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DEI Audit For Nonprofit Boards
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Board Assessments: How To Conduct a DEI Audit for Nonprofit Boards

Are diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a part of your organization’s core value system? Does your board model those values in visible ways? Has your board explored all the potential DEI resources available to you?

These are valid questions. A greater focus on DEI will help you reach out to marginalized communities, elevate often overlooked voices, and partner with other community organizations that share the same principles.

A DEI audit is a worthwhile nonprofit board agenda topic that should include how to measure DEI effectiveness and explore DEI training resources.

Why DEI Should Be on Your Nonprofit’s Board Agenda

DEI benefits individuals who work for your nonprofit and those you serve. By making a more significant effort to embed DEI principles in everything you do and monitor your progress in this area, you can achieve greater outreach, hire more qualified staff, and create a healthier workplace.

One of the many challenges nonprofit boards have is identifying all the people who need programs and services. Understanding the kind of help people need and learning how to connect them with the necessary services requires a vast outreach. Nonprofits that create policies for equitable practices and have diverse teams on the board and staff effectively reach more people. The right messaging is also a vital marketing ingredient in expanding outreach.

Internal biases among the board and staff can hurt your organization. Unfortunately, bias exists somewhere in nearly every organization.

Concentrated efforts to create a diverse board allow for better decision-making as well as to create a visible presence of DEI within the organization. A more diverse staff also helps to recruit the most qualified employees and the most dedicated volunteers.

We believe that embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as organizational values is a way to intentionally make space for positive outcomes to flourish, whether in direct services or the nonprofit capacity building or public policy spheres.” National Council of Nonprofits 

Everyone likes to be appreciated. Whether individuals get paid for working for a nonprofit or not, they want to feel understood and appreciated for their service. Knowing that a nonprofit hears their concerns and is willing to address them allows for a healthier, more comfortable work environment for everyone involved. Stronger relationships and less conflict will naturally result from making strides in DEI.

How to Do a DEI Audit

Every agenda topic begins with exploratory questions. The answers your board comes up with during a DEI audit may be surprising to some and will undoubtedly make for good board discussions.

Your board may want to start the discussion off by answering the following questions:

  • How well does our nonprofit communicate DEI practices internally?
  • How well does our nonprofit communicate DEI practices externally?
  • Does our nonprofit’s website communicate DEI well enough?
  • Does our board create opportunities to listen to the people in underserved or marginalized communities?
  • Does our board regularly network with other community leaders who serve underserved and marginalized populations?
  • Do our recruitment committees have a pipeline of qualified candidates from underrepresented groups for board members and staff?
  • Is DEI clearly represented in the board and staff orientation processes?
  • How can we measure our DEI efforts?

The last bullet point regarding measuring progress is an important one. You can’t know if you are making progress in the area of DEI unless you measure it. Measuring progress is easier when you break the metrics down into the following categories:

  • Recruiting — The number and types of resources you use to recruit a diverse workforce
  • Hiring — The percentage of diverse people who receive job offers
  • Retention — The average length of time diverse populations continue working for your nonprofit
  • Advancement ­— The percentage of promotions for diverse people 
  • Engagement — Rates of attendance by diverse people at meetings
  • Job satisfaction — Results of a survey that demonstrate happiness on the job
  • Leadership — The percentage of diverse populations holding leadership positions.

Once you’ve established your metrics, reach out to employees and volunteers and get their input. Small focus groups or surveys are good ways to gather input. The lived experiences and feedback of diverse groups may highlight areas where your board can improve.

How to Measure DEI Effectiveness

To measure DEI effectiveness, you will need to create a data-driven plan. Establish a plan that allows you to transform the metrics you’ve identified into actionable policies and plans.

For example, you may set a goal to increase the number of resources where you can find diverse board members or employees. You might also increase the percentage of diverse people who receive job offers. As another example, you might choose one or two issues causing turnover and devise a plan to overcome them. A simple way to track and measure goal progress is with the goal tracking feature in BoardEffect. 

 Insights for an Effective Board: GET THE GUIDE

You can also record attendance at employee meetings, determine how many employees open email messages from the nonprofit, survey employees’ job satisfaction, and set a goal to increase the percentage of diverse individuals in leadership positions.

DEI Training Resources

DEI makes an excellent topic for board training. Invite business members or leaders from other nonprofits to provide a talk on the topic. 

The Nonprofit Leadership Center also provides suggestions for books on improving DEI:

  • “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown
  • “How to Be an Antiracist” byIbram X. Kendi
  • “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
  • “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander
  • “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
  • “The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

The Nonprofit Leadership Center also offers many resources, including blog articles, videos, and other valuable resources for your board.


Whether your board is looking to create DEI policies and procedures or simply wants to create a greater public awareness of DEI principles, it all starts with putting the topic on your next board meeting agenda.

The time your board devotes to measuring DEI effectiveness and training board members on how to make improvements will help you reach more people, ensure their voices are heard and create a healthier work environment. Furthermore, a greater focus on DEI will enhance your nonprofit’s reputation.

Theresa Sintetos

Content Strategist and Operations Manager with six years of growth in the same company, moving up from social media specialist to executive strategy and director of operations. Skilled in research, writing and editing broad range of content.

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