Your board’s commitment to creating a board diversity policy is such an important task that you’ll want to get it right. A sample board diversity policy or template can help you do that. A template for a board diversity policy isn’t meant to be copied verbatim—it’s just a starting point. It’s intended to give you a guide to follow that you can adapt according to your organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Board diversity is a topic that you should discuss thoroughly at a board meeting. Your organization may choose to delegate the responsibility for writing your board diversity policy to a committee. Once the committee makes recommendations, the board should discuss them. Boards should then vote on and accept the final copy of the policy and record their actions in the meeting minutes to preserve it.
Understanding Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity
An article in the Scientific American notes the value of having a diverse board. Their research shows that when board members and others come from a wide range of backgrounds, each brings their own unique perspectives that shape and influence ways to be innovative and solve problems. The same article states that diversity in the workspace improves decision-making and encourages people to be creative and hard-working.
You’ll may hear a couple of other words that are often connected with diversity—equity and inclusion. Nonprofit boards should be clear on the differences between them and consider their meanings when developing a board diversity policy.
Diversity speaks to things like race, gender, age, ethnicity, culture, etc. It refers to the issues that make people different from one another. It’s not who people are—it’s the perspectives they bring to the table.
Inclusion has to do with whether diverse people feel valued in their positions on a nonprofit board or in some other setting. Inclusion in a nonprofit board meeting means asking diverse board members to actively engage in board discussions and to give credence to their opinions.
The term equity means making sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities despite any barriers or advantages. It’s the idea that everyone starts at the same place regardless of who they are or where they came from.
Sample Board Diversity Policy
Your board diversity policy can say anything that your board or committee agrees that it should say. The following sample board diversity policy of a fictitious nonprofit organization details the components of a board diversity policy including a diversity and inclusion statement and some action items.
Sample Board Diversity Policy
ABC Nonprofit Organization is committed to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment where all board members, staff, volunteers, and members feel respected and valued regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation or identity, disability, education, or any other bias.
We’re committed to being nondiscriminatory and providing equal opportunities for employment, volunteering, and advancement in all areas of our work.
We respect the value that diverse life experiences bring to our board and leadership and we strive to listen to their views and give them value.
We’re committed to modeling diversity, inclusion, and equity and maintaining fair and equal treatment for all.
Our board’s philosophy on our goals to provide informed leadership for diversity, inclusion, and equity include:
- We will strive to see diversity, inclusion, and equity in connection with our vision and mission for the benefit of those we serve.
- We aim to recognize and address inequities in our policies, programs, and services.
- We will update and document progress on our diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.
- We promise to investigate underlying assumptions that interfere with our diversity policy.
- We commit to advocating for systemic inequities that impact our work at the board level and address it according to this policy and in accordance with our mission.
- We commit to challenging commonly accepted notions about what constitutes strong leadership within our organization.
- We commit to being transparent about diversity in all our interactions.
- We will dedicate our time and resources to expanding greater diversity within our board and leadership positions.
- We commit to leading with respect and tolerance and we encourage all employees and volunteers to express this in their work within our organization.
ABC Nonprofit Organization agrees to abide by the following action items to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity in our work:
- We will create new learning opportunities and formal, transparent policies as we strive for cultural competency throughout our organization.
- We will strive to conduct or identify research related to equity so that we can make progress in the area of diversity, inclusion, and equity and we’ll share our findings publicly on our website.
- We will take action to improve diversity, inclusion, and equity in our board and leadership positions.
- We will identify resources for our underrepresented constituents by networking with other organizations that are also committed to efforts for diversity, inclusion, and equity.
- We will develop internal resources that demonstrate our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity and present them to our members and members of our community.
- We will develop a system to create awareness and address biases during our recruiting, hiring, and evaluating processes.
- We will train our personnel to be responsible for orienting, onboarding, and training our staff and volunteers on equitable practices.
- We will be transparent about the salary range for public job descriptions.
- We will advocate for public and private policies in the public sector that promote diversity, inclusion, and equity and we will challenge systems and policies that describe inequity, disparity, and oppression.
The process of creating a good diversity policy will take time. Diversity policies can range from something that’s fairly simple to policies that consist of many pages depending on the board’s decision and any other policies or requirements of the organization. Regardless of the length of your board diversity policy, your BoardEffect board portal provides a secure place to record your policy and your efforts in creating it.
As the organization and other changes in society evolve, your board can vote to make changes to your diversity policy when they’re deemed appropriate. The most important thing is to ensure that your board diversity policy is more than words—you need to put it into force and abide by it in word and practice.
Learn how nonprofits like the YWCA are embracing diversity in our recent webinar, Tips and Tools for Building a Diverse Board Virtually. This session will cover ways to use digital tools as a bridge throughout the board building process, including:
- Strategies for board member recruitment, interviews, and building trust virtually
- Tips for handling nominations and elections online
- Approaches to onboarding and orienting new candidates remotely