Concerns about diversity and fairness within the nonprofit sector are not a new phenomenon. While it is hard to get good data on the subject, the available numbers give credence to the critique that “nonprofits are ruled by white people,” as the Stanford Social Innovation Review archly suggested in 2011.

The murder of George Floyd in 2020, and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, helped to turbo-charge efforts to make sure that nonprofits are truly providing access and opportunity to all of their staff members and clients. All of a sudden, it seemed that every nonprofit was launching “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) initiatives designed to address not just issues of race but gender and sexuality and religion and immigration status and much more. While the exact features varied from place to place, there were some common elements: “Anti-racist” statements on websites. Staff training sessions about implicit bias and other topics. The transformation of HR into “people & culture” departments.  A review of organizational hiring and salary practices.  And a commitment to looking for racial disparities in organizational programming and impacts.

The increased focus on diversity within the sector has not been universally beloved.  Some critics have charged that “diversity, equity and inclusion” are not a benign set of aspirational values but rather a trojan horse for an ideology that is in tension with traditional liberal values like merit, fairness and equality. Others have bemoaned the expenditure of massive sums on diversity trainings given that the research about their impact is not terribly encouraging.  And, as Ryan Grim reported in an essay in The Intercept that was widely shared among nonprofit executives, the internal focus on diversity has helped contribute to meltdowns and declining effectiveness at many nonprofit organizations.

So what do the people who are charged with running nonprofits really think about diversity, equity and inclusion?  To get a sense, I reached out to 8 current and former nonprofit executives (half of them people of color), asking them three questions and granting them anonymity in order to maximize candor.  What follows are excerpts from what I heard back.

Read the full article about diversity, equity, and inclusion by Greg Berman at NYNMedia.