Rewards of a Diverse Nonprofit Board: Making a Commitment to LGBTQ and DEI
More than half of LGBTQ Americans surveyed in 2020 said they hid a personal relationship to avoid discrimination, according to a report by the Center for American Progress and NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey included various demographics, including age, education, income, disability, gender, and gender identity.
The results indicate that a large number of people involved with your nonprofit probably come from the LGBTQ population. In addition to the people represented by the LGBTQ community, racial inequality has also proven to be a destructive force. Yet, it continues to be pervasive in every organization including nonprofits.
Regardless of how people identify themselves, all have valuable talents and abilities that your nonprofit could be tapping into to help your board advance your nonprofit’s mission.
With these critical issues at the helm, we’re providing an overview of the benefits your organization can receive by taking a positive stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion, how to achieve it, and how to maximize the potential of a diverse nonprofit organization.
Understanding the Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion
Nonprofit boards that make diversity, equity, and inclusion a firm priority benefit by improving their efforts with fundraising, advocacy, decision-making, and problem-solving.
As stated by Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, “Diverse board members can improve the organization’s philanthropic engagement through increased board member participation, fundraising, and advocacy.”
Recent research shows that nonprofit boards with a higher percentage of women on their boards more actively participate in fundraising and advocacy programs. Other studies show that diversity has a significant positive impact on the quality of a board’s decision-making. A diverse board brings fresh ideas into the boardroom. New and varied perspectives are necessary to tackle problems from different angles. A Harvard study provides evidence that diversity “unlocks innovation and drives the market growth.”
Nonprofits that are willing to embrace a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion benefit from being more inclusive and innovative in how they approach their missions.
How to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion in the Nonprofit Space
It’s one thing to put out a statement about committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s entirely another matter to get the ball rolling and monitor your nonprofit’s progress toward it. While making advancements to expand diversity and inclusion, a formal values statement around LGBTQ, diversity, and inclusion is a good first step, and you don’t have to stop there.
In creating your annual strategic plan, be sure to include specific goals for incorporating diversity and inclusion into every aspect of your nonprofit’s work and monitor them for progress. A good place to begin is with your board. Diversity within your nonprofit begins at the top. As you look around the boardroom, can you affirm that your board is inclusive and represents a broad demographic of people?
From there, can you see evidence that diversity and inclusion extend to your staff, volunteers, board, vendors, suppliers, and partner organizations? If not, it’s time for your board to start discussing how to translate your commitment to diversity and inclusion into action. An excellent place to start is with your hiring and recruitment practices.
On the whole, minorities and people from the LGBTQ communities have been marginalized. With the benefit of professional development, your nonprofit may be able to draw out budding talent that could benefit your organization. A few ways to implement professional development are to provide opportunities for education, advancement, leadership training, and mentorship programs. Proactively identify people that have high potential and match them with seasoned professionals with stellar reputations.
Beyond identifying diverse populations to serve within your nonprofit, it’s crucial to communicate the opportunities they have to serve your nonprofit and encourage them to express their interest in being involved or taking on leadership positions.
The baby boomer generation is retiring from the workforce in record numbers. As they transition out of their fields, they provide a minefield of knowledge and experience for diverse, marginalized individuals who are thirsty to demonstrate their talents and abilities. By tapping into the baby boomers as a resource for finding mentors, your nonprofit gains the potential to mentor people internally and prepare them for leadership positions within your nonprofit.
Above all, your board should consider that fostering a culture of inclusion is a continual process. Your commitment to diversity and inclusion must extend to accepting diverse opinions, perspectives, and lifestyles, in word and deed. The Americans for the Arts is a nonprofit that provides an excellent example of a statement on cultural equity.
How to Tap into the Potential of a Diverse Nonprofit Organization
Once your nonprofit has developed a statement on diversity and inclusion and modified its practices, another good step is to discuss and define the terms related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This step will help your board clarify your intentions and communicate in a meaningful way.
Having a diverse board is crucial at this step because everyone experiences and interprets discrimination differently. Multiple perspectives will enlighten your board and round out the discussions. The YWCA provides a Social Justice Glossary to help facilitate difficult discussions around diversity and inclusion.
Don’t be surprised if board discussions bring out unconscious biases among your board members. Project Implicit offers an online test that your board members can take to assess their bias around race, gender, sexual orientation, and other discriminatory issues.
Other ways to tap into the potential of diversity and inclusion are:
- Creating a diversity committee that includes representatives from all levels of your nonprofit.
- Being transparent about how you’ve woven diversity goals into your strategic plan.
- Making accommodations for religious celebrations for various faiths
- Adopting dress codes that are diversity-friendly
Sadly, our country has propagated and perpetuated systemic racism for centuries. For this reason, some nonprofits emerged and have remained strong decades later.
To help move your efforts toward diversity and inclusion along, BoardEffect’s board management system provides a secure platform where your board can focus on improving its diversity, equity, and inclusion activities. With unlimited cloud storage, your board will be able to document your efforts every step of the way.