'I was told that as a disabled person I was just lucky to have a job'

15 February 2019
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
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Jonathan Levy explains why he thinks the fundraising sector needs the #ChangeCollective and why the movement matters so much to him.

I regard the #ChangeCollective as a much-needed wake-up call, not another fluffy exercise in which diversity is talked about so it can be ticked off a list without anything changing. This initiative is working to actually address the uncomfortable truth that the fundraising profession is less diverse than the charity sector as a whole and less diverse than UK society.

As someone with a protected characteristic – in my case a disability called dyspraxia – I’ve become accustomed to being told that I’m “inspirational”, yet not being taken as seriously as people without my “difference”. I’ve often felt that I’ve had to work harder or do something unconventional to progress, or to even get a job in the first place.

The longer I’ve worked in the sector, the more I’ve noticed the lack of diversity and the statistics to back this up are truly alarming – yet some people don’t even seem to realise that there’s a problem.

I’ve also found that even when equality, diversity and inclusion is talked about, disability is often last on the agenda, so this initiative matters greatly to me and is one that I genuinely think is credible.

'Discrimination unacceptable'

I once challenged a so-called joke about a physical attribute of my disability and even though there weren’t even any performance issues, I was told that as a disabled person I was “just lucky to have a job”. This discrimination was unacceptable, and I dealt with it appropriately, but I have increasingly sensed that there are people who, sometimes unconsciously, seem to have the belief that people with a protected characteristic won’t have the same aspirations as those without.

Separately, I have experienced an employer not giving interviews to job applicants because of their name. Whether it’s a stereotype of an ethnic minority being lazy, women getting pregnant, or disabled people needing extra attention and time off, attitudes need to change. We need to shift the sector from the inside out.

'A legal, moral and business case for having a diverse workforce'

For me, success will be when more employers recognise that there is a legal, moral and business case for having a diverse workforce and they will seek to address this from this moment on rather than defer it to a later date, if ever.

To ensure that everyone is the right fit for the fundraising profession, I think the sector must think more broadly and adopt new practices rather than just doing things the way they’ve always been done.

It’s not enough to simply take on a more diverse range of employees, they need to be retained and practices like flexible working can greatly help to improve productivity.

Every organisation should have an equality, diversity and inclusion policy and I hope that more organisations will seriously consider how important certain requirements on job person specifications actually are for each vacancy; like being able to drive or being a graduate.

In the years to come, I aspire to lead a charity and I want to look around the sector and see a really diverse mix of people in leadership roles. Protected characteristics should be attributes rather than a barrier to opportunity and fulfilment.

In November we launched our Manifesto for Change which sets out how we plan to embark on the journey to achieve an equal, diverse and inclusive profession where everyone is the right fit. We are encouraging fundraisers to sign up to the #ChangeCollective movement so we can work together to make fundraising a career for everyone.

Jonathan Levy
Jonathan Levy
Business Development and Fundraising Manager, and sits on the Board for the Fundraising Convention 2019
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