Each member of a board of directors brings their personal and professional life experiences to the table, making it imperative for a nonprofit to elect a diverse and inclusive group. Since the board strategizes and supervises the organization’s direction, having diverse experience, expertise and perspectives can put the nonprofit in a strong position to promote its mission, plan for the future and manage risk.
Even though diversity and inclusion are beneficial to a board’s success, the majority of organizations remain largely unchanged. In fact, according to findings from “Leading With Intent: 2021 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices,” 87% of chief executives and 78% of board members identify as Caucasian. The same report found that 66% of chief executives and 47% of board chairs are moderately or extremely dissatisfied with their board’s racial and ethnic diversity.
This article discusses the importance of adopting diversity and inclusion practices and how to implement them.
The Importance of a Diverse Board
Given the tremendous responsibility and decision-making power that boards have, embracing diversity, equity and inclusion can allow for positive outcomes to flourish. There are several benefits of having a diverse board of directors, including:
More accurate reflection of the served community—The board should reflect the community it serves so the organization can better access community resources through connections.
Improved ability to respond to external influences—A diverse board may better navigate the changing environments of those served and the environments in which the board works.
Better decision-making—A board with various backgrounds, experiences and perspectives can be better qualified to identify the full range of opportunities and risks the nonprofit faces when making a significant decision.
Increased engagement—Creating a diverse board can prevent the board from becoming stagnant. Diversity can increase board member participation, fundraising and advocacy.
Enhanced business practices—Implementing measures to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion can increase nonprofit support and prevent discrimination from within the organization.
How to Accomplish Board Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion may not happen overnight, but the following are steps organizations can take to create a more diverse and inclusive board:
Identify and fill in the gaps. Determine what personal and professional expertise is already present on the board and recruit candidates that offer something new. Look for candidates with a variety of expertise, including skill sets, leadership styles, and diversity of thought and background.
Bring diversity topics to the forefront of board discussions. Fostering diversity and inclusion takes sustained and intentional effort. While it may be uncomfortable initially, starting the conversation can allow others to feel comfortable joining in.
Create a diversity statement. Create a simple diversity statement that reflects the nonprofit’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity. This statement should inspire the nonprofit to build diversity, equity and inclusion into its core values and use those values to advance the mission.
With concerted effort, nonprofits can implement diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that better the board, organization and community.