Nonprofit Boards Are Falling Short of Diversity Goals, Survey Shows

A new report from Koya Leadership Partners reveals that nonprofit boards are still suffering from a lack of diversity, even though board members are keenly aware of how important inclusivity is.

These findings are based off an online survey that was administered to board and executive committee members at more than 100 nonprofits. The report, entitled, The Governance Gap: Examining Diversity and Equity in Nonprofit Boards of Directors, found that while respondents would like to increase diversity, they failed to take the proper actions to do so. The reason, according to the report, is that they lack the knowledge, resources, skills, and commitment to do so.

Of those surveyed, only 24 percent self-identified as a person of color. The majority of respondents, 61 percent, said that their board does not “adequately reflect the community/communities [the] organization serves.” An even larger majority, 70 percent, said that they were not “content with the current level of diversity and inclusion represented.” Even more telling: a whopping 74 percent claimed that their boards do not have a written policy or statement on diversity and inclusion.

Part of the problem, according to survey participants, is that boards prioritize fundraising over increasing diversity. From a hiring perspective, there is no excuse for not hiring more people of color, the report’s authors argue, given that there are plenty of qualified candidates who are racial minorities.

Included in the report is a list of recommendations for increasing diversity. Suggestions include compiling a list of candidates that contain an equal amount of racial minorities; avoiding nepotism; and steering clear of tokenism by hiring multiple board members of color.

“We hope the findings and recommendations in this report spark conversation—and, more importantly, action—on boards. There is much that every board member can do, starting right now, to help build a more representative, equitable, and inclusive organization and nonprofit sector,” the report concludes.


Showing Up for Racial Justice

“We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.” That’s the vision as quoted from civil rights organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. As the last decade in the United States has shown, this country still has a long way to go before achieving social equality. That’s why we need organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice.

Founded in 2009, Showing Up for Racial Justice has grown to become a national network of activism groups across the country. The goal of this specific organization is to help get white people involved the fight for racial equality.

The organization operates on the belief that those who are privileged can use their position of power to be an advocate for the disadvantaged. By creating this large scale network of multi-racial people with a passion for equality, citizens can band together to improve the country “through community organizing, mobilizing, and education.” The advantage of having a network like this is being able to unify and orchestrate protests when injustices do happen. As the old saying goes, “There is strength in numbers.”

The organization wants to make it very clear that white people don’t have to be the enemy; they can be allies. The organization seeks to lead by example by being inclusive, not divisive. Put in their own words, they want to “call people in, not call people out.”

It’s inspiring that the leadership of Showing Up for Racial Justice has taken several steps to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. They work closely with other organizations to make sure that their activities and endorsements are in line with the values and beliefs of their mission. Their transparency is a leading example of what honesty and integrity looks like in the nonprofit sector.


The Nonprofit Sector is Failing the People it Means to Serve

The nonprofit sector is failing people of color and other under-served communities. While there are plenty of organizations that work with these groups, rarely are they actually run by people from these communities. Even when they are, these organizations tend to be lacking in the kinds of operational capital that makes other organizations successful.

As Candi Cdebaca, the young CEO of Project VOYCE points out, this is because the nonprofit sector is predicated on privilege. It was founded by rich white people to help others and has developed into a system that maintains both privilege and poverty. After all, without people to help, there would be no nonprofit sector.

That may sound hard to swallow, but if it is, it may be because you’re a part of the problem. This isn’t to say that you, dear reader, are actively working to oppress people and further the goals of privilege and white supremacy. In fact, if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t consciously doing these things. But the problem is, as 2016 in general has done an excellent job of showing, these systems perpetuate themselves subtly.

Cdebaca doesn’t suggest some overarching solution to the problem, that’s beyond the scope of her piece and well beyond the scope of this website as well. But what’s important is that we realize these issues exist, and begin a conversationlocally, nationally, globally, about how to fix this issue. Many of us have argued that having more people of color at the head of nonprofits, especially those geared towards the issues faced by people of color, would make a big difference. Although it definitely would, it’s something that we haven’t even come close to accomplishing yet.

But diversity on it’s own isn’t enough. Diversity needs support in order to work, because all the nonprofit CEOs of color in the world can’t help if the color of their skin continues to prevent them from having access to capital and resources.