My Journey to Explore, Grow and Change

Lisa Tarshis

Like you, I’ve been thinking a lot about race, inequality and injustice lately. As someone who is white and grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, this topic is tricky for me and brings up a lot of questions, insecurities and anger.

  • How can we live in a world that is so unfair?
  • How is it possible that a zipcode defines someone’s success and how do we change that?
  • What have I done to contribute to or perpetuate these inequalities?
  • How can I be a better ally?
  • How can I make sure that my kids grow up in a more just society?
  • How can I ask questions and learn without saying something offensive?
  • How do I show up and band together for a cause in a genuine and authentic way?
  • How can I help without creating a power imbalance? (Even the word help feels like I have something to give that someone needs which inherently creates an imbalance even though that’s the very thing I’m trying not to do.)
  • And the list goes on…

I’m on a journey to explore, grow and change. And as with every journey, I know that the most powerful thing I can do is set goals and work toward them. So, as we kick off Black History Month, that’s exactly what I’m doing – I’m setting goals to read, learn, explore and understand my own privilege and how to advocate for others in my communities.  

Here are some of the things I am doing this month (and beyond)...

Engaging with an understanding that we will make mistakes

As someone who grew up in a fairly homogeneous environment, I was not always exposed to conversations around diversity and inclusion, especially when it came to race. In one of my public policy classes in college we were asked to examine our identities and privileges that came with them. I remember feeling uncomfortable and remained very quiet throughout the session. I marveled at how much I did not know.

It took me a few years into my professional career to really develop a willingness to engage in these conversations. I used to sit quietly and soak up information, but rarely contributed or asked questions even though I had many. I was afraid to ask a question that made me look naïve or worse, offended someone. Over the past year, I have pushed myself and my colleagues to develop a true willingness to engage in this dialogue with the understanding that we will make mistakes and the humility to learn from them.

Participating in formal training, reading, learning and listening

Later this month, my colleagues and I will participate in a two-day training with Mary Morten, a leader in the racial equity, access, diversity and inclusion (READI) space. And while a formal training is a start, I recognize it will only scratch the surface.

To continue my reading, learning and listening, I’ll be participating in Evolve Giving Group’s book club where each month members of our team read and discuss a book that focuses on racial justice and equity. The group’s first selection was So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I’ll also be seeking out other webinars and opportunities to continue my education (please send any recommendations my way!)

Highlighting diversity in the nonprofit sector

In June, we made a commitment to use our platform to highlight leaders in the nonprofit sector who bring various identities, experiences, and perspectives. We began by intentionally inviting panelists to speak on our webinars who represented different racial and ethnic identities.

We are also launching an interview series on our blog next week (spoiler alert!) that will run through Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. These interviews will showcase the amazing talent of Black and female leaders in the nonprofit community and we can’t wait to share what they have to say. Stay tuned for more!

Choosing words wisely

Words are an important part of my life – they allow me to express my love for my family, share expertise with my clients, and craft meaningful fundraising appeals. The words I use carry weight, and as I continue to understand my privilege and work towards being a better ally, I have been focusing on choosing words with more intentionality.

Last month, Big Duck published their annual list of Words to Avoid. I highly recommend this quick read if you haven’t seen it yet. I’ll be honest, some of the words on the list surprised me and opened my eyes to the undertones they carry of which I wasn’t aware.

In today’s freebie, I’m sharing some of the resources I’m using, leaders I’m following and articles I’ve found helpful so far on my personal journey.

How are you working towards becoming a better ally? What specific actions are you and your organization taking? What resources are you finding helpful? I’d love to hear from you and continue to grow together.