7 Ways to Improve Nonprofit Board Diversity

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Why a Diverse Board of Directors is Important

Your nonprofit organization provides valuable services and materials to people in need, those in search of equity, and marginalized communities. At the heart of every nonprofit is the board of directors, which plays a vital role in leadership, strategic planning, and keeping the organization true to its mission, values, and future goals. 

However, only 20% of board members are underrepresented individuals. That means, even for nonprofit organizations, diversity still remains a critical issue. 

There’s reason to remain positive, as many nonprofits seek to make their boards more representative of the communities they serve. Nonprofit leaders are learning that diverse boards are better at adapting to changes and more effective at responding to community needs. 

A diverse, inclusive, and equitable nonprofit board of directors is sensitive to cultural differences. They’re constantly aware that ethnicity and ethnic diversity, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity, veteran status, health status, or other characteristics have no place in board member decisions. 

Instead, these leaders leverage the backgrounds, skills, and experiences of qualified individuals, regardless of identifying characteristics. The result is a new range of ideas and opportunities, mitigated risk, heightened performance, and effective planning.  

In this article, we explore why a diverse nonprofit board of directors is essential and several ways you can improve the diversity of your organization. 

7 Ways to Improve Nonprofit Board Diversity

The change to more diverse board members won’t happen overnight. However, with consistent effort, it’s possible to implement systematic differences in board leadership that create a nonprofit organization that makes better decisions, has more equitable growth opportunities, and achieves more effective fundraising. There are real benefits to diverse board members, and here are some actionable steps you can take to start seeing a noticeable transformation. 

1. Review current recruitment processes.

Current board recruitment practices can be telling. Deconstruct the processes by asking questions like how are open board member positions advertised? How do you conduct recruiting efforts? What candidates does your recruiting process attract? How are candidates selected for interviews, and what are the next steps? 

These questions will help you locate the unconscious biases that dry up your talent pool. Further, allowing non-diverse and non-inclusive practices to continue creates an atmosphere that overlooks underrepresented communities and people of color. It can even go so far as to discourage applicants leading to a lack of diversity and inequity. 

2. Find potential root causes for any disparities.

The blind spots of nonprofit leaders can impact everything from board leader position postings to how stakeholders select new board members. Unfortunately, these unconscious biases lead to a homogeneous board composition and the inability to meet community needs. 

There are methods you can use to uncover these disparities, like self-assessments, diversity audits, employee surveys, and DEI committee analysis. Compare the results you obtain with your competition in the nonprofit sector to create a benchmark of your performance. Armed with these results, you can then probe any gaps between your nonprofit board and the community your organization serves.  

3. Learn from the success and failure of others.

Nonprofit leaders of years past can provide a wealth of information for nonprofit board members. Talk with chief executives of diverse nonprofit boards of directors to learn what worked and what didn’t so that you can avoid the most painful obstacles. During these conversations, you can uncover strategies and best practices that translate into effective board practices. 

Of course, every nonprofit organization will face unique challenges and must find unique ways to solve them. It’s acceptable to ask for help when things aren’t working out, and CoachDiversity Institute has a mountain of resources, including webinars, training courses, and on-hand experts to help you navigate any challenge. Check out our Executive Leadership Training to mold the most diverse and inclusive board possible!  

4. Make DEI a priority.

The most effective nonprofits make it a point to include DEI in their organization’s mission and values. It’s a vivid display of the commitment to diversity. If you’re attracting a narrow candidate base, it may be time to reevaluate your message for aspects that fail to speak to professionals with diverse backgrounds. 

To illustrate clearly your intention of prioritizing DEI, you can redraw organizational language to reflect your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Furthermore, you can promote equitable actions by making board meetings accessible to those with disabilities, installing gender-neutral bathrooms, utilizing pronouns in email signatures, and approving time off calendar requests. 

5. Ensure everyone is on the same page.

Establishing a culture of diversity takes sustained and intentional action from the board chair to the part-time assistants. To get the most from your nonprofit board, you need to ensure you educate the entire team on the organization’s goals, objectives, and actions surrounding diversity. 

Educating teams can get complicated without proper planning. Let CoachDiversity Institute do the heavy lifting with organizational services designed to educate even the largest nonprofit teams on everything from sensitivity training to microaggression awareness. Register your nonprofit team for a CoachDiversity Institute program today and get back to serving your community in no time! 

6. Attract a broader pool of candidates.

A diverse board of directors requires a broad pool of qualified candidates to choose from. During your review of recruiting procedures, you should be able to identify potential weaknesses and close gaps. 

In order to widen your talent pool, you could use tools like social media or CRM platforms to locate and manage candidates. You can strengthen community ties by partnering with local organizations, such as universities, outreach groups, and city government officials. To highlight your diverse and inclusive board, seek talent representing the demographics of the community you serve.

7. Clearly define your goals and monitor them.

Like the grantmaking aspect of your nonprofit organization, you’ll need a comprehensive plan to effectively establish a winning DEI strategy. That plan must include tangible goals, realistic objectives, and actionable tasks. The S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting method is an ideal framework with clearly defined ways to measure progress and results. 

It’s vital that you be as specific as possible with quantitative measurements, like numerical figures, when defining goals. However, you can also use qualitative measures like surveys, exit interviews, and board assessments to evaluate success. During this stage, you also want to develop a succession plan that harmonizes with your DEI strategy to continue healthy workplace habits. 

Strengthen Your Board Diversity with CoachDiversity Institute

The board of directors is the decision-making and strategic planning heart of your nonprofit organization. However, if the board lacks diversity, serving the community can pose some real challenges. Luckily, you can take actionable steps to transform the board into a diverse and inclusive nonprofit powerhouse. At CoachDiversity Institute, we believe that every organization can be an ally of diversity, equity, and inclusion. With that central premise, we design, facilitate, and support a rigorous curriculum designed to support diversity in any industry. Apply for one of our accredited courses and work your way to becoming a certified diversity coach, ready to take on any nonprofit organization in need!