Leadership transitions are challenging in any organization, regardless of racial dynamics. But when leaders of color are tasked with fixing these problems, they are too often left with little to no cash (nor significant funder relationships) to help them do it. Research from the Building Movement Project’s Race to Lead initiative found that 63 percent of POC leaders cite a lack of access to individual donors as a fundraising challenge, compared to 49 percent of white leaders who say this is a challenge. Similarly, 51 percent of POC leaders cite lack of access to foundations as a challenge compared to 41 percent of white leaders.

In practice, this makes nonprofit executives of color more like “the help” than the leaders they could be. Many social justice nonprofits have long existed in states of extreme dysfunction. But when the (often white) leaders had funder relationships that could allow them to write their own checks, governing boards didn’t ask too many questions.

The kicker is that exiting white executives aren’t just leaving the social justice space for another economic sector or retiring; instead, as I have observed, they often join foundations, consulting firms, and other positions where they continue to use their influence and connections to sell back services to the very organizations they set up for failure in the first place. In a sense, if their old organization remains dependent on their connections (and thus their validation), has the white leader gone anywhere at all? It’s a new, nonprofit version of extractive white flight to the suburbs. Former white nonprofit leaders have ensconced themselves in an even more desirable position from which to “fix” the problems of the poor and oppressed with a different form of power.

Should BIPOC leaders actively avoid executive roles in white-led organizations for fear that we’ve won a Hollow Prize? For me, the answer is a clear no! If given a chance to lead, women, particularly women of color, must take every opportunity to impact social issues in our community. That goes for all types of organizations: nonprofit or for-profit. The country’s 33.2 million small businesses comprise 99 percent of all US employers, but of those, just 5 million (15.1 percent) are Hispanic-owned, just million (9.3 percent) are Black-owned, just 3.2 million (9.6 percent) are immigrant-owned, and just 12 million (36.1 percent) are women-owned. While precise data for nonprofits aren’t as readily available, the overall picture doesn’t appear to be much different.

Because we need so many more BIPOC leaders rooted in the social justice community, my experiences have left me with five clear lessons I want to pass on to others:

1. Know what you’re getting into. The first step toward succeeding is knowing what you’re up against. When presented with the opportunity to lead, do extra due diligence during the hiring process.

2. Strategize for the task at hand and get the resources and support you need for success. Once you understand the nature of this singular leadership challenge, design a strategy for transformational growth.

3. Understand that failure is an option. It may be difficult for us to accept the possibility of failure when only a few leaders of color occupy the top roles. Without examples of how to deal with challenges—including actual failure—we may develop a false belief that failure isn’t an option or that failing will destroy us. It won’t.

4. Learn the difference between a vocation and a job, and set boundaries accordingly. A vocation is your identity, but while a job is a part of your identity, it is not the whole of who you are. The mindset shift from vocation to job doesn’t mean becoming less passionate but simply learning to center yourself first and the community second, which permits you to set boundaries.

5. Do it anyway. Despite all my cautions, you should still step up to the challenge. We need dynamic leaders. You will be part of an audacious global shift as nonprofit leaders transform from decades of organizations run by leaders who do not represent the community they serve. It will be hard. Do it an

Read the full article about nonprofit leaders of color by Chanda Causer at Stanford Social Innovation Review.