WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
100: The Neurodivergent Nonprofit with Margaux Joffe
“(ADHD represents) the diverse range of human brains and neurocognitive functioning that exists in our species and it’s a really powerful term because it is also a paradigm shift in understanding.”
– Margaux Joffe
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
Sharing that I’m a person with ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) has definitely sparked feedback and conversation, which should come as no surprise. As Margaux Joffe, my guest on this episode of What the Fundraising is perfectly positioned to explain, neurodivergence is a reality across all kinds of workplaces in every imaginable sector. “It represents the diverse range of human brains and neurocognitive functioning that exists in our species,” says Margaux, an innovator and advocate for people with disabilities of all kinds, but most especially those who are not “neurotypical.” She is helping us understand both the challenges and enormous strengths available to those of us whose brains work differently in a number of different ways.
This first part of our in-depth exploration focuses on identifying boundaries in the workplace (or a lack thereof) and how to put in place systems to support ourselves or those we lead in staying focused, productive and fulfilled in our missions. You’ll come away with some practical tools to deploy and a clear understanding of just how much those of us with ADHD and other disabilities (some 1 billion globally) have to offer when it comes to energy, ideas and fresh approaches. It starts with working across disciplines to ensure accessibility, inclusivity and respect for differing styles of learning and execution. Margaux, who founded the Kaleidoscope Society platform especially for adult women with ADHD, brings not just her personal story but a wealth of experience that will fire you up about disability inclusion inside our organizations – and celebration!
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
When it comes to accessibility, do funder’s insides match their outsides? This episode of What the Fundraising – the second of two parts – takes a closer look at how (or whether) funders embrace the full spectrum of disabilities, not just in the projects they fund but in the accessibility of their funds in the first place. Staying aligned to our missions means ensuring our systems are integral – and inclusive. My guest, Margaux Joffe, a groundbreaking voice on behalf of those with ADHD and neurodiversity in general, is helping us take a deep dive into how to be intentional about opening up the funding process by building better, more accessible, systems. “It’s a mindset shift that we all need to make,” says our guest, “actually understanding that people with disabilities are also working in our companies and are leading. They are visionaries.”
Accessibility is an issue that impacts our nonprofit workplaces just as surely as it impacts the “beneficiaries” we seek to support. My discussion with Margaux covers important measures that any funder can undertake to improve accessibility with the end-to-end grant application experience. For starters, that means recognizing that one in three U.S. households include someone with a disability of one kind or another, many of which are “invisible.” The good news is that there are all kinds of strategies to implement and certified experts available to advise us on the latest web accessibility industry standards. Margaux also highlights the importance of pushing the nonprofit platforms we all use to make their digital technologies more accessible to all. You’ll come away from this conversation with actionable ideas for making inclusion a baseline feature of your grantmaking process and framework for meaningful collaboration at every stage of the fundraising journey.
You’ll also want to check out Margaux’s exciting initiative, the GreatADHDReset, which is all about helping us find compassionate solutions to optimize our unique brains on our own terms!
- About the work of Dr. Ned Hallowell, author and expert on ADHD.
- About the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
- Justice Sensitivity in Adults with ADHD: https://www.additudemag.com/why-am-i-so-sensitive-adhd-in-adults/
- ADHD Resources: https://www.kaleidoscopesociety.com/resources
- Usability and Accessibility Testing: https://makeitfable.com/
- Accessibility Consulting: https://knowbility.org/services
- Here’s a way to increase access and reduce stigma in the workplace: Check out the Disability Equality Index.
- Accessibility 101 https://www.levelaccess.com/industries/general/
- Our friends at Feathr help nonprofits like yours level up their digital campaigns every day through their nonprofit marketing platform. Don’t rely on magic this year. Check out Feathr to streamline your digital marketing campaigns and exceed your goals. Learn more and get started today at Feathr.co.
- About the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
- LastPass, password manager, and single sign-on vault app.
- Here’s more about WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
- Disability Inclusion consulting LaVant Consulting.
- Procure Access, a b2b initiative sponsored by Disability: IN Digital Accessibility Program.
- Justice Sensitivity in Adults with ADHD: https://www.additudemag.com/why-am-i-so-sensitive-adhd-in-adults/
- ADHD Resources: https://www.kaleidoscopesociety.com/resources
- Usability and Accessibility Testing: https://makeitfable.com/
- Accessibility Consulting: https://knowbility.org/services
- The Disability Equality Index: https://disabilityin.org/what-we-do/disability-equality-index/
- Accessibility 101 https://www.levelaccess.com/industries/general/
TIPS AND TOOLS TO IMPLEMENT TODAY
Get to know Margaux:
Margaux Joffe is the founder of Kaleidoscope Society for Women with ADHD, and a certified accessibility professional helping companies create more inclusive workplaces and products for people with disabilities. Most recently Margaux led Disability Inclusion strategy for Verizon’s Corporate Social Responsibility team. She helped launch Verizon’s first Disability Advisory Board, as well as The Disability Collection, a landmark partnership with Getty Images and The National Disability Leadership Alliance to improve disability representation in the media. She is certified in Mental Health First Aid and led the launch of the technology industry’s first Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Yahoo. Margaux currently serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of People with Disabilities and is a Corporate Disability Inclusion Consultant with Disability:IN. She also teaches The Great ADHD Reset, a transformational program that helps adults with ADHD thrive in their careers.
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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
02:15 Mallory: Hello and welcome everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Margaux Joffe. Margaux, welcome to What the fundraising.
02:25 Margaux: Hi Mallory. Thanks for having me on your podcast.
02:29 Mallory: I’m really excited for our conversation today. It’s a topic that is personally important to me and I think so important for the nonprofit sector. So why don’t we just start with you sharing a little bit about your background and what brings you to the work that you’re doing today.
02:44 Margaux: Yeah, so I know when you first reached out to me, I was like, are you sure you want to talk to me because I’m not a fundraising expert. But then once we chatted a little bit, there was just so many juicy subtopics in there that I’m excited to get into. But just briefly, my name’s Margaux. I use she/her pronouns, and I’m currently based in Seattle, Washington. And I am a former advertising marketing producer, turned disability inclusion consultant, and I focus a lot on neurodiversity and ADHD in the workplace, how can we create more inclusive workplaces for minds of all kinds. I’m the founder of a platform called Kaleidoscope Society, which is designed to be a resource for adult women with ADHD.
