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How can technology embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? This is a question that the developers at Foundation Source took into consideration as they began the process of building our new foundation management platform, Impactfully. Everything from the layout of a platform to the colors and design were thoughtfully implemented to enhance the experience of all users. To find out more, we caught up with our User Experience Designer, Anthony Quarino, who used industry standards put forth by the ADA, UX Low Contrast Test and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as the floor, not the ceiling of inclusive technology.

“Making technology that is accessible to everyone is easier than ever thanks to open-source tests and best practices,” says Anthony. “This kind of inclusion, especially in the philanthropic sector when there is such a wide variety of applicants, should be something that every single platform does. Unfortunately, some UX designers find it easier and faster to work without first considering the needs of the end user.

To dive deeper into how foundations can implement DEI at their own organizations, we reached out to industry expert and nonprofit professional, Antoinetta Mosley, Founder and CEO of I Follow the Leader, a leadership consulting firm specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion. While Antoinetta and her team work with groups on many topics, we asked her specifically about technology. She came back to use with three actionable tips we could start doing today:

  • Use score cards for grant application evaluation. This can help increase the use of quantitative metrics and decrease bias in decision-making.
  • Consult with the groups you are serving about the accessibility of your application.
  • Create open lines of communication and clear definitions. These can be seemingly small things ranging from creating hover-over information bubbles to explain words and questions to holding community listening salons and other formal feedback surveys.

“Talking about DEI can feel daunting to organizations getting started,” says Antoinetta. “They want to get it right, but they aren’t sure of the correct way to approach sensitive topics and they want to make sure there will be meaningful results associated with any new changes that get implemented, ranging from internal foundation policies to things like applications and review procedures. Using technology that is flexible but also is consciously built to serve different kinds of people is key. Things to look for in a technology platform are built-in-wizards to make sure best practices are followed, transparent building methodologies, and design features that allow for easy customization as needed.”

These types of conscientious building processes are something that the Foundation Source team leaned on when building the platform. Having a self-service grantee application was new for us. With more than two decades of experience in the field, Foundation Source was an early investor in technology, having built our own internal platform for our private client advisors and operations professionals who individually steward each of our 2000+ clients. As technological capabilities expanded and it was possible to share real-time information, we digitized more tools and introduced online applications. The Impactfully platform comes with a basic and a detailed application that are ready to go.

Our Director of Product Management, Coreena Schultz, used current best practices and her long history of building technology platforms to ensure a collaborative process in the platform design. One way this equitable best practice shows up in Impactfully is the online application. “The process for creating the basic application was very consultative with our Customer Experience Team who currently creates all applications for our clients,” says Coreena. “Since 2021, they have created over 575 applications. We worked together to determine what questions would best represent all foundations to help them gather just enough information to make a good decision quickly to approve or decline an application. Every detail of the application was considered, including the use of pronouns. In the application, we decided to use pronouns like ‘you’ and ‘your’ directed to the charity or person filling out the application on the charity’s behalf or the project they are requesting the funds for.”

DEI can feel like a big topic with many different paths to start. We encourage you to join a demo of our platform and to reach out to Antoinetta and her team at I Follow the Leader to better understand what your foundation is currently doing well and could be doing better to implement DEI at your organization.

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