Board diversity is critical to the success of every nonprofit’s work. And while 2021’s Leading with Intent study shows progress toward greater board diversity, more is possible. This blog illustrates the many benefits of board diversification and the actionable steps nonprofits can take.
By increasing board diversity, nonprofits strengthen their connection to the people and communities they serve, reach new audiences, adapt to changing demographics, and much more.
Here are 4 benefits of a diverse nonprofit board:
1. Represents the people it serves
A diverse nonprofit board ensures that the organization’s leadership is connected to the communities they serve. If board members embody the identities of those communities, they are more likely to respond to their needs more effectively.
2. Encourages creative problem-solving
Board members representing different personal and professional backgrounds contribute fresh insights to information-gathering and problem-solving, resulting in more comprehensive, well-rounded solutions.
3. Attracts a diversified nonprofit staff
Diverse board members bring different experiences and cultural contexts, which in turn fosters an environment supportive of welcoming people from all walks of life to work for the nonprofit.
4. Prevents groupthink and “cloning”
Boards can fall prey to the tendency to “clone,” which involves seeking individuals who have similar qualities to themselves or who are from the same professional or personal circles. A diverse board guards against implicit bias, a lack of creativity, and not hearing the expressed needs of the population they’re serving.
Considering these and other benefits of a diverse board, how can nonprofits improve their board’s diversity?
Here are a few practical steps to get started:
Reflect on diversity
A nonprofit board may agree that diversity is an organizational priority but have not made concrete plans to increase it. A self-assessment is an excellent place to start to identify areas that need to be addressed.
Dedicate meeting time for conversations on diversity
Intentionally setting aside time to discuss Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) and making the conversation a cornerstone of every board meeting helps keep the topic at the center of the board’s attention.
Engage the people you serve
A strong connection to community is core to board diversity. People who benefit from nonprofit services may offer important suggestions for board member attributes vital to understanding their experiences, as well as recommendations for people that reflect the values the organization espouses.