Diverse perspectives on a nonprofit board are critical – it allows each person to bring their own personal and professional network, along with their unique life and work experiences – all of which help to serve the board, the organization, and its constituents.
Although nonprofits have increased the diversity of their boards, they still have not come close to representing the communities they serve. Having diverse boards, and staff for that matter helps nonprofit organizations adequately address and handle challenges from a variety of standpoints.
Nonprofits should approach board diversification with the intent of adding value to the organization and its governance, not just as a means to make sure everyone is “represented”.
Board diversity should not be driven solely by race and gender, but should also take into consideration other attributes such as:
- Sexual orientation
- Professional background
- Level of ability
- Socioeconomic status
Boards should also look at the attributes of the populations they serve to ensure they are reflected among their members.
Interested in increasing your board diversity, here are a few tips:
Start by addressing the need for board diversification during board meetings. Raising the concern with other board members will be helpful in getting everyone on the same page, and you can all work together to achieve the goal.
Nominate specific members who will be in charge of the outreach and recruitment of new board members. This is also the time to assess the organization’s and board’s thoughts on diversity and determine where there may be gaps (i.e. not enough diversity in age, or race, or professional experience). Determine which areas could use improvement.
Be intentional about recruiting diverse individuals. Again, this doesn’t mean simply promoting to fulfill a quota – candidates should obviously be qualified and meet the needs of the board. However, you should be intentional about making sure recruitment activities are extended to and reflect a wide range of people.
Search for board members among the communities you serve. Including people from the communities being served not only increases diversity but also shows that your nonprofit is interested in the opinions and perspectives of its constituents.
After you have successfully strengthened your nonprofit board, remember to ensure that all members are fully engaged in decision-making and that their opinions are taken seriously.