03:24 Mallory: Thank you for sharing all of that. And I know we’re going to get into some, as you said, really juicy topics here, but I’m wondering if we could start, would you define neurodiversity for folks who might be coming to this conversation and could use some framing of some of the terms we might use?
03:41 Margaux: So, neurodiversity, it is actually a relatively new term because it was coined in the 1990s by an Australian sociologist, Judy Singer. And neurodiversity, it’s short for neurological diversity in plain language, meaning that there’s a diverse range of human brains in our species. So, it’s the range of neurocognitive functioning that exists in our species. And it’s a really powerful term because it’s also a paradigm shift in understanding that there’s a range of what we understand to be normal in terms of how brains function.
And so, examples of neurodivergent conditions that you may know of could be ADHD, dyslexia, autism, tourette’s, OCD, et cetera. So, anything that falls outside of we as society considers quote unquote normal or typical is seen as neurodivergent.
04:36 Mallory: Hmm. And you mentioned the word accessibility. When you think about neuro divergence and accessibility in the workplace, what does that look like, just to give folks some foundation for why we’re talking about this today?
04:51 Margaux: Accessibility, I mean, in simple terms means that anyone is able to access and use a thing, whether that’s a product, a service, a piece of content. And so, I had the opportunity to work for several years on an accessibility team in tech. And there’s the World Wide Web consortium, which has created industry standard guidelines around what accessibility is. And there’s all different guidelines. Including guidelines around cognitive accessibility. It’s a very lengthy and complicated, so we won’t get into all the details on that. Simply put, its thinking about when you’re creating a product, a service, a process, whatever you’re creating or designing for your business, making sure you’re designing it so that everyone can use it, and that includes the 1 billion people in the world that have some type of disability.
05:39 Mallory: Hmm. And I remember when we first talked, I have ADHD myself, and this podcast episode is not a diagnostic by any means, but I know folks are coming here who both have ADHD themselves, think they might have ADHD since I’ve started to talk more publicly about it, I’ve certainly gotten a tremendous amount of messages from people who are wondering about that for themselves. And then every leader who’s listening to this, who’s running a nonprofit, who’s managing a team, this should be an important topic for them as well in terms of how they’re making their organization and their work accessible to a range of neurodivergent community members, staff members, volunteers. One of the things that you said when we first talked that I just thought was so helpful to understand ADHD in particular, some of the intersection of tendencies that people with ADHD exhibit and how they show up in the workplace, and perhaps particularly in the social justice workplace. So, can we talk about that a little bit?
06:48 Margaux: Yeah. ADHD and social justice and accessibility, there’s so much to talk about. The first thing that I think will be really interesting for anyone listening is that there’s actually been some recent studies that have shown that people with ADHD tend to have higher justice sensitivity. And I’ve seen this too in my work, speaking with hundreds of women with ADHD, that people with ADHD tend to be more sensitive to unfairness, injustice, things that they see that just seem wrong out in the world. And many of them feel compelled to take action and make a difference. And I think that is one of the beautiful qualities of people with ADHD is this big heartedness and desire to do the right thing and help others. But we have to be careful, right? Because sometimes we can go down a rabbit hole and put everyone ahead of our and not take care of ourselves. So, it’s a balance there.
07:45 Mallory: I remember when you were first talking about this with me and I was fascinated by the justice sensitivity research, and then you mentioned a little bit around how that intersects with challenges that people with ADHD might have around creating healthy boundaries and work-life balance and prioritization. And so, I’m curious if you could speak to that a little bit because as I heard you talking about it, it just gave me so much insight both into myself, but in other leaders that I’ve supported over the years as well, who have also shared their journey with ADHD.
08:24 Margaux: I want to share a caveat before we get any further that, I’m not a doctor, so nothing that I say should be taken as medical or legal advice. This is my perspective based on my personal experiences, based on my work with the ADHD community, and as a certified accessibility professional. But for any specific medical advice, please work with your healthcare provider. So, just wanted to make sure I said that caveat. So, for many people with ADHD boundaries can be an area of challenge. So, maybe that boundaries are too porous or too loose. So, this can look like feeling compelled to say to requests, wanting to make people happy, keep the peace, not being able to create those healthy boundaries. And on the other hand, other people may struggle with boundaries that are too rigid, which can look like not being able to ask for help when you actually do need help. So, for many people with ADHD it can be helpful to work on how to create healthy boundaries, where you are able to ask for help when you need it, not take on too much and maintain a manageable workload so that you’re not constantly stressed and run down and running yourself ragged. And I know from personal experience because that’s something that I used to struggle with, especially in my twenties, with people pleasing tendencies and saying yes to everything. And I think that’s rooted in a couple things. For some of us, it can be rooted in self-esteem issues. You know, I was undiagnosed ADHD until I was 29, and so I had developed some coping mechanism to get through life and people pleasing was one of those coping mechanisms to try and overcompensate for mistakes that I would make or information I would forget, and I felt like I always had to be overcompensating or working twice as hard to get the same results. Learning how to create healthy boundaries is something that has been really important for me. And when you tie in the social justice piece, for those of us with ADHD, when we’re very passionate about something, we can get hyper-focused on it and we can want to give 200% of ourselves to a cause, to a project we’re working on or to a relationship because with ADHD there could be challenges in regulation, regulation of our attention, regulation of our behaviors, impulse control. Dr. Hollowell talks about ADHD and he says it’s like having a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. We have a very powerful brain, but sometimes we have challenges regulating and controlling it. It’s actually not that we have a deficit of attention. It’s an impairment in how attention is regulated in our brain. So, it can be 0 to 100 either in attention, you’re having trouble paying attention, or maybe you’re hyper-focusing. Hyper-focusing can be a strength when we learn how to channel it in a way that serves us and know how to reign it in as well.
