many great ideas on interventions to overcome some of these barriers to move towards generational diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  One of the most important tactics is education against stereotypes in the workplace.  Another suggestion is to create occasions (facilitated or not) for intergenerational conversation topics, or go a step further and create intentional intergenerational project teams.  Read this article by the Nonprofit Times on 8 Steps to Creating an Age Diverse Culture for tips to get started.

Other ideas included creating opportunities like mentorships and/or internships to promote intergenerational interaction and relationship building.  The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network RVA (YNPN RVA) has tips for mentors and mentees for Building Relationships, and this article by Next Avenue explains the concept of “Reverse Mentorships” where an older worker might seek out guidance from a much younger worker.  If you’re looking for advice for creating an internship, you can check out ConnectVA’s many articles on related topics, as well as our “Connect to Students” page which shares contact information from each local school/department for finding interns.

Read more →

 

Creating a More Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: Barriers and Interventions for Ability Status

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.   Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

In a recent blog post, we shared that diversity is the presence of difference generally related to one’s identity and might include ability status, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Inclusion is the accepting, respecting, and valuing of this diversity.  Working to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a fundamental part of fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit. It creates an environment of involvement and connection and allows for the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives to be harnessed to create value for the organization, clients and the community.

To begin moving towards active inclusion in the workplace, nonprofit leaders must 1) examine their own lens to have a deeper understanding of their perspectives and perceptions to create a framework for approaching and addressing their own bias – whether that be conscious or unconscious.  Nonprofit leaders must 2) ask and encourage tough questions to create deeper dialogue within their organization, especially with staff who come from different backgrounds than them.  This will allow the leader to develop a clearer understanding of how experiences affect work styles, behavior, communications, and relationships and eventually form an atmosphere of greater trust.  Nonprofit leaders must 3) acknowledge institutional bias, which are the practices, policies, structures and traditions that push some people up and others down based solely on identity. It’s important leaders realize that institutional bias may exist in their own organization causing barriers towards inclusion and ultimately, equity and justice.

 

Local Barriers and Suggestions for Interventions

What are some of the barriers that organizations, leaders and staff create in local nonprofit organizations that prevent diversity and inclusion (in both the workplace itself and with clients and the community)? What are actions steps that they can take to intervene and overcome these barriers, leading to a more inclusive nonprofit environment?  The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders group analyzed several different “Identities” in relation to their own organization and below are the findings.  This week we focus on one of nine identities – Ability Status.  In later posts, we will focus in on the others – age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  

Ability Status

Individuals with disabilities are often stigmatized, encountering attitudinal and physical barriers both in work and in daily life. Although federal legislation (i.e. The Americans With Disabilities Act) protects the inherent rights of individuals with disabilities, that legislation can’t always protect them from subtle forms of discrimination and prejudice. Some disabilities are more obvious but some may be hidden, known as invisible disability. There are many types of disabilities, including those that affect a person’s vision, hearing, thinking, learning, movement, mental health, communicating etc.

During the D&I session, participants reported a lack of physical accessibility in their workplace where there are no elevators, ramps or accessible restrooms.  They also mentioned the importance of considering the building and space accessibility when choosing an office location – for both staff and clients.  If you’re wondering if your older building is ADA Compliant, read this helpful article.   The nonprofit leaders also mentioned how physically demanding their roles often are, and they imagine that this could hinder someone with restrictions.  A common thread throughout the discussion was related to funding and support from grant makers.  To make physical organization changes, funding might be required, so grant makers need to be included in this conversation as well.

The participants reiterated that hiring practices within their organizations need to be adapted to accommodate individuals of all abilities, and policies must be established to address situations that might arise.  In general, there is a need for the organization and human resources to be more aware of legislation, as well as resources and assistance available to nonprofits to move them towards being proactive in this regard.  Furthermore, nonprofit leaders must cultivate an environment where staff feel comfortable asking for what they need or for help, particularly when it comes to mental health concerns.

The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) is a valuable resource that offers services to employers to help with recruiting, screening, training and retention efforts. Additionally, Virginia Business Leadership Network is a business-to-business (B2B) association focused on increasing workforce and marketplace diversity through the inclusion of individuals with disabilities.  They offer training and toolkits that include information like the Job Accommodation Network that provides free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

This summer, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) is a hosting a session on “Including People with Disabilities” during their Workplace Inclusion Network (WIN).  WIN is a convening of professionals who support or lead diversity and inclusion efforts within their organizations. These gatherings provide a unique opportunity for D&I leaders to hear from experts in the field and share best practices with one another while networking with professionals from across the region.

Stay tuned for more findings on D&I in local nonprofits in the upcoming weeks!

Read more →