This spring, the Urban Institute and the Racial Diversity Collaborative released a study called, Measuring Racial-Ethnic Diversity in the Baltimore-Washington Region's Nonprofit Sector. The study found, like others, that “nonprofit sector leadership lags population diversity.”
Specifically, while people of color comprise 49% of the population in the region, they make up only 22% of nonprofit leaders. In addition, the study found that Executive Directors of Color mostly lead local or regional, not national organizations. “Nearly all (92 percent) national organizations are led by non-Hispanic white executive directors.”
This week, a new study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, called Women and Minorities Lag in Appointments to Top Fundraising Jobs, shows that only 7% of Chief Development Officers at the Top 400 nonprofits are people of color.
As a black woman, I found these studies VERY DISCOURAGING. Still, I can’t say that the findings are “news.”
Attend any nonprofit conference and peruse the staff and board pages of most nonprofit websites and you will discover this truth. The nonprofit sector is really white.
For the record, there is nothing wrong with being white! There are lots of amazing white people in the world doing important, world-changing work. The problem is that there are a disproportionate number of white folks running charitable organizations. This means that similarly talented, amazing people of color are squeezed out. It also means that our movements and organizations suffer from a lack of diverse perspectives and donors.
The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the nonprofit sector - especially at the highest levels of leadership - needs to be addressed and soon! This disparity exists in stark contrast to a country that is changing rapidly. Specifically, by 2042, the Census Bureau estimates that the majority of Americans will be people of color.
While new research to address gender and age stratification in charities is being released, the discussion of racial and ethnic stratification in the nonprofit sector continues to stall. This needs to CHANGE.
Here are my top 3 reasons that nonprofits SERIOUSLY need to GET SERIOUS about diversity, now!
- No diversity = No new donors. Donors are people too and they need to see themselves represented on the boards and staff of organizations they support. They also need to feel like the organization they invest in are engaged with and support their communities. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Want more new donors of color? Hire diverse staff.
- No diversity = No new perspectives. While it's true that simply being African America, Asian American or a Latina doesn't make you an authority on all things related to race and class, there is a good chance that by having a diverse staff and diverse constituents, you will bring new ideas and programmatic solutions to the table.
- No diversity = No differentiation. Call me manipulative, but look around. Are other nonprofits in your space, i.e. your competitors and collaborators, reaching out to people of color? If the answer is "NO," then building bridges to people of color may give you a competitive advantage. Just as for-profits scrambled to connect with the "women's market" 10 years ago, smart nonprofit will start connecting with new donors of color, now!