How often do you think about diversity at your organization? Do you have a diverse staff? Members of your board? Or the clients you serve?
And, what does diversity mean to you, personally?
What is Diversity?
We’re not only about race anymore, and it doesn’t just mean black and white. When we talk about diversity, we’re talking about:
- sexual orientation
- religious beliefs
- and so much more
Recently, I attended an AFP-NJ panel discussion on diversity and it got me thinking…
Is diversity really important? And, if so, why?
4 Reasons to Have a Diverse Board
Here are some of the issues and comments raised by the panel and audience members, with my own thoughts and commentary included.
1. Grantors are asking
At the most basic (and perhaps, crass) level, diversity is important because more and more funders are interested in diversity. It’s the politically correct thing to do. If you have to go kicking and screaming, it’s okay by me.
But that’s only the surface. There are other equally important reasons for you to recruit a diverse board.
2. Diversity brings new perspectives and networks
Having a diverse board provides an organization with access to new communities and constituents, as well as affording the organization with new viewpoints and outlooks.
3. The world is changing
In the not too distant future — certainly during the lifetime of our children and grandchildren — the US population will look very different than it does today. Minorities will be the majority, and same-sex marriage will be federal law, legal in all states. People of color and LGBT families are likely to make up the majority the donor pool.
4. The board should reflect your constituents
In order to provide the best programs and services possible, it’s beneficial to have the representation of the constituents you serve.
How to Recruit a Diverse Board without Tokenism
If you haven’t already started to think about the importance of diversity at your organization, or you haven’t made much progress in this crucial area, it’s not too late.
Of course, no one wants to be recruited to be the “token” anything on your board (person of color, sexual orientation, differently abled, etc.). That being said, you’ll need to start somewhere, and there will be “firsts.”
You’ll want to recruit diverse board members in the same what that you recruit other board members, based on what they can contribute to your organization. I’m sure you’ve heard of the three T’s:
So, in addition to being a diverse person, what else can that individual bring to the table?
Honesty is the best policy
When recruiting diverse board members for the first time, you’ll want to be open and honest.
Let the person know that you’re working hard to become more diverse as an organization, and that you’d love them to join your board, not only for the unique or new perspective that they’d bring to the table, but for other important reasons too.
Let them know that although they would be the “first,” your goal is to recruit others and truly be representative of the population you serve and the community in which you live.
I’m not an expert in this topic, so I apologize if I’ve made some gaffs along the way. But, this is too important an issue to shy away from and I wanted to join the conversation rather than ignore it.
Let me know — what are you doing to promote diversity at your organization? Why do you believe it’s important? What can we do better and to speed the process?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.