I recently found myself reflecting on the speed of trust as I read "Overcoming the Racial Bias in Philanthropic Funding", an illuminating new article based on a recent study by Echoing Green and The Bridgespan Group that shines a light on how racial inequities in philanthropic funding have placed organizations led by people of color at a major disadvantage.

These findings prompted me to consider how the concepts of trust and the “four barriers” may manifest themselves in a different but related context: the lack of diversity on nonprofit boards.  Let’s take a closer look.

The First Barrier: Getting Connected
The Echoing Green/Bridgespan study establishes that leaders of color have less access to social networks that enable connections to the philanthropic community. The attitude of funders on this issue seems to be rather passive, as summarized by this quote in the article: “Leaders of color aren’t coming to us for funding, so it feels like there’s a pipeline problem. But maybe we just aren’t connecting with the right people.”

The Second Barrier: Building Rapport
Echoing Green and Bridgespan found that interpersonal bias can manifest as mistrust and microaggressions, which inhibit relationship-building and emotionally burden leaders of color. The following quote from the article captures the disconnect: “I’m pretty conscious about trying to treat everyone the same. But I’m having trouble connecting more personally with leaders of color.”

The Third Barrier: Securing Support
The Echoing Green/Bridespan study highlights the fact that funders often lack understanding of culturally relevant approaches, leading them to over-rely on specific forms of evaluation and strategies that are familiar to them. The following quote in the article captures the essence of this challenge from a funder perspective: “I’d like to find solutions generated by communities of color, but they don’t have sufficient evidence of effectiveness or capacity to execute.”

The Fourth Barrier: Sustaining Relationships
The fourth and final barrier highlighted in the Echoing Green/Bridgespan study refers to the difficulty that leaders of color encounter when they try to sustain philanthropic relationships over time. The renewal process can be particularly difficult for leaders of color, especially if they are not aligned with the funder on how to measure progress or on what constitutes a strategic priority.

Read the full article about the barriers to diversity on boards by Jim Taylor at BoardSource.