I know this post may be fraught.
I want to address how important diversity, equity and inclusion are to the advancement field. Since the murder of George Floyd, the nation and world have been woke to pervasive institutional racism, the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. A light has also been shined on the presence and effects of implicit bias around race, people with disabilities, and sexual orientation, somethings we all harbor to some extent.
As nonprofit leaders, we are well aware of the need to avoid a “stale, male and pale” board of directors. Though I fit the last two descriptors, I have a forty-year history of working with and living in diverse communities.
Potential Missed Opportunities
That said, I am concerned that bending over too far on this subject can be detrimental to your organization. I am seeing:
- Professional organizations declining high quality trainings because a person of color is not included in the presentation.
- Highly qualified white job candidates passed over because employers seek to be inclusive.
- Board recruiting focusing almost exclusively on people of color who may not satisfy other core board needs.
Would you believe I support affirmative action, served as secretary of the Portland (OR) Urban League, built a staff where half the employees were people of color, and designed and led a successful employer-assisted program to improve health and reduce crime in Portland’s poorest quadrant through home ownership?
This post is cautionary about pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion thoughtfully and in ways your organization can sustain these through policies, self-awareness and programs. Moving too quickly with change may result in missed opportunities for your organization.
I suggest you establish a board-level committee that includes employees and a specialized consultant – to address diversity, equity and inclusion. Identify your organization’s current practices and culture, state where you want to be in five years, set objectives to get you there, and establish policies and programs to meet and sustain your objectives.
The urgency of this issue is manifest every day. We must be smart about how we make change that will work and will last.
Copley Raff’s mission: Every interaction is to help nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions by meeting ambitious goals, aligning their leadership, elevating fundraising, and activating the brilliance of their teams. It’s a bold promise but one that we know will serve you and your organization’s mission in a way that will deliver tangible and meaningful results – the kind of results that make a real difference!