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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Nonprofit Organizations

While the nonprofit sector is dedicated to serving those in need, without encompassing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into their governance and operations, they risk becoming irrelevant. It has been proven that organizations with more diverse workforces perform better financially. Before strategizing a DEI plan, nonprofits must first understand where their organization is and where it wants to go. You can then track your nonprofit’s proficiency in diversity using both quantitative and qualitative metrics, diagnose risks and find opportunities for improvement. Nonprofits will also need to examine internal biases and adopt practices that promote DEI in their work and employment practices as well as on their boards, and in their communications.

Achieving diversity and inclusiveness in your workplace is a process of creating change through education, collaboration, and vigilance. When we apply equity and inclusion to all aspects of organizational structure, we take action towards ensuring that historically excluded groups are recognized, included, and heard. A diverse workplace encourages people to be more vocal, creative, and involved. Commitment to DEI can be demonstrated through governance policies, leadership, and recruitment.

Often when organizations begin diversity work, it can feel daunting trying to figure out where to start. While the process will be different for every organization, below are some things to consider when starting diversity work in your nonprofit.

  • Diversify Your Board – the majority of nonprofit organizations still lack diversity on their boards. In order to reflect the diversity of the communities you serve, it’s more crucial than ever to change the composition of your board. Working from the top down will also build commitment and trust from within the workplace.
  • Form DEI Committees – everyone needs a champion to support their dreams and efforts—this is no different in the workplace. A dedicated DEI committee can help the organization accomplish its diversity goals by planning and overseeing the strategy and will ultimately be better positioned to have big picture discussions about the organization’s DEI priorities.
  • Perform DEI Audits — a diversity audit helps organizations understand the demographics and culture of their workforce by generating evidence and data which allows them to identify the specific factors that will help create a more diverse and inclusive environment.
  • Update Your Policies – all aspects of your diversity initiatives should be incorporated in all activities and policies of the organization to ensure efforts remain ongoing—there is no end to a process that helps create diversity and supports inclusion.
  • Educate Your Workforce – for organizations to thrive in this time of social responsibility you need to be intentional about creating a race literate workforce. You can start by including race and ethnicity training in your diversity and inclusion initiatives—educated individuals are more invested.
  • Build a Race Equity Culture – starting with a clear and shared understanding of what a Race Equity Culture looks like for your nonprofit will enable you to create and sustain a culture that is focused on proactively counteracting race inequities.
  • Create Open Dialogue – allow your workforce to participate in the conversation. Host a formal event to share the organizations diversity initiatives. Having an external facilitator can help ensure discussions are both objective and effective.
  • Pursue Diverse Candidates – recruiting a diverse staff is essential to nonprofit sustainability. It also gives an organization a competitive advantage while also creating more engagement and greater productivity.
  • Utilize Diverse Suppliers – in an effort to strengthen your diversity initiatives and combat social injustice, nonprofits should utilize diversified suppliers and community partners. Both can be a cornerstone to success, helping to ethically and efficiently source products and services  

When we consider our own diversity, check our assumptions, ask questions, and apply our insights to our work, we can create change. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as organizational values is a great way to intentionally make space for positive outcomes and will ultimately help nonprofits better serve their communities and attract a more diverse staff.

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