As nonprofit consultants, we’ve found the need for board guidance and support with regards to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) has been steadily growing over the years. When it comes to this important work, we know that just diversity, or recruiting board members from different racial backgrounds alone, is not enough. Boards of historically white-led organizations must do more to intentionally work to build diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into board culture.

In our work with nonprofit boards, we have noticed knowledge gaps between Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and white board members. Although BIPOC members suffer, white board members are often blind to racism and, therefore, at a disadvantage.

As DEIB consultants, we are fans of the Awake to Woke to Work framework created by Equity in the Center. For them, a race equity culture focuses on proactively counteracting race inequities inside and outside of an organization. Theirs is a roadmap for centering equity in all aspects of nonprofit work. This includes how boards can change their behaviors, policies, and practices to become more equitable in the ways they support their prospective organizations.

We enthusiastically share this model with our clients. However, we are learning that some are not ready to talk about equity—they haven’t yet reached the “Awake” stage. They must first recognize that there is a problem and that it is interfering and prohibiting them from optimally serving their nonprofits. Many boards are still “asleep.”

For those boards who are not yet “awake”, here are five steps to awaken from your slumber and change the way your boards are operating:

  • Get started. Look inward.
  • Find some champions.
  • Talk about race.
  • Deepen safety and take the pressure off by holding race caucus meetings.
  • Commit to the long journey.

Read the full article about building inclusion and belonging on boards by Christal M. Cherry and Dr. Renee Rubin Ross at BoardSource.