Funding DEI Initiatives in Your Community

As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts take more of a front seat in economic development strategy and growth, we’re seeing communities benefit from these efforts and funders start to expect them when reviewing future plans. We have managed capital campaigns for EDOs and Chambers of different size and scope that have taken very different approaches to ensure that their area is encompassing DEI in its initiatives to improve business retention, talent attraction, workforce development, and overall quality of life in the community itself. In 2020, Numbeo ranked Raleigh, North Carolina, as second in the WORLD on its quality of life index by city. This was no surprise to us, having worked with the Raleigh Chamber on their $7.25  million campaign to fund a strategic plan that had quality of place/quality of life as a major pillar to foster economic prosperity. Interestingly, the first bullet they listed under this initiative was strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. They hired a Director of Equitable Economic Development for Wake County Economic Development (WCED) and charged this role with adding thoughtful equity-based layers to Raleigh’s evolution, including corporate inclusivity and workforce diversity.  They also included a Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity on their Executive Committee. Their goal was to ensure Raleigh’s growth was fair by focusing on three areas: inclusive economic mobility, small business support, and talent/workforce development. This program resonated with community leaders, and their initiatives were fully funded with overwhelming support. We recently partnered with the Greater Topeka Partnership in Kansas to raise funds to implement their five-year strategic plan, which includes equity quite literally as its epicenter as is shown here. This was not a new position for the Partnership to take. In fact, they have included DEI as a core value for many years. “Diversity and equity have been part of our holistic economic development strategy for a long time,” said Greater Topeka Partnership CEO Matt Pivarnik. “We wanted to be sure it was not something that was said once and then put in a corner. It’s a part of every decision we make. Having it at the center of our plan for the future has strengthened our muscles in remembering this. Whether we’re talking about youth sports, downtown revitalization, or attracting a new business, we make sure we’re talking about being inclusive of everyone in our community.”  One recent example of equity as a centerpiece is in the launch of their recent Sports Commission through the convention and visitor’s bureau. The very first discussions about this new initiative included how to ensure all kids would be able to benefit. The conversation then turned to the Commission’s board. Would their community be accurately represented by those they were asking to join the board? “Every initiative we undertake is automatically put through an equity lens before it moves forward,” said Pivarnik.  It’s clear that the success of communities in the future will rely on investment today in infrastructure and resources that promote equitable opportunity for all people. Whether you’re talking about quality of life, education improvements, talent attraction, or workforce development, diversity, equity, and inclusion should be part of the conversation. Read more about quality of life initiatives and how they can strengthen your community by downloading the whitepaper written with our strategic partner, Golden Shovel Agency, below. 

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