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The call for nonprofits to embrace diversity and reflect the communities they serve is growing louder. To accomplish those goals, charities and foundations need diverse board members, says Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, principal consultant at Blackbaud.
Only a board whose members have diverse experiences and perspectives will be able to effectively run a nonprofit that hires, serves, and raises money from diverse people, experts say.
In 2014, only 20 percent of nonprofit board members were people of color, and a full quarter of boards are staffed exclusively by white people, according to BoardSource, a nonprofit that conducts research and offers programs to strengthen boards. That means charities have a long way to go before their governing bodies are meaningfully diverse.
Here’s guidance on how to start making your board more diverse:
Diversity in context: It doesn’t mean simply balancing the gender or race ratio of members; it requires thoughtfully assembling a team that reflects the community you serve.
It is not all about the money: To balance the need to raise money and the need to find board members who are in touch with the community, Mr. Roberts recommends instituting a policy that simply asks members to donate an amount that is personally significant.
Recruiting Widely: His institute aims to help boards find African American members whose skills and interests match their needs. Other good ways to recruit diverse members include posting board openings online and in community spaces, contacting professional associations, and searching via networks like LinkedIn.
Codifying, Evaluating, Reporting: Report on the makeup of the board while considering new members and during annual meetings to measure progress toward increasing diversity. Conduct regular self-evaluations that ask board members for feedback about how inclusive the board is.
Being open to change: It may be uncomfortable at first, but boards must be open to critiques, Mr. Roberts says: “In order to change the culture of an organization, you almost need to have somebody highlight what the board is doing wrong.”
Nonprofits and foundations may also want to hold themselves publicly accountable for increasing the diversity of their boards.