Nonprofits with a diverse staff, Board of Directors, donor, and volunteer base tend to be more successful than groups that are mostly alike. Nonprofit diversity brings fresh experiences and lends creativity and innovation to thought in nonprofit programs. While working with diverse board members and staff may be uncomfortable at times, the benefits outweigh the efforts.
So let’s take a look at why your organization needs to harness the power of nonprofit diversity and inclusion, the benefits that come with it, and important steps to get you on the path to implementing inclusive practices.
What We’ll Cover
To better understand why nonprofit diversity and inclusion are important, it’s useful to define what these terms mean.
Diversity is about understanding and valuing differences, including gender, race, ideologies, and skill sets.
Equity is about redistributing power to include diverse identities.
Inclusion is about putting this understanding into practice by including and celebrating all those differences and changing how decisions are made.
Nonprofit and charitable organizations that aim to make the world a better place hold a moral and social responsibility for inclusion. There is no question of the importance of equity and confronting discrimination within nonprofit environments. By implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion into daily organizational practices, nonprofits can help end racism, intolerance, and exclusion.
Nonprofit diversity and inclusion is a great step forward to ensure that you make space for good things to happen. This is essential within your nonprofit organizational structure and when building strong communities and public policy. But how do you start embracing nonprofit diversity and inclusion?
It’s helpful to ask your organization these simple questions to get an idea of where you are and where you want to go:
- Why are diversity, inclusion, and equity important for your nonprofit, its mission, your community, and your supporters?
- What is your nonprofit missing out on at the moment by being homogenous?
- How can your nonprofit benefit from implementing diversity, inclusion, and equity at all levels?
- What are the pros of fostering shared leadership and power within your nonprofit?
- How will your nonprofit employ these inclusive practices and values in your daily operations and the organization’s core values?
- How does your nonprofit ensure that these principles are not just articulated but demonstrated?
Once your nonprofit has the answers to these questions, you can start planning a clear roadmap of how to apply diversity and inclusive practices into your organization and begin making valuable changes.
Benefits to your organization may include:
Having a diverse board of directors and nonprofit staff is crucial to accessing the full range of opportunities and risks when your organization faces important decisions.
When your nonprofit, its board, and staff better understand and reflect diverse community needs, you can build a stronger community, attract more donors, and access better resources at all levels.
Nonprofit diversity and inclusion policy help your organization to be more prepared for what’s happening in the world, respond appropriately to external forces, and identify how it affects those you serve.
Expand your nonprofit’s population base and engagement capacity by opening up to more diverse and inclusive social circles. This has the opportunity to build new relationships and attract new donors.
Board members and nonprofit staff from different backgrounds and experiences bring unique perspectives to nonprofit projects. This provides more inclusive and innovative ideas while understanding the community better.
When diversity and inclusion are present in nonprofit organizations, it’s often linked to higher levels of performance and productivity among staff, volunteers, and board members.
Realize that your nonprofit will be celebrated for having an inclusive gender and race environment. The difficulties you face and the hard work you do in embracing issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion will be seen by your donors, volunteers, and community. Know that confronting equity, diversity, and inclusion in your nonprofit creates a more cohesive environment that impacts fundraising. Here are some ideas to help your organization embrace diversity as part of your nonprofit fundraising strategy:
- Move away from individual bias, which greatly limits our worldview. We all need to unlearn our biases and don’t like to admit them. Prejudices or assumptions about others can be unlearned. Discuss incidents of bias in relation to your nonprofit. Allowing specific stories of racial and gender bias to be known helps your nonprofit to learn and become more effective in fundraising and carrying out its mission.
- Promote greater intellectual curiosity. This increases the number of representations and expands your nonprofit’s viewpoint. Become more self-aware, open to difference, and be prepared to listen and learn
- Seek out board members, staff, and volunteers from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups. A wide range of diversity, equity and inclusion perspectives are critical to effective nonprofit leadership. Women, people of color, and gender diversity all have unique experiences and different areas of expertise. Find more similarities rather than differences with each other. Take collective action – make it a group activity to make positive and lasting changes.
- Hire a diversity expert to facilitate classes, groups, and individual interviews. Group facilitation is helpful so team members can hear each other. Bring diverse members of your nonprofit to an equal playing field.
- Partner with other organizations to reduce costs and make a bigger impact. If your leadership is resistant to addressing equity, diversity and inclusion, find partners within your nonprofit to start educating your nonprofit organization through books on diversity, online lectures, and discussions.
- Actively seek acceptance and inclusion within your nonprofit staff by holding potlucks where everyone brings a dish from their childhood. Hold retreats where appreciating nature is the main goal and finding what team members have in common. Hold free pizza luncheons to have fun and sing karaoke, or hear lectures on interesting topics like nutrition, green energy, humor, and much more.
- Add a section to your nonprofit website on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Place video lectures on racism, sexism, gender bias, ableism, classism, and religious bias. Add names of books and ebooks. Add contact information as to who to turn to for help and support on matters of equity.
- Organize diverse and inclusive fundraising events. This will demonstrate to your supporters how your organization has successfully integrated inclusive practices into its core values and mission.
- Be prepared to lose some nonprofit staff and constituents if they don’t agree with your diversity and inclusion mission statement. The upside to this is to get ready to shift demographics to welcome new members into your nonprofit that previously weren’t as engaged in your organization.
Mistakes are inevitable when you start making changes and are learning. Be open to feedback and listen to any concerns regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Learn together how to have an equitable environment, and never stop being open to learning.
Each nonprofit has a unique situation. Many nonprofits, like all organizations, have issues of racism, sexism, and bias. However, your nonprofit can break this cycle and start to celebrate differences and elevate people from different backgrounds and underrepresented groups. Consider it a lifelong learning process to address diversity issues at your nonprofit. Enter this mission with an open mind and accept help from equity, diversity, and inclusion experts.