The Questions About Safety and Value for AFP GTC Members

Since my appointment as Interim President of AFP Greater Toronto Chapter, I am most often asked to respond to three recurring questions:

  1. Should demands for accountability within AFP GTC continue, in relation to incidents of anti-Black racism?
  2. What does the future hold for AFP GTC, and what will happen next?
  3. Is it now OK or safe to become a member, renew membership, and/or continue to support AFP GTC in other ways, e.g. as a sponsor or an employee?

My answer to the first question is, “yes”, emphatically. Members, volunteers, sponsors and other stakeholders should always seek accountability, especially if they believe that AFP GTC has fallen below the standard requirements of practice. Activism is an important part of having ones expectations met.

My answer to the second question is, “I do not know”.  Perhaps I will not know until we have a fully engaged board, and canvas opinion among our members. AFP GTC members must have an opportunity to define the future they want to see. The board will aim to deliver on members’ wishes.

My best answer for the third question is, I do want to say “yes”, it is OK to now enter, re-enter or stay in, the AFP GTC waters. However, my best answer at this time is “maybe”. I believe people should decide for themselves, thus the Oprah quote that accompanies this article.

As the person who on May 10, 2023 encouraged economic withdrawal from AFP GTC through boycotting, until four important calls to action were met; I still cannot say that all is well, even though those actions have been achieved.

Membership renewal or boycotting remain a matter of personal choice and organizational preference. My appointment as Interim Chapter President does not magically solve the problems that existed four years ago or the calcified culture that has beset AFP GTC for a very long time.  Two months ago, following mass board resignations, we were all unsure if the Chapter itself would even exist.

Seeking absolute withdrawal one month and taking the helm the following month, has been quite the journey of complex self-reflection and situational analysis. As well, I am exploring and uncovering issues within our Chapter that I find troubling. There’s very little safety in going against the AFP grain, me and my fellow Black volunteers know that from first-hand experience.

I have an AFP Canadian Chapter Presidents meeting coming up on Thursday 19 July, and although I am curious about the nature of this meeting, and the possibility of its outcomes, I feel like I will be entering the belly of the beast. This is after all where AFP culture is formed and reinforced. However, there are harming aspects of the culture that I am committed to dismantling as far as the GTC is concerned. And I know there are several Chapter leaders who also want to take on the work of reform. Between us, we can get it done. That said, I also have recurring questions:

  • How can I be comfortable in an organization that still expresses disdain for Black board members, Black volunteers, and Black people in general?
  • How can I ask others to disinvest, while I am investing my own time, intellect, and financial resources into changing AFP GTC? Full disclosure — after I called for economic withdrawal from AFP GTC by members, stakeholders, and sponsors, I found myself thereafter, registering to become a member, so that I could assume the Interim Chapter Presidency.

Sometimes what is good for the goose is not that great for the gander.

If Dr. Martin Luther King’s assertion is true, that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”, it is clear that justice itself might not be delivered in a straight line. There are twists and turns, bends, and corners that must be navigated as we seek equity. There can be no equity without compromise, and without equity, I believe AFP GTC has no value for its members.

Last week, I posted the full AFP GTC independent IDEA Audit report produced in 2021. It made bleak reading, pointing out how racism, homophobia, and disablism were common throughout the Association. The report mentioned that the culture of the former board was self-serving, and members’ wishes were routinely ignored or labelled as problematic. I’ll stop there. I think you may appreciate my point, and also appreciate why I cannot hand-on-heart say that safety reigns in our Association or point out the value of being a member at this time. I say this especially because those who led the organization prior, have shown no accountability to it, since their unceremonious departure. I will not belabour the fact that these “leaders” still “lead” and “serve”, the GTC’s fundraising charities. This deserves its own commentary.

I am committed to volunteering my time for safety and value to be established. I cannot say that everyone belongs, however I am committed to leading in such a way that expresses how all can belong.  I cannot establish immediate empowerment for our members however, I can assure members that I will empower them to direct our Association towards equity.

Truthfully, optimism is the only value I can present for why AFP GTC should continue to be supported by our members, sponsors, staff, volunteers, and stakeholders. I am excited about what will come next!

A Quick Note About What Comes Next

I and the new board (when announced in August) are here to serve members and the broader national and global fundraising community. Our journey will begin in the Fall with the launch of a mass consultation to better understand the concerns and aspirations of Fundraisers in our region.

I also want to ensure we build collaborative partnerships with other fundraising bodies and associations, so we can provide more robust supports that help us share our resources, and solve common problems. I know from personal experience and anecdotes shared with me, that professional development is also top of mind for the fundraising community.

Perhaps the narrative is not yet one of guaranteed safety, belonging or value but about hopes and wishes for the Association we need to rebuild.

In May of this year, I outlined my pledge to the AFP GTC community (partners, members, fundraisers, volunteers, staff, sponsors, and stakeholders). It’s a constant reminder to me:

  1. Be accountable: Prioritize the interest of members over the interests of the board.
  2. Respond to fundraisers’ needs: Invite all stakeholders to inform the strategic direction of AFP GTC, placing and practicing equity at the centre of our work.
  3. Be totally transparent: Share openly, and communicate the ways in which change is being led, through thoughts, challenges, opportunities, successes, and failures.

I’ll add a fourth point: Support the AFP GTC to effectively communicate and demonstrate its value. I welcome all to join me in the forward path. The waters are travelled safer together, than apart.

The journey continues….