Sharing Our Work Around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This isn’t a post about nonprofit technology that you typically see on this blog.

However, Heller Consulting is doing something we’re proud to be a part of, and we felt inspired to share it here. It’s around the idea of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

About three years ago, the Heller Consulting team recognized the importance of addressing DEI in a more formal, strategic way. The team didn’t have to look far to see great work being done in this area by organizations including Amplify, NTEN, and Project Include. We wanted to do our part to impact the space we occupy: the intersection of technology and the nonprofit sector.

Before we go further, we’d like to point out a few things: Heller Consulting is not a team of experts on the topic of DEI. We are home to employees from a range of backgrounds, but we are just getting started on the DEI journey. We understand that it is not a trend or a one-time project, and we’re fully committed to it as an ongoing initiative.

Although we’re at the beginning of our journey, we’re off to a strong start. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

  • Conducted research and discovery
    As we started our first steps into a more formal DEI approach, we quickly realized we should take the advice we give our clients. We took a step back and assessed what we needed to do and how we should begin. We asked ourselves (and answered) the same types of questions we ask our clients at the beginning of a technology project, including:

    • What are we trying to accomplish?
    • How do we make this sustainable?
    • How do we infuse this into the core of how our organization operates?

Along the way, we conducted extensive research, looking at what others were doing around the topic of DEI. Here are a few resources that have given us a solid foundation to build upon:

 

  • Formed a DEI committee
    Early on, we formed a DEI committee. We (Jonelle and Smita) are members of the committee.
    The committee includes people of varying roles at Heller Consulting. We all decided up-front that the committee would be run with agreed-upon ground rules and participatory decision-making so the process would be as inclusive as possible. We’ve all acknowledged that discussions related to DEI can sometimes be uncomfortable, but we know it’s important.We worked together to create vision and mission statements. To keep our discussions on track and remind us of why we’re there, we now read our vision and mission statements at the beginning of each meeting. The statements summarize our purpose: to embody equity, inclusivity, and mutual respect in our collaboration with colleagues, in our involvement in the nonprofit sector, and in our roles as consultants. Our mission also acknowledges that we might make mistakes along the way, but that we will honor the lessons learned.

 

  • Gained commitment from leadership
    As we pulled together the committee, we wanted to make sure DEI was not just a side project, but rather a true long-term initiative. To that end, we ensured we had full commitment from leadership and that committee members included leadership from the Heller team.Here is a significant example of the type of commitment to and recognition of DEI principles we have from leadership: As we formed the DEI committee, Keith Heller, our founder and chief strategist at Heller Consulting, asked to be a part of the initiative and also asked everyone’s permission for him to be a member of the committee. He wanted to participate but did not want to hinder anyone’s ability to speak freely. After asking our permission, he left the room to allow us to discuss his potential involvement. His interest and sensitivity set a positive tone for the committee’s work and represented a genuine signal of leadership support.
  • Put a plan in place
    DEI is now a strategic priority for Heller Consulting. We have a plan that includes specific actions that span across all areas of the business.

Our efforts around DEI haven’t all been easy, but we know they are important. We’re proud to be involved with developing the structure that ensures diversity, equity, and inclusion are a core value at Heller Consulting.

From our founder, Keith, who is also a member of the committee:

“Opening myself to the experience of others has been both challenging and revealing. It’s making me ask questions about my life that can be uncomfortable. Even the recognition that I have a choice in asking these questions is informative. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have my eyes opened and encourage all of us to do what we can. While difficult, I can feel it broadening my life and relationships with others.”

Learn more: Meet the Heller Consulting team.

About the Authors

Smita Vadakekalam
In 1998 Smita starting work on the front-line of the nonprofit sector helping organizations with fundraising, technology strategy, and operations streamlining. Since then she has worked with hundreds of nonprofits implementing strong business practices, technology and change management strategies to... Read More
Jonelle Bowers
Before joining Heller, Jonelle worked in the nonprofit sector for over twelve years, primarily in donor development for organizations of all sizes and missions. She served as Development Director for the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay where she led a... Read More
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