Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Nonprofit boards are the decision-making body at the highest level of organizational leadership, and play a critical role in prioritizing, supporting, and investing in nonprofit board diversity, inclusion, and equity.

As stewards of the public good, all social sector organizations, regardless of mission, are called on to embrace and celebrate our common humanity, and the inherent worth of all people. In doing so, we must also acknowledge that a climate of growing intolerance and inequity is a challenge to our democratic values and ideals. Divisions along economic, racial, religious, and political lines have created an increasingly polarized society in need of healing. The complex issues and dynamics at the intersection of race, class, and gender call for deeper thinking as we seek to understand each other.

Importance of Board Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

Boards represent and govern our organizations on behalf of communities. Who is on the board can drastically change how the board operates and what role it plays.

Leading with Intent shows that “almost half of executives report that they do not have the right board members to “establish trust with the communities they serve.” Only a third of boards (32%) place a high priority on “knowledge of the community served,” and even fewer (28 percent) place a high priority on “membership within the community served.”

Whether in the hiring of the executive, the building of the board, the determination of strategy, the allocation of resources, or the goal of serving the community with authenticity, the board’s leadership on diversity, inclusion, and equity is paramount. BoardX believes that social sector organizations are better able to do this work effectively and with authenticity when they are led by boards that are:

  • Diverse: The individual leaders who compose nonprofit boards are a reflection of an organization’s values and beliefs.  The composition of the board communicates who it believes should be empowered and entrusted with its most important decisions. While board composition is not one-size-fits all, a board that lacks diversity in any way may have deficiencies that negatively impact its ability to make optimal decisions and plans for the organization.  Lack of racial and ethnic diversity are particularly concerning as they may result in ineffective ways to address societal challenges and inequities and may even reinforce them. Social sector organizations can better achieve their missions by drawing on the skills, talents, and perspectives of a broader and more diverse range of leaders; the diversity of viewpoints that comes from different life experiences and cultural backgrounds strengthens board deliberations and decision-making.
  • Inclusive: The most effective boards work to build a culture of trust, candor, and respect — none of which is possible without a culture of inclusion. Boards that cultivate an inclusive culture ensure that all board members are encouraged to bring their perspectives, identity, and life experience to their board service. An inclusive board welcomes and celebrates differences and ensures that all board members are equally engaged and invested, sharing power and responsibility for the board’s work, the organization’s mission and its purpose.
  • Equity-focused: Boards play a critical role in helping organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on that reality. An awareness of how systemic inequities have affected our society and a willingness to interrogate the organization’s role in perpetuating those inequities creates powerful opportunities to deepen the organization’s impact, relevance, and advancement of the public good. It also  enables boards to take a step back and identify any areas that may lead to flawed strategies.

BoardX invites and challenges you to reflect on your organization, consider its journey, identify areas of improvement, and take action to make improving diversity, inclusion and equity a top priority.

Taking Steps to Change Your Nonprofit Board Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

BoardX has made a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, for ourselves and for the social sector.  BoardX firmly believes in the importance of each, understanding the significant harm that can result from their absence. The stakes are especially high when a board lacks the understanding to comprehend the impact of its decisions on its organization, mission, and community.