As a Black man who has worked with or for nonprofits for most of my career, I’ve become very familiar with how nonprofit boards recruit for board diversity; by my count, I have been actively recruited by the boards of 13 organizations.
I can divide 11 of these 13 board recruitment experiences into two categories:
- Five boards that I agreed to join due to a mutual passion for the mission and a shared understanding of the alignment between what the board was seeking and what I could offer
- Six boards that I didn’t join due to a poor fit or inopportune timing
But there’s a third category of board recruitment experiences that has left the most indelible memories – memories that, although unpleasant, have provided some valuable “lessons learned” that I carry with me to this day. The third category consists of the two times I declined to join a board because I felt disrespected during the board’s recruitment process – so disrespected that declining the invitation was an easy decision because I believed that the recruitment experience was a foreshadowing of the obstacles I would have faced as a board member.
I believe that boards can and should prioritize recruiting for racial diversity, but race should not be the only lens that boards apply to the search. Boards that focus on race as the sole qualification for board membership are employing an overly simplistic approach that is disrespectful to the people of color who are being recruited. Boards should be applying multiple lenses as they consider their needs; racial identity should be part of that consideration – but not all of it.
There’s a better way for predominantly White boards to plan and execute the process of recruiting people of color to join their boards – a way that honors the vital importance of the task to the board’s continued effectiveness and respects the full value of the skills and attributes people of color can bring to boards. Here are some questions predominantly White boards should be asking themselves to assess and guide their approach to recruiting for board diversity:
- Reflecting on the Importance of Diversity to Your Organization’s Work
- Expanding and Diversifying Your Network of Potential Board Candidates
- Building an Inclusive & Welcoming Board Culture
Read the full article about board diversity by Jim Taylor at BoardSource.