11:18 Mallory: Wow, I love that Ferrari engine, bicycle brake. I have often said that I’m the cart and the horse, that I feel this. This real tension between driving myself forward at lightning speed and then struggling to reign myself back in and this sort of tug and pull, and so that visual is really helpful for me to think about. And we’re in a moment right now where I think there are conversations happening about some of these sector-wide patterns and the way they are harming nonprofit leaders and fundraisers that wasn’t there 10 years ago when I was in the trenches as an executive director. This is a sector that prides itself on how much they can do with how little, like there are these elements of lack of boundaries that are medals of honor in this sector a little bit. And I’m curious what your thoughts are on something like that, like for a leader of an organization understanding this around sort of the neuro divergence of their team members that are likely there and how they support a healthy team by perhaps shifting some of these cultural expectations around don’t have boundaries, live and breathe this work, et cetera.
12:42 Margaux: Yeah. You brought up such a great topic, which is unfortunately and ironically, sometimes non-profit organizations can actually be toxic work environments. And that wasn’t something that I thought about when I was in college. Because you think about, oh, this is a mission driven organization. So, we assume that the experience of working in those organizations reflect the outward mission of the organization. And sometimes that’s not the case. And I don’t want to say that in a blanket statement. Obviously, all nonprofit organizations are different and there’s some wonderful nonprofit organizations out there to work for. But in speaking to many people, I know that I have worked at various nonprofits, sometimes there is this pressure of working beyond eight hours a day, giving so much of yourself and sacrificing salary or benefits, even your work-life balance and your mental health to make sure you’re serving the mission of the organization. And sometimes people can put pressure on themselves because it’s like, well, I don’t feel like I can ask for more money or take more time off. If I do, I’m not really down for the cause. So, there’s this kind of pressure to prove like how committed you are in like sacrificing yourself for the cause. And for people with ADHD and also neurodivergent folks more generally, boundaries and burnout is something that is a common challenge in general in all workplaces. And so, nonprofit environments can be a place where people can experience burnout more quickly because of the lack of boundaries, because of these expectations that you’re just going to give, give, give, and if you don’t, then you don’t really care about the cause. And sometimes some nonprofits can be understaffed and people are expected to wear many hats and there may not be clear roles and responsibilities, and people are expected to take on more and more. So, it can be kind of a combination of all those things where folks can burn out.
14:35 Mallory: You said something before around, you used a different term than this, but it activated in my mind this symptom that we have in the sector around shiny object syndrome and the bouncing from, especially around fundraising, looking for these silver bullets that are going to transform the way that we fundraise. And part of that is in response to the scarcity mindset that blankets the sector. But there’s something that you had said earlier that made me think that it might be also in relation to just thinking about the numbers of people, the percentage of people that have neurodivergence, that they mostly work in an environment that is not creating accessibility for them. Are there suggestions that you have around how organizations in the sector can think about supporting fundraisers across the board? Because I have a feeling, what acts as support for people with ADHD and people who have neurodivergence more generally would still be beneficial for everyone. I’m curious what you think about that.
15:41 Margaux: First and foremost, I would say if you are running any type of organization, assume that there are people with disabilities on your team unless your organization is three people and then you know for a fact that they don’t have any type of disability. But if you’re running a larger organization or business, assuming that there are people with disabilities on your team, even if they’re not visible or not apparent, more than half of disabilities are non-apparent. Folks may have learning disabilities, neurodivergent conditions, they may have a chronic illness, or any type of disability that they may have not chosen to disclose. Cause we know there’s lots of stigma in the workplace around disclosing a disability, a lot of fear there. Instead of waiting for employees to disclose and waiting for employees to request accommodations, just assume that there may be people with disabilities in your workplace and think about how can you create your workplace to be accessible. And there’s different frameworks out there in terms of evaluating your organization for accessibility. One of them is the disability equality index from disability in which is kind of like a questionnaire that you can go through with your organization looking at accessibility from all different angles from recruitment of talent and employees to the digital accessibility of your systems, to the diversity of your suppliers. Do you have suppliers with disabilities that you’re working with, thinking about disability inclusion holistically across your organization. And then you can also ask for feedback from your employees and your customers around accessibility and how you can make your organization more inclusive. To get specifically about neurodiversity in ADHD, something that’s helpful and important is making sure that employees have a job role that is aligned to their strengths and to their interests especially for ADHD. Finding that job fit or job alignment is something that is super important for people with ADHD because if it’s a job that is not aligned to their strengths and it’s not something they’re interested in, it’s going to be very challenging for them to be successful in that role and to stay motivated. So, for all of us with ADHD, and I know this has been true for me, like we have to find jobs that we are interested in and that we care about to be something that is going to be sustainable long term. All managers can have those conversations with their direct reports, really just to understand your unique strengths, what are the areas where you need support, and how can I support you. And that benefits everyone because everyone has strengths and everyone has areas where they need support in the workplace. Beyond that, managers can be very clear about expectations, roles and responsibilities, deadlines being clear, concise, and concrete about what’s expected of your team, when things are due. That can go a long way, especially in an environment like nonprofits or startups or any of these environments where there’s always so much going on, there’s always so much going on, there’s always so much to do. So, reminding your team and being clear, communicating those important deadlines and expectations in writing can really help folks with ADHD and really anyone with any type of executive functioning impairment. Because with ADHD and other conditions like dyslexia or if someone has long COVID or traumatic brain injury, executive functioning can be impaired. And this has to do with planning, prioritization, organizing, getting started on tasks, sustaining attention on a task, finishing a task, anything that can help with structure planning, organization, helping people stay organized.
19:09 Mallory: You hit on something that I think would be really interesting for us to explore a little bit. I’d be curious about your thoughts on this. So, in fundraising, one of the things that is really complicated is the relationship building is not linear, and I think about sequencing and challenges around sequencing with neurodivergence and in myself. And sometimes the lack of clarity around a sequence, I can lose it in there. And with fundraising, one of the ways in which this is really challenging is that all donors and funders behave differently. And so, we work really hard to systematize as much as possible. We’ve named this moves management system. But because of the uniqueness of funders and donors, they have become these very big buckets that don’t give a lot of clarity and don’t help fundraisers actually prioritize. Because if you have 500 donors that are in the cultivation phase, and some of them have been in there for two weeks, and some of them have been in there for two months, and some have been there for 12 months, but they don’t necessarily have this very clear ladder of engagement for folks. And then I think for fundraisers, what ends up happening is that they end up focusing on acquisition like new donors, because that’s where they sort of understand the cadence of communication. It feels like it’s more controllable, but we know that lifetime value of a donor is really important, it’s much less expensive to retain a donor then to get a new donor, and yet we see this pattern over and over and over again. And I think it might be related to some of what we’ve been talking about. I’m curious about your opinion about that.
