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Diversity Planning For Nonprofits

Technology’s role in diversity planning for mission-driven organizations


As mission-driven entities, nonprofits face specific pressures and challenges in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). An organization’s values will promote a greater good when DE&I is a priority — a good that often benefits overlapping demographics and could evolve beyond the current audience.

But even nonprofits that serve narrowly targeted groups are wise to encourage the perspective and involvement of individuals from different backgrounds, including those in the boardroom.

What you’ll learn

  • How to leverage technology in your diversity planning
  • Tips and ways to use technology for your DE&I initiatives

We’ve previously examined statistics related to race composition in the boardroom and discrimination against LBGTQ+ populations, among other related issues. While much work remains to be done, there is a path to enhancing representation across an organization, and it is a path supported by technology.

Consider these best practices for using technology to support DE&I planning efforts, discover how technology can fit into your specific organization’s efforts, and learn where you can find the right solution.

Leveraging technology in diversity planning

There are many examples of nonprofits enhancing their program’s scope with technology. For instance, Salvation and Social Justice, based in Trenton, N.J., used grant funds to develop a restorative justice violence interruption app. The app builds on customer-relationship-management components and dashboards to extend the reach of resources that help historically marginalized residents.

In general, organizations that successfully integrate technology to support their diversity efforts do the following:

  • Set clear goals. The more specific organizational leaders can be about diversity-related objectives, the better. Quantifiable measures are necessary to build and track a path to success.
  • Involve stakeholders. The outcomes of involving stakeholders are twofold. First, every new voice can bring new ideas to the table, and patterns in input can help with decision making. Second, resistance to new technology can manifest in every generation and role, and those given an opportunity to say their piece are more encouraged to join the transformation.
  • Take a look in the mirror. Boards should feel encouraged to examine their own composition, skills (and gaps), biases, assumptions and other factors that play into the board’s ability to tackle diversity initiatives.
  • Provide training. Even with participants who wholly embrace technology, training is necessary to ensure new solutions are fully maximized. Understanding how to make diversity part of everyday board efforts requires education and regular review. Your board management solution can store key documents and training materials to keep new and existing board members up to speed.
  • Align technology with organizational culture and policies. Technology that underpins a key element of the organization’s mission — say, by replacing time-consuming functions to reach a broader audience — should be a priority for every nonprofit.

New to diversity planning? Boards can start with this diversity and inclusion plan template to speed up their efforts. The National Council of Nonprofits also offers a list of questions to consider when working on a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, along with other free and inexpensive resources.

Tips for using technology in diversity planning

Whether examining the need for increased representation in the boardroom, in staffing or in service, boards can find support from multifunction tools, such as a board management solution. Consider some of the key ways board management software can support and streamline your board’s diversity planning.

Surveys and polling

Digital surveys are an inexpensive and effective way to collect key information to help DE&I planning:

  • Board composition data Understanding current representation on the board, and being able to track trends over time, can improve board recruitment efforts.
  • Stakeholder input. Reach an audience that may have tight schedules or otherwise limited availability. Conduct anonymous or open polls and surveys to assess your organization’s current performance on inclusivity and where there may be gaps.

Board skills audits

Organizations benefit from a board that is diverse in multiple areas, not just demographics. Use the central location that a board solution offers to gather details on your board’s current skill sets and help guide planning, recruiting and decision-making.

Effective collaboration tools

Building consensus around a diversity initiative can be challenging when board members are on different schedules, have different levels of experience with related issues, or different opinions on how to establish goals and measurements.

A board management solution enables board members to work collaboratively on their own schedules, append notes to documents, link supporting materials, vote electronically and participate in other activities that build teamwork and support planning.

Accessible document libraries

Board members handle a lot of documents, whether paper or digital, and materials needed for a variety of initiatives can quickly become overwhelming.

A board management solution provides an intuitive organization system with searchability and versioning functions, so each participant can find the right document at the right time in one location.

Granular roles and security

With granular permissions, boards can ensure that access to sensitive materials is granted as needed so relevant parties can collaborate securely and effectively. Additionally, role-based, digital and secure workrooms allow your nominating and governance committees to have the discussions necessary to make progress on DE&I initiatives.

Tracking and monitoring of diversity initiatives

Board members have an interest in every phase of your DE&I initiatives, from goal-setting to monitoring progress. Ensuring these materials are digitally organized and findable through a straightforward board management interface ensures questions can be answered quickly so plans progress. Your board management software can also help track tasks throughout the initiative.

Hybrid meetings and listening sessions

Allowing flexibility in board participation makes it easier for board members to serve. By using built-in video conferencing features for meetings and listening sessions, board members can engage in board work from anywhere.

The right board management tool for diversity planning

Understandably, purpose-built board management software is one way mission-driven organizations can be more strategic about technology. BoardEffect can support diversity planning, with features for effective collaboration, central access to reports and information, surveys for succession planning and more.

BoardEffect is designed with the unique needs of volunteer boards in mind. Our nonprofit board management software streamlines board processes, enhances communication and collaboration and increases transparency, helping ensure your board continues to support your organization’s mission and values.

Jennifer Rose Hale

Jennifer Rose Hale has over 20 years' experience with digital and employee communications in for- and nonprofit environments. Her writing and client areas of expertise include education, finance, science and technology.

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