• Sanna Roling

    🙂 I’ve seen exactly what you have stated in both my work experience and in the way some of the volunteers in my charity treat people of different ethnicities. Having grown up in the era when Martin Luther King worked to change the mindset of the nation and world, I saw then and now that we have a long ways to go. Luckily I have friends of all races who accept me for who I am inside, not outside. I feel for those whose skin is different as racism is very much alive. To be rich but not able to drive an expensive car because or racial profiling is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. To be out on the street in certain types and colors of clothing and have issues just because is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. I for one have had a goal since day one to follow the verbiage “without regard to….” and mean it. It took me a while to diversify my organization — those I serve, and the Board who watches over — I’m not where I want to be yet, after 15 years but out of 12 Board members 2 are black, 2 are Hispanic, 1 is native American, and 7 are white. Three are disabled. I still have work to do, but for me it’s simple — in all marketing I use the verbiage “without regard to…” and personally meant it. My organization is made up of people from five continents.

    Yes, we need to continue to work toward equality for all. Equality does not mean everyone has to own the same things or have the same money but it does mean everyone has the right to strive individually for the jobs and status of their choice and effort.

  • Brandon A. Robinson, M.A., Esq.

    Indeed it is. I think the “diversity requirement” that Z. Smith Reynolds espouses should factor not just in the nonprofit sector, but the corporate and public sectors as well. But this should not be diversity just for diversity’s sake–i.e., filling up “reserved” spaces for certain groups–but rather careful, thoughtful selection of a broad range of talented, high-quality people, each of whom truly represents the best of his/her community.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Sanna, thanks for commenting! I’d be interested in learning how you went about recruiting your diverse board. Any insights for the NPQ community?

  • Derwin Dubose

    Brandon, I’m really proud of ZSR, and you’re right about token diversity. Melanie Allen pointed to it in her interview, people who are recruited to boards just to fulfill a quota tend to leave before their terms end. That’s why I’m a big fan of diversity audits to uncover the often hidden issues that keep people of color from engaging with a nonprofit.

    The Democratic Party has had to go through a true quota system, mandating that there be slots reserved for women, people of color, geographic areas, and political faction in party leadership. Professionally, I grew up in that culture, having to find a “black male from the East” or a “white female teacher from Charlotte” as an entry-level employee.Leaving tha culture to work in nonprofits, I was shocked as to how blind folks are to the optics of not having a diverse board.

  • Vida L. Avery, PhD

    Good article. My colleagues and I wrote about this very issue three years ago in our book, Race, Gender, and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations, November 22, 2011, http://owl.li/Fy3nI.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Vida, thank you so much for sharing your book. I downloaded it from the Harvard Library and will add it to my holiday reading!

  • TD

    Bravo on this article! I current work for a nonprofit organization and your details mirror our organization. I’ve worked for a nonprofit for 8 years and witnessed turner over of board members and leadership staff, however not one replacement has ever been a person of color. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Once again, bravo!


  • Carolyn M. Appleton

    This discussion in well-taken. Some of our leading Texas foundations require nonprofits to disclose the ethnicity of each member of the Board of Directors as part of the application process, in an effort to underscore the importance of diversity in governance. In Austin, the Austin Community Foundation has hosted diversity workshops for nonprofit professionals. But still, many leaders in the sector in our state have trouble communicating with and identifying new leadership (and donors) from diverse communities.

    A few years ago, I addressed this issue on my blog, focusing on Asian, Hispanic and African-American communities (http://carolynmappleton.com/home-2/posts/ad-council-connecting-with-the-hispanic-market/). The Brookings Institute produced a brief but insightful video one can view on YouTube regarding America’s changing demographics (2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw1ckfVIySY&feature=youtu.be). The nonprofit sector must focus on diversity; those who do not will be left behind!

  • Derwin Dubose

    TD, thanks for sharing. I think our next piece on this topic might focus on what people like you can do to advance diversity in your organizations. What do you think?

  • Derwin Dubose

    Carolyn, thanks for sharing a treasure chest of resources. I really like the