20:55 Margaux: That’s really interesting and you have much more expertise on the details of how that shows up day-to-day. But what stood out to me when you were talking is, the role that novelty plays in interest and motivation, especially for people with ADHD. People with ADHD have an interest based nervous system, and so the things that can be very motivating are things like novelty, like is it new, different bright, shiny object, is it challenging, like is there some problem to solve or really good with problem solving, sense of urgency, a sense of urgency, is it time sensitive. All of these factors can be very stimulating for the ADHD brain. And so, when you were talking about the tendency to want to acquire new donors versus continuing to cultivate an existing relationship, I don’t know the details of those specific situations, but it could be something around simply the interest kind of wears off because maybe you’ve known this person for several years. And that can come into play like in relationships too, in our lives, in our friendships, in our romantic relationships, in our jobs. People get bored and then they want to quit the job, they want to break up with the partner. And so, I think that that’s where the self-awareness and the understanding and the education around ADHD can just go a long way for folks so that they are able to sustain those relationships with the people that they really care about and the jobs that they actually do really care about, and finding ways to keep it exciting and stimulating and new. And there’s ways to do that. Finding ways to create the novelty and the challenge and the urgency within those existing relationships.
22:36 Mallory: I love that. And I am curious from an organizational perspective, like if you were speaking to a leader of an organization that was managing a team of fundraisers, what are some group challenges or frameworks, even tools and task management systems that you think would be helpful in supporting their neurodivergent staff members to stay motivated, take certain actions, or be able to prioritize an action that doesn’t have as clear or as quick of a feedback loop?
23:14 Margaux: I think the answer is just in how you stated that. So, first being very clear about the priority, whether it’s for the month, for the quarter, for the week, for the year, what are the priorities and what are the overall goals of the department or the group so that everyone’s clear that they’re all working towards the same goal. And then helping the team break that larger goal down into smaller milestones or smaller chunks. Chunking is a strategy that is recommended with ADHD because when we just have this one large project, like let’s say you’re writing a book or you have this big project you have to do and you have this one big deadline, that can be very overwhelming for folks and they don’t know where to start. Taking the first step can be the hardest part. So, supporting your team in breaking down this larger project into smaller, shorter milestones. So, maybe it’s like every week there’s a goal that needs to be hit or every two weeks, and then there’s some sort of reward or recognition built into that as well. So, it keeps it fun and then people know like, this is the next thing I need to be working on. But of course, doing it in a way that’s not micromanaging or patronizing. Thinking about it like this is something that’s going to help the whole team. Helping the team with breaking down the big goal into what are those shorter sprints or shorter milestones, that would be one strategy to consider. What I mentioned before about within the team, just understanding the strengths of the different team members because some folks may really struggle with administrative work, but there may be some other folks on the team that are really good with administrative work and operations type of work. So really understanding kind of the strengths and the challenges of different people on the team, and then casting accordingly so that everyone is in a role that’s best suited for them. Understanding that everyone has different processing styles. Processing styles also are sometimes referred to learning styles in the education context. For an example, some people are very conceptual, so in order to be engaged or understand a task or an assignment, they really need to know the context. They need to know how these fits into the bigger picture and what’s the why, why are we doing this.
25:23 Margaux: So, I’ve seen a lot of people with ADHD are very conceptual, and this can come across as oppositional sometimes to managers because you, Mallory may be giving me assignment and then in order for me to really understand it, I may say, well, okay, so why are we doing it this way, or why do you want me to do it this way. Because that’s really just going to help me understand what I need to do. But that may come across that I’m questioning you or I’m questioning why I have to do it. So, I would say, understanding if folks are conceptual, they may need to ask a lot of questions, they may want to know the why behind something. It doesn’t mean that they’re being oppositional. In most cases it means that they’re just really trying to understand and process. Some folks are verbal processors, meaning that in order to understand and get the information they need to talk it out. So, if you just send out a big long email, they’ve read it but in order to really get it that they need to talk it out to understand. Some folks are more auditory, so it’s helpful to say something in a meeting so that they can hear the information by listening, and this could also be helpful for some folks that maybe they’re dyslexic or they have some other learning disability where reading all the information in writing on email may not be the most accessible format. Some folks are kinesthetic or tactile, like they really just like to be hands on and get into the system and be able to demo it, and poke around on the buttons and figure it out themselves, and then have the questions and want to talk to the boss. So, just understanding that everyone has different learning or processing styles. And so how that all comes together is when you’re working with a team where there’s diverse people on the team. If there’s something important you want to communicate, send it in writing, say it verbally in a meeting, give folks a space where they can ask questions and talk it out loud. Using the multiple modes of communication so you can make sure that your message is getting across to all different types of people.
27:04 Mallory: Those are some great tips and something I wish I had heard probably 20 years ago. Because that contextual learner piece I struggled a lot in school when I was younger. I didn’t think until college even that I was potentially smart at all. And a lot of it was because of the lack of context given in K through 12 education. In addition to having a number of different learning disabilities and not being in an environment that really supported that. So, I really appreciate hearing those and we’ll drop a resource below too for folks. I know we’re going to transition and talk about neuro divergence in the granting and funding side of things in a minute as well. But before we jump into that, I’m wondering if you have any final things for folks who perhaps are sitting in a nonprofit right now. They are currently identify as having a form of neurodivergence and are figuring out how to advocate for themselves inside their organization, whether or not they’re wanting to share the specificity of how their brain works. Do you have any suggestions for that?
