February 12, 2022

How KDS is Honoring BHM

We can't, and won't, write about the work you haven't done.

What does it mean to honor Black History Month? Each February, our social media feeds are filled with reminders of the contributions and sacrifices Black Americans have made to our society, and the injustices and violence inflicted on them simultaneously. It is a time of reflection on racism and oppression’s role in the founding and shaping of the United States.

To truly honor history requires an acknowledgement of what must be done today and in the future to achieve equity and justice. In this regard, both the for-profit and non-profit sectors have much work to do. KDS is no exception, and we are looking at our own policies, practices, culture, and pathways to advancement to see where we can and must do better.

One of those areas is in how we write, and the words we choose to use in the proposals we develop. We’ve been learning from our clients, our colleagues, and our own staff that the words and phrases (and even grammar) we use frequently can reinforce white supremacy, and sabotage efforts to achieve equity and inclusion.

We are also examining how to respond to clients who are looking to us to write their organization’s statement on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion for grant proposals. To be frank, we dread these requests, because the answer we give makes a lot of people very uncomfortable and angry:

We can’t, and won’t, write about the work you haven’t done.

Questions pertaining to DEAI policies and practices are now commonplace from private and government funders. We sometimes struggle when we’re faced with creating DEAI language for grant proposals that aren’t supported by deliberate, intentional work to audit and root out the inequity within an organization. Tough conversations around the difference between incidental effect vs intentional action have happened much more frequently with our clients in the past 2 years.

Our practice at KDS is to follow the sound guidance of the Grant Professionals Association: “If your organization has not implemented DEI strategies, it is important to be transparent about this during the grant application process. First, identify the challenges your organization faces in implementing such strategies. Then, describe the proposed solutions. ”

And if your organization has been mulling over whether DEAI training is something you really need to do, we cannot be more emphatic about this: Yes, it is. Because there is always something you can learn about yourself. It probably won’t be a pretty process, and the things you learn will most definitely not be easy to swallow. But it will make you better: a better organization, a better ally to your community, and a better partner.

And it’s the right thing to do.