l’ll bet that it’s written somewhere in your strategic plan —improve board and staff diversity. Sounds good, right? But why is it really important? Have you and your administration ever considered why diversity really matters?
Here’s why I think it matters:
Your board – If you’ve ever heard the expression, “male, pale, and stale” it may describe the make-up of your board. Now, this shouldn’t be construed as anti-guys, but anti-stale? Yes. Having women at the boardroom table brings many benefits. They often dig deeper into issues than their male counterparts thus stimulating thoughtful conversation on agenda items. They also bring a balanced perspective on work and family issues. For these and a myriad of other issues, it’s critical to have female representation on your board.
Ethnic Diversity – It’s not about the skin tones around your board table, it is about a rich spectrum of life experiences that enliven your group decisions. Your nominating committee should identify skill sets, professional sectors, and ensure geographic representation that your board needs before it moves forward in identifying any new potential volunteer leadership talent. Your board should represent those you serve and those who contribute to your mission.
The Right Mix – Recruit thought leaders to your board; provide board training; probe into your volunteer and professional networks for connections that may lead to the right mix of leadership talent.
The Ripple Effect -Anyone in the foundation fundraising business knows that one of the first questions asked during discovery interviews is about the makeup of your board and staff. Funders value diversity because they know it leads to better decision making and more fiscal responsibility.
Diversity Leads to More Potential Donors - Your directors and staff should be leading by example. If they hold a highly visible place within your nonprofit, others of similar backgrounds and heritages may also be inclined to give you a second look.
Here’s what you can do immediately to ensure diversity:
Work with your nominating committee to perform a talent, reach, and diversity inventory of your board and staff to identify areas needing strengthening and to set targets to recruit people who satisfy multiple objectives.
If you suffer from “male, stale, and pale” (or other similar maladies), set an organizational goal to identify and recruit more diverse leaders.
Value and use your leadership and staff diversity in your advancement planning and execution.
Please share efforts your organization has made to diversify its board and staff.