28:18 Margaux: First, I would recommend leaning into professional support and hopefully if you’re working for an organization, you have health insurance and access to benefits. Whether that’s working with your primary care provider or your therapist, to talk with them about some of the specific challenges you may be facing. And most times they may be able to talk with you about ideas for accommodations or even whether or not it’s a formal accommodation. But what are the things that you can do to support yourself in the workplace? And sometimes they will even be able to write a letter that you can share a quick story. When I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 29, in my first role after getting diagnosed, I entered into the job as a freelance contractor. So, I didn’t disclose my ADHD because I came into the role thinking I’m going to be here for three months and then I’m going to move on to my next freelance project. So, this is not going to be a long-term relationship. But then they ended up offering me a full-time job and it really worked out and I decided to take this role. But I still didn’t disclose at that point because my role at the time, I was working as head of production in a marketing department for a tech company. And I was worried that the stereotypes out there about ADHD would give people preconceived notions about my ability to perform in that role. And it wasn’t until later I decided to disclose to my manager. And I was really nervous about it at the time because I had never gone through that experience in a job. And I remember with my therapist, we had a lot of discussion about it. She made some recommendations of things that would help that I didn’t even feel that I had the right to ask for. And that’s part of it too, is realizing that you’re not asking for too much. If you’re asking for an adjustment that’s going to help you show up your best in your job, you have the right to ask for that.
30:01 Margaux: There’s the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 1990 that stipulates any organization with more than 15 employees is required to provide reasonable accommodations so that employees with disabilities can perform in their role. And I remember the thing that I was requesting was I wanted to work from home one day a week, which now seems like not a big deal because so many folks are working remotely. At the time, the culture of the organization was very in person. Like you had to be there in person five days a week. And so, I remember my therapist wrote me a letter that I ended up not even having to give it to my manager, but I remember I printed it out and I like had it in my back pocket just in case. And she also gave me some visualization exercises to do where I visualized having that conversation with my manager and visualized a positive outcome. And it sounds kind of vulnerable and maybe even like overkill, like even saying this now out loud, but at the time I was literally so nervous and even like almost shaking when I was going into having that meeting. And I think it’s important for managers and people just to understand that there still is so much fear and stigma out there. And so, it takes a lot for people to be able to open up and disclose that they have any type of disability and may have a request. So, my story, everything ended out worked out really well and I shared with my manager that I had ADHD, explained to him how it shows up for me, and explained to him that working from home one day a week would really help me a lot, be able to have a quiet space. Because we were in an open office plan. Have a quiet space to do more of the deep work that I needed to do and also help me with the overall fatigue because I had like a one to two hour commute each way commuting from San Francisco down to Silicon Valley every day on one of those tech shuttles.
31:40 Margaux: And he was super great about it and approved my request and it ended up working out really well. Back to your question around self-advocacy, engaging professional support, whether that’s a doctor, a therapist, or even an advisor, if you have a spiritual advisor or you know, trusted mentors, somebody in your life that you trust that can provide you counsel, you can talk about what the specific challenge or barrier you’re facing. And what are specific things that you think could help you and then practice having that conversation with someone, that could be a sounding board. So that when you go to speak with your manager or you go to HR, you can feel really confident and prepared in having the conversation and understand that most times the people that you go to speak to, they’re probably not going to be an expert on your specific condition, so they might just be prepared to explain what does that mean that you have ADHD. Like, how does it show up for you? What are the specific challenges? For you at work, what are the small adjustments or things that could really help you? And then communicating how that’s going to help you do your best work within the organization. So, helping them understand, helping them help you. And I always like to say too, having ADHD, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a different brain wiring. There’s so many incredible strengths and qualities that can come with having ADHD. And there’s also challenges, right? We don’t want to just say it’s a superpower, because that really minimizes the real challenges that a lot of folks face. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And there’s so many incredible badass people out there that have ADHD in a variety of fields, entrepreneurs, business leaders, artists, advocates. That’s something that I’m really passionate about is shining a light on those stories so that people feel empowered and they feel proud of the unique brain that they have.
33:18 Mallory: Thank you for sharing that story about yourself and for everything that you just said. I really appreciate it.
33:30 Mallory: Okay. There is so much inside this episode that I want to highlight, but I am actually going to force myself to focus on two topic areas that I think are particularly helpful.
Number one, I thought it was so insightful to learn some of the reasons nonprofit workers with ADHD might prefer the novelty of soliciting new funders. Number one, people with ADHD have an interest-based nervous system. Number two, new, different bright shiny objects tend to be motivational. And third, she shared that urgent problems and situations requiring time sensitive solutions are stimulating to the ADHD brain.
And I really loved her suggestions for supporting neurodivergent staff by chunking workflows to ensure that goals and milestones are manageable and clear. Breaking large projects down with a special emphasis on that, all important, often overwhelming first step. Creating weekly goals but keeping it light to avoid the perception of micromanagement and establishing solid administrative systems and support.
Number two, I also love Margaux’s tips for self-advocacy in the workplace.
Those included engaged professionals, therapists, mentors, trusted advisors to help brainstorm and execute strategies about how to create a supportive environment. She mentioned how you should come up with specific accommodations to propose, such as a letter from a therapist recommending specific work conditions or hours. And she reminds us to not be afraid to disclose our neurodivergence to managers if we feel safe and comfortable doing so. I love her suggestion around trying to practice with that as well, visualizing the conversations you need to have in order to secure appropriate support in the workplace. And also, if you do this, you want to be prepared to explain exactly what ADHD is and how it manifests in you. And make clear the advantages that will accrue from accommodations and enable optimal performance.
Okay. For additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to mallory erickson.com/podcast to grab the full show notes and resources. You’ll also find more information there about Margaux and our amazing sponsors Feathr. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review, and share it with a friend. I’m so grateful for all of my listeners and the good, hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. And if you miss me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram under whatthefundraising_. Have a great day and I’ll see you in part two of this two-part series with Margaux.
02:14 Mallory: Welcome back everyone to part two with Margaux Joffe. Margaux, thank you for joining me for this exciting conversation.
02:23 Margaux: Yes, we had so much to talk about we made it into two parts.
02:29 Mallory: Yes. And I’m really excited to dive into the funding side of things because we talked a lot about what fundraisers and organizations can do to support neuro divergence. But one of the things that struck me in our very first conversation was around the ways that funding in particular, the way it’s given and granted, and the process to have it awarded are not set up in accessible ways. And so, before we dive into that and get more specific, can we talk a little bit first about the overarching diversity and inclusion conversation and the role that people with disabilities need to be occupying or the consciousness around their needs need to be a part of that conversation that they’ve been oftentimes left out of?
