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Measuring Dei Goals

Measuring for meaningful change: Helping volunteer boards meet DE&I goals


Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) values are inextricably bound to the missions of most nonprofit organizations. In serving their constituents and communities and fulfilling their missions, nonprofits help improve the lives of people from different backgrounds, including those who historically have been underrepresented or excluded in society.

Fortunately, many volunteer boards understand the importance of governing with their mission in the forefront – the importance of walking the walk. They’ve crafted and implemented DE&I policies for their board and for their organizations. The goals of those policies are to produce a more diverse and inclusive environment at the organization and for the communities they serve, as well as for their donors, vendors and partners.

Boards and organizational leaders who are serious about meeting DE&I goals also establish metrics and measurement processes to ensure that successes and challenges are tracked and reported.

What you’ll learn

  • Why measuring your DE&I efforts is important
  • How to define DE&I goals and select metrics
  • Establishing transparency and accountability for your DE&I goals

Benefits of measuring DEI initiatives

As management guru and bestselling author Peter Drucker famously said: “What gets measured, gets managed.” In other words, DE&I policies and practices must include metrics to gauge the success of those goals. Without practices in place to collect and measure outcome data, policies can flounder or hit dead ends. Metrics help the board stay focused on what they’re trying to accomplish with DE&I initiatives.

Measuring the effectiveness of DE&I goals demonstrates the board and organization’s commitment to helping create a fair and equitable society for everyone. Reporting how well the organization does on DE&I metrics also helps build trust with the community, including potential business partners, donors and volunteers.

Collecting and sharing metrics is just a starting point, however. It’s important that boards take action on the data they collect, analyzing and understanding those results to make adjustments and changes, or even move in a different direction. Key performance indicators (KPIs) can show where growth is occurring or where improvements need to be made. They can highlight potential expansion areas. Performance data helps boards make decisions about updating goals or setting new ones.

“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker, management guru and bestselling author

Defining DE&I goals and selecting metrics

DE&I goals and metrics go hand in hand and ideally are developed at the same time. Knowing what you want to accomplish and how you will measure success helps make goals concrete. For example, you may have a goal of diversifying your organization’s leadership positions. To meet this goal, you first must define what diversity means to your organization.

Does it mean promoting and supporting more women to take leadership positions? Maybe it means hiring more people of color or those from other marginalized groups. Will you create new leadership positions in the organization? Or commit to hiring when positions open through retirement or attrition?

Another goal might be to hire more minority-owned or women-owned businesses to contract with your organization. Would success include recruitment and outreach efforts to these businesses? Or would you count actual contracts?

You might set a goal of making it easier for differently abled people to participate in volunteer activities. That would involve talking with your regular volunteers to understand what barriers exist for people with disabilities. The information collected from those discussions could inform a plan to remove those barriers, with increased numbers of volunteers being the measure of success.

Creating a more welcoming workplace could start with establishing affinity groups for employees, then surveying them on their experiences and using the feedback to strengthen the initiatives. Satisfaction ratings on surveys and through interviews could measure if and how the affinity groups are helping to attract and retain employees from diverse backgrounds.

The more concrete and specific the goals, the easier it will be to establish ways to measure success.

Collecting and analyzing data

Some organizations might see DE&I data collection as an additional or burdensome task. It might not be seen as essential as financial forecasting or analyzing constituent demographic trends. However, DE&I initiatives increasingly are an essential piece of the future success of nonprofit organizations. The more detailed, well-planned and thorough your data collection and analysis is, the stronger your organization will be.

“Treat DEI metrics and DEI data with the same rigor and accountability you would treat any serious data-driven initiative, and rely on it to add the same degree of rigor and accountability to your organization’s DEI initiatives,” writes Lily Zheng in the Harvard Business Review.

“Treat DEI metrics and DEI data with the same rigor and accountability you would treat any serious data-driven initiative, and rely on it to add the same degree of rigor and accountability to your organization’s DEI initiatives” – Lily Zheng, diversity, equity, and inclusion strategist, consultant, author and speaker

Establishing accountability and transparency

Increasingly, people want to know that mission-driven nonprofits and organizations use ethical business practices, consider environmental impacts of their work and espouse DE&I values . Donors, partners and other stakeholders want this information as well.

Establishing DE&I policies and practicing transparency by reporting on your progress increases the trust between organizations and their stakeholders. It also holds organizational leaders accountable for meeting goals.

Sustained change is only possible through establishing realistic and concrete goals and then collecting data to see how those goals are being met. The board’s focus on KPIs will send a message to those inside and outside the organization about how it prioritizes DE&I initiatives.

Leveraging board management software for DE&I

Nonprofits often run with small staffs that need support when collecting and analyzing data. While boards and nonprofits are committed to their DE&I goals, they may be reluctant to add another layer of reporting and data collection to their staff’s already full schedules.

Technology like board management software can make it easier for staff to collect and store data and for leadership and board members to monitor and analyze information. Staff and committees can use the software to prepare reports on recent information and data trends. It provides a central and secure place for board members and staff to view the organization’s progress toward building diversity, equity and inclusion.

BoardEffect offers a centralized place for setting goals, tracking and reporting on key DE&I metrics, and ensuring transparency and accountability.

Through features like customizable surveys and polls, organizations can also collect pertinent data from board members, such as demographics, skillsets and other key data to help inform inclusion and equity practices.

Contact us for a demonstration of BoardEffect to see how it can support your board and organization in measuring and reaching your DE&I goals.

Kathleen Vail

Kathleen Vail is a writer and editor in Northern Virginia. She has been covering education and board governance issues at the local and national level for more than 30 years.

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