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EDII Principles to Move your Advancement Operation from Awareness to Action

March 2022
Written by: Janet Gottlieb Sailian

While Canadian education has been slow to embark on full equity, diversity, inclusion and indigeneity (EDII), the journey is accelerating. This article explores principles and key action steps toward greater EDII in educational advancement. Future articles will offer examples of specific EDII programs and initiatives in advancement at Canadian universities, colleges and schools.

Demands for educational institutions that not only include but embrace a wide diversity of people have burgeoned in the past few years thanks to social-political movements and world events. Professorial, human resources, counselling and admissions strategies and positions to foster inclusion of Indigenous people and ways of knowing began to increase after the 2015 publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. BIPOC and LGBTQ2+ organizations and individuals, among others, have instigated greater inclusion across education. 

Initiatives to broaden EDII in educational advancement may have lagged behind those in academic and HR areas, yet innovations are now blooming. Major strides are evident to define, strategize and enact principles and plans that will lead to deep, sustained changes in the complexion of advancement.

The book Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Advancement by Angelique S.C. Grant and Ronald J. Schiller (CASE, 2020) is a rich, sector-specific resource that roadmaps the way “from awareness to assessment and understanding and then to action” (p. 5).

The book’s authors led a CCAE webinar on this topic on October 18, 2021 as part of the CCAE EDII Forum, held in Fall 2021. Highlights of the webinar outline definitions for EDI, and present practical steps that advancement teams can take to move from awareness about EDI, to action that yields results. The conversation covered three critical areas: 1) creating a culture of inclusion; 2) recruiting and retaining a more diverse team, and 3) inclusive volunteer engagement and fundraising.

Angelique Grant recommends establishing an Inclusion Council to conduct a thorough assessment of your school’s climate and to ensure that EDII thinking is embedded across the institution or department. 

“Equity is different than equality. It's not about giving people exactly the same experience. It's about addressing where they are, what they need to be able to do their best work for you, and to engage with your organization in the best way.”

~ Ron Schiller, Founding Partner and Senior Consultant, Aspen Leadership Group

Diverse teams arise from a diversity and inclusion culture

Building a culture of EDII in your shop starts with assessing the current culture and climate. Ask current Board members, staff and volunteers about their experiences with your department and where inclusivity falls short.

Being intentional about hiring and retaining staff from an array of backgrounds and experiences is a prerequisite to building a diverse, inclusive culture. This involves multiple layers, from talent pipelines, recruitment, assessment to on-boarding and retention.

It is important to acknowledge the stage of your shop on the continuum toward being an EDII workplace. Have authentic conversations. This can be challenging because the journey is ongoing and most advancement offices that have responded to CCAE queries consider their EDII work to be in preliminary stages.

“Diversity is inviting people from different ethnicities, backgrounds, and abilities to the party; inclusion is about making sure they get the chance to dance.” (Grant and Schiller, p. 113) Retention is among the most-cited challenges among HR professionals. Inclusion is essential to retention, and losing good employees who don’t feel they fit the culture is costly in every way.

As with all staff, respectful treatment, trust, adequate compensation, opportunities for growth and professional development, and networking are key to retention. Career mapping and regular “stay interviews” help employees feel heard and valued.

Part of culture is addressing people in a respectful, inclusive manner. Using thoughtful terminology and an individual’s preferred pronouns are acts of welcoming that invite full participation and authenticity.

Leading the CCAE webinar on Raising The Bar: Making Meaningful Inclusive Conversation, Sandeep Nair (he/they), Manager of Business Operations, Pride At Work Canada, detailed the ways that language matters to members of the LGBTQ2+ community, and hence to the workplace.

Learn the meanings of component terms such as lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited; the latter applies only to Indigenous people. Sandeep detailed these definitions and the need for thoughtful use of both chosen and gender-neutral pronouns and other words.

The many aspects of being an ally

Ann-Marie Pham, MPA, is Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. In her CCAE webinar, Being an ally in the workplace (November 1, 2021), she offered the following definition of allyship:

“An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion; to intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole. An ally is not a member of an underrepresented group, but they take action to support that group.”

Ms Pham outlined the types and phases of allyship as:

  • Advocate: Provide access
  • Amplifier: Provide a platform
  • Champion: Promote competence
  • Confidant: Provide an ear
  • Scholar: Personalize knowledge
  • Sponsor: Recommend
  • Upstander: Protect

 “Reflect on your privilege and biases, and create a plan to improve. Own your privilege and learn to use it as a force for good. . . . The best apology is changed behavior. Allyship is a verb. Make like a verb and take action.”

~Ann-Marie Pham, MPA ED, Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion

EDII examples in Canadian advancement

Advancement shops are moving toward deeper EDII in the culture of their shops and as a reflection of their schools’ changing values. From colleges and universities to independent schools, anti-racism and inclusivity are rising to the forefront of how educational institutions communicate, celebrate alumni and raise or distribute funds.

Keep the conversation going, and continue to learn more

There is a lot to digest from the EDII forum that pertains to institutions of all types, sizes, regions, and capacities. To gain the full scope of the discussion and how to start your path to EDII, sessions from the Forum can be viewed by purchasing CCAE on-demand professional education sessions at

Related Resource

A profile of how the Trent University Alumni Association has shifted its strategic plan, messaging, platforms and topics to express and expand upon a diverse and welcoming campus culture.

Note: Does your advancement shop have a plan, program or initiative related to EDII that CCAE can profile in an upcoming article? If so, please send an email to Janet Gottlieb Sailian, Communications Consultant, at for prompt follow-up.