For more than 20 years, survey data has highlighted the persistent lack of diversity on nonprofit and foundation boards in the U.S.
I often get approached by executives and board members who say they are ready to work on diversity and want to know how to get started. My answer: Boards that are serious about diversity need to prepare themselves for a conversation and a self-examination that is broader than brainstorming about how to get more people of color, more people with differing abilities, or a broader age representation onto the board.
Diversity is only one aspect of a larger conversation about equity and power. Lack of diversity is just a presenting symptom — the part of the iceberg that shows above water, signaling much deeper systemic and structural issues that need to be understood and addressed before organizations can tackle board diversity in a meaningful and authentic way.
A growing number of boards and executives seem willing to have those conversations. But many boards still aren’t ready. Attempting to force the issue because staff recognize the need, or as a response to external pressures and criticisms, may do more harm than good, sparking confusion, division, or relapse into inertia.
Four ways to know if your board is ready for deeper work in pursuit of equity:
- Multiple champions.
- Openness to learning.
- Willingness to commit significant time.
- Alignment with broader organizational goals.
What should you do if your board isn’t ready to take on equity?
- Have strategic, 1-on-1 conversations with board members to lay the groundwork for future conversations.
- Look for opportunities to bring equity champions into key leadership roles.
- Encourage board members to attend conferences, workshops, or events sponsored by other organizations that are further along.
- Recruit incoming board members with a demonstrated personal commitment to equity.
- Take the readiness assessment in NCRP’s Power Moves assessment guide, and explore recommended resources from partners such as ABFE and the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.
Read the full article about boards driving progress in equity by Rick Moyers at BoardSource.