03:23 Margaux: Yes. And I love that you’re making space on your podcast to get into this topic of accessibility in the process of even accessing and getting funds. So, disability has oftentimes been left out of the broader diversity and inclusion conversation. And there’s this idea that disability, it’s too niche, which doesn’t make any sense to me because there’s over a billion people in the world who live with some type of disability. And in the United States, 61 million Americans, one in three US households have at least one family member with a disability. So, this is not a niche topic. People with disabilities, it’s a large and valuable segment of our communities, of our customers in the world, all around us. And so, accessibility, it’s not a luxury, it’s not an exercise of charity, it’s not, let’s check the box for compliance. Thinking about accessibility is essential for all organizations when they’re thinking about their products, their services, how they are interfacing with the public, with their customers. And so, accessibility is making sure something is accessible and usable for everyone, including people with disabilities. That means people that are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or low vision, people that have mobility impairments, if they’re wheelchair users, or they have cognitive disabilities, neurodivergent conditions. Disability is also very diverse, there’re many different types of disabilities. Some are apparent, some are non-apparent. And disability can be acquired at any point in your life.
You can be born with a disability or you can acquire a disability. It’s a natural part of the human experience.
05:07 Mallory: Can we double click on for one second, the invisibleness of a lot of disabilities and the additional burden that often places on people with disabilities and why it’s so important in this conversation, what we’re talking about, why it’s so important that funders take the lead on thinking about accessibility in their granting and their funding?
05:30 Margaux: Yeah, so growing up we didn’t see a lot of representation in the media. Most of us didn’t really get education around disability and accessibility in school, and so we just had very limited understanding unless we had direct experiences with people in our life. Most people, when you think disability, you may think of someone who uses a wheelchair and people may not often think about that there’s so many disabilities that may be non-visible or non-apparent, not obvious upon first glance. And so, it’s always important not to assume that someone has or doesn’t have a disability because there’s many disabilities, whether it’s a learning disability or a chronic illness, mental health condition, things that may not be physically apparent. And it’s really important for funders to think about accessibility in the process, thinking about what is kind of the user experience every step of the way for your grantees to be applying for funds? What kind of reporting do they need to do and how frequent? Because a lot of times now everything is digital. There’s these digital systems that people have to log into, enter in information, and so we need to make sure that things are accessible from a digital perspective. The cool thing about technology, it can be a huge enabler. And technology has created so much more access for people with disabilities. Nowadays, most operating systems come with built-in screen reader software. For example, if you have, I use Apple, I have an iPhone, and it comes with voiceover, which is a built-in screen reader software. So, if someone’s blind, visually impaired, or even people that are dyslexic or have some other type of learning disability, use screen reader software so it will read you the screen. And so, for that, it’s important to make sure that you have alt text on your images, which describes what the image is, that your buttons are labeled so people who are non-sighted and they’re navigating your website, they know what the button says, so they know what buttons to click, basically.
07:27 Margaux: So, they need to be able to navigate and understand the digital content on your website with a screen reader. If you have videos, make sure that they’re captioned, not only for people that are deaf or hard of hearing, but also for people where English is not their first language, it can really help with comprehension. Also, people who may have auditory processing disorders or even people with ADHD, captions can really help with comprehension of auditory content that’s on a video. Same thing with podcast, transcripts can be very helpful to make it accessible.
07:58 Mallory: You said something, I don’t know if this relates at all to neuro divergence, but I’m thinking about all of the elements of funding, grant writing, getting funds approved, and then ultimately managing, being awarded, and all the steps of the process. And we can talk about some of those sequencing pieces in particular, or things that funders might be able to do to help with sort of prompting and things like that. I’m also wondering about word count. So, one of the things that drove me insane as a fundraiser was when you had to make a really compelling case around something, an organization that perhaps a funder didn’t already know about in 250 characters, not even words, or a hundred characters. And that always felt like it brought me to my knees. And I’m curious what you think, how word count may or may not relate to accessibility?
08:54 Margaux: Flexibility is a principle that can help support accessibility, and so if people need alternate formats or alternate ways to express or communicate, if you have the ability to provide flexibility around that, that may be helpful. And that could also look like, having an office hour if people have questions about the application, they’re stuck, they don’t understand the word of a question, or maybe there is that character count limit, and so they’re not sure like what is the important information that you really need to know here. And this is just one example of an idea of like, having an office hour is where you can answer questions. And then once you know what those FAQs are, you can either then go and iterate and revise your templates accordingly or have an FAQs on your website so people can find the answers to their questions. Coming from tech, we talk a lot about finding and removing friction in the user experience to make it more intuitive, to make it more understandable, and those same principles can be applied with any process where you have a digital process, where people have to make an application and input information. How can we make it more intuitive? How can we create avenues for people to give feedback about areas they’re confused about, so then we can try and clear up the confusion and make it more clear.
10:06 Margaux: Reducing the steps. So, from a cognitive accessibility standpoint, I’ll share a story. In a previous role, I had the opportunity, I was working in a corporate social responsibility team at a major corporation, and I had the amazing opportunity to be on the other side of having funding to give to disability organizations. And one of the things that was top of mind for me coming into that role was our third-party grant software. So, we had a third-party software that we used in terms of where people could apply for funding and where we could administer the grant funding. And it also had the reporting and analytics built in. And so, to quote Jenny Lay Flurrie, who’s the Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft, she said, if you don’t know if your website is accessible, it’s not. Because in the past, accessibility hasn’t been a standard practice. And so, the accessibility professionals were trying to get it be the default versus the exception. But anyways, I asked our tech person if he could make me a user account so that I could go through the process as a grantee and see what the user experience is from that perspective and kind of just go through the flow from even account creation, creating the account, logging in, what are all the steps, and take a look at it through the lens of accessibility, is it understandable, is it intuitive. But also from an accessibility standpoint, are there any potential accessibility issues that we might want to look at updating or fixing. And I felt that that was a very good use of time because I stumbled across things that, it wasn’t even from an accessibility perspective, but it was asking them for a grant code they had to enter, and I didn’t even know what that code was. And then I had to go and ask. And so, I was able to just uncover things in the process, and so then when I was working with the grantees, I was able to give them a less than one-page bullets of, here’s what you need to know when you go through this.
11:57 Margaux: And I was trying to make it as seamless as possible for them. And I said, you know, when you get to step four, they’re going to ask you for the code. This is the code you need to put in for this grant. I think that was helpful for them. It was also helpful for me because it eliminated so many back and forth emails that were going to be coming when they started running into these questions. And I think for me, I’m just also more sensitive to this being someone with ADHD where sometimes these administrative, when you have to go and do these applications, whether it’s when I go to submit insurance claims, when I have to do paperwork of any type, any time I encounter any type of archaic, frustrating, like expense reporting. In a previous job, I remember I used to struggle with the expense reporting software we had. It was challenging for everyone, but for those of us with ADHD, or any type of like learning disability, it’s more than an annoyance, it can be painful, it can be such a struggle. And I remember I used to get in trouble for my expense reports being late. But I was a high performer in all other areas and I got great reviews, but then my expense reports were always late, and it was so embarrassing. So, I just thinking about how can you make the process simple, intuitive, remove the barriers, and just review the process with fresh eyes. Because sometimes it’s just because something got grandfathered in. But you know, having someone on your team really going through the process and seeing, do we really even need all this information? Do we really need to have 20 steps? Can it be 10 steps? And just being sensitive to the fact that a lot of these grantees, nonprofit organizations, they’re trying to do the most with very little. They don’t have big teams. And so, if you do work for a large foundation or a corporation that has a foundation arm, and you are in a resource rich environment. Keeping that in mind when you’re working with these small organizations that are seeking funding, try not to make it so time consuming because all the time and labor they’re putting into the application and the reporting, it’s taking away from the time that they could actually be spending doing the work of their mission, of their organization. Just something to keep in mind and be sensitive about and be thoughtful about.
14:00 Mallory: Yeah. There’s something that you were saying in there that I just think is so important, which is for funders who are listening to this. If there’s a step of your process that is commonly missed, whether it’s a particular reporting deadline or some type of data feedback loop, that to me is like a flag of something to dig into around as well. In addition to going through exactly as you said, user experience and maybe inviting one of your grantees, or finding a consultant or an advocate who can look through the eyes of accessibility if you don’t have that internally. But then also having sort of consistent checks around when things are not happening, how can you make the action easier to do?
Because I’m sure on the foundation or the grant making side, there’s some internal language around like they get this money from us and then they never do blank, or then they always forget this. And I think there often isn’t this mere back around, how difficult is that thing? Did they need to remember four codes and a password? I mean, thank goodness for Google Chrome and LastPass, they’ve truly changed my life.
15:04 Margaux: LastPass changed my life. I long time, LastPass Lover. Yes.
15:11 Mallory: Yes. And there used to be a Me too with Last Pass, but I remember like back in the day, or maybe this was even pre LastPass, like there were certain grant portals that were really hard to save in tech solutions like that because of how they were read by the software and things like that. And so, they’re just all these things and to ask funders to really hold a mirror up to their systems and processes and look at where there are these drop points, and figure out how they can make that easier, more accessible. I think it’s just such important advice, so I really appreciate all of that.
15:43 Margaux: Yeah. You said something great, which is if you need help with this, hire an accessibility consultant. There’s industry standard guidelines out there about accessibility. This isn’t something you need to figure out. The web content accessibility guidelines, otherwise referred to as WCAG. Right now, it’s 2.1, and there’s different levels of conformance, A, AA, AAA. But there’s organizations like Nobility, LeVant Consulting, there’s many accessibility consultants and organizations out there that they can simply go and log in and review your system and then give you recommendations on how you can update it to make it more accessible so that anyone with a disability and just anyone in general can use it. And this is really important because I think too often, people with disabilities are only seen as beneficiaries and not seen as the leaders, the creators, the agents of change. And I think that’s a mindset shift that we all need to make. When we think about disability and people with disabilities, not only thinking about them in the box of, oh, well these are the people we’re helping, these are the beneficiaries of the organization. But actually, understanding that people with disabilities are also working in our companies. They’re working in organizations. They’re leading, they’re visionaries. And so, we need to make sure that the people with disabilities that are working within these nonprofits or organizations are able to use these systems and submit the applications just like everyone else.
17:08 Mallory: Yes. You mentioned this in part one a little bit around how do we ensure inside a sector like the nonprofit sector that our outsides match our insides, that the things that we say we care about and the values that we hold, and the issues that we’re working on, we’re also integrating that into the process and operations and systems inside the sector itself. And if this sector wants to be a sector that not only has hundreds of thousands of organizations working on different disability issues across the world, but also wants to be a sector that supports the leadership of and participation of people with disabilities, then leadership in this area is really important from the funding community.
17:52 Margaux: Definitely, and if you have an organization that is giving the funds, making sure that accessibility is something that is prioritized, especially in your procurement process and requirements. When you are procuring a third-party fundraising or grant making software that you’re going to use for your organization. Making sure that accessibility, just like security and data privacy, making sure that that is a requirement at the top of the list because that is going to continue to incentivize vendors to prioritize it as well. And there’s this amazing initiative actually called Procure Access, where a lot of the leading tech companies have come together with a call to action around making sure accessibility is prioritized in the procurement process. If you’re working at a large fund or foundation, you have the money, and making sure if you’re procuring third party technology, that it’s accessible and bringing in a consultant if you need support with verifying that. And also, just don’t take someone’s word if they say, oh yes, our stuff is accessible. Because sometimes they say that and then it’s not. You have to trust but verify. And then if you are listening to this podcast and you are a vendor that makes this type of software, prioritize accessibility, because it’s the future, more and more companies are prioritizing it. More and more companies are asking about accessibility of digital platforms. And so, it’s the future. So, it’s better to be proactive versus reactive.
19:19 Mallory: Yeah, I’m really glad you said that. We could do a whole third segment on nonprofit technology. But I think so much about fundraiser enablement and the fact that there’s so many different systems and tech solutions and processes that sort of touch the fundraiser or the fundraiser touches. And each of them has their own user experience issues, whether they are archaic grant application systems or relationship management software, contact management software that’s really geared towards the donor experience, not the fundraiser’s use of it. There’s so many different elements to this, and I think the more and more we are thinking about accessibility across the platform, inside the platform, that is really going to lead to, in my opinion, watershed moments in terms of moving money into this sector. Because we have long talked about unlocking generosity, being about unlocking donors, and I think it’s about unlocking fundraisers that giving is response behavior. And fundraisers in order to enable and support them to be prompting in the right ways and inviting donors more and more into the fabric of their organizations and their communities, if we can actually make that more accessible and make that more user friendly, I think the downstream impact is tremendous. So, thank you for adding that in there.
20:48 Margaux: I don’t know if this is like relevant at all, but something that we see a lot in the ADHD community is, a lot of people struggle with filing their taxes, and a lot of people with ADHD leave like a lot of money on the table when it comes to even their personal life. I had one woman who we worked with in our ADHD program, she had several thousands of dollars that she was entitled to for medical reimbursements, for claims that she had to submit. But the process to all the paperwork required to submit the claims, she hadn’t done it and she was at a point where she was like, the amount of headache and work and time that’s going to take me to do these claims, I don’t even want to do it, even though I know that there’s several thousand dollars that I could get back because it just felt so overwhelming and inaccessible to her. It just really came to mind thinking about sometimes these processes and all the hoops people have to jump through just to access a reimbursement or access money or access a grant. I personally heard about a grant, someone sent me that, it was a $5,000 grant. And it fit what my business was doing, and so then I went on to look at the application. I was like, no, because the amount of time I’m going to have to spend even figuring this out and submitting this application, it’s not even worth $5,000 to me.
22:05 Mallory: I have had similar experiences. I think there are a lot of things that come to play in those moments, and I think the question that you asked earlier is really the important one, which is like having that moment of self-reflection around, is this really needed? Like, we’re asked a lot to think about the minimal viable product. And I would push back on funders to think about what’s the minimal viable information that you could ask for that would give you the answers that you need to make a decision? And I would start with that. And if then you get in a position where you’re struggling to decide at that point between two institutions, you can always ask follow up questions later. But for the first gate to be so complicated and such a barrier, it feels frankly like disrespectful to me. And then to tie that level of hoops, those hoops to small dollar amounts, feels like it further devalues nonprofit leader’s time. Like, if a $5,000 grant requires an organization 40 hours or 100 hours of work before the work of the program that the grant is actually going through, that just speaks to a much like a toxic element in the sector as a whole.
23:23 Margaux: Yeah. Even for entrepreneurs or small business owners. Because the grant that I was looking at was for small business owners and it was like, going to require, I don’t know how many hours, because now I can’t remember. Hello impaired working memory, ADHD. But it felt like it was going to be so much time. I was like, it’s not even worth. It’s not a guaranteed 5k, it’s a potential who knows how many people are going to apply and what are even the chances that I’m going to get this funding.
23:50 Mallory: Exactly. And so, I think there’s a lot of work to be done, but I think even in nonprofit leaders having awareness, like I think you and I both have an awareness around our ADHD and what we need to thrive and what we need to feel and what’s going to be too many hoops for us, so we can make those decisions when we first get to that page. Something that used to happen to me a lot before I really had more of a handle on my ADHD and understood more about it, I would get to the page, I would start. And then I would hit my barriers, but I would have felt like I already invested so much time. Then there was the sunk cost that I didn’t want to let go of, and I would keep going. And so, for nonprofit leaders or fundraisers who are hearing this, like there is some evaluation that you all also need to do at the very beginning, around the whole process to really make a decision. And then for funders, I think you need to think critically about the reason why you have so many hoops. And if they’re necessary, because what you’re actually trying to do is limit the amount of people who actually apply, there are other more accessible ways to do that. So, I think we need to be honest about why we have all those hoops in place in the first place and figure out ways to fix this dynamic.
25:07 Mallory: Well, this has been so wonderful. I am so grateful for all of your time and our ability to do this two-part series. So, thank you for everything that you do. Where should people go to find you to learn more about your work, to connect with you?
25:21 Margaux: Anyone that wants to learn more, I have information about me on margauxjoffe.com and I welcome you to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. Now that Twitter fired their whole accessibility team, I’m doing more of my professional updates on LinkedIn. So, I welcome anyone to connect with me on there. I also co-founded and co-facilitate a program for adults with ADHD who are looking to learn more about their ADHD and work with it more effectively in their career. So, if you’re interested in learning more about that program, you can head to the greatadhdrest.com. All the information is there on the webpage.
26:02 Mallory: Amazing. Thank you so much for this conversation and for all the work that you do. I’m so grateful.
26:08 Margaux: Thank you. This was so much fun. Even though I’m not an expert on fundraising, it was fun to talk about all the fundraising adjacent topics, accessibility, ADHD, and everything in between. So, thanks for having me on.
26:21 Mallory: My pleasure.
26:28 Mallory: Okay. There is so much inside this episode that I want to highlight, but I’m actually going to focus on the piece here that I think is the most important, how the grant application process can be made more inclusive. Here are some of the things that Margaux outlines. Provide office hours and robust FAQs to help nonprofits get the feedback and insight they need.
Number two, create avenues for feedback and adjust templates accordingly.
Number three, reduce the number of steps required to complete the process.
Number four, run internal checks to experience firsthand whether the process is manageable and intuitive or not. Put together cheat sheets that anticipate challenges step-by-step and provide helpful hints to navigate them.
And if you notice that many people drop off at certain stages in the process or are having trouble with a particular feedback loop, look at the accessibility of the system itself and see how you can make it more inclusive.
Okay. For additional takeaways and tips inside this episode, head on over to mallory erickson.com/podcast to grab the full show notes and resources now. You’ll also find more information there about Margaux and our amazing sponsors Feathr. Thank you for spending this time with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you would give it a rating and review and share it with a friend. I’m so grateful for all of my listeners and the good, hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place.
And if you miss me between episodes, stop by and say hello on Instagram under Whatthe fundraising_ Have a great day and I’ll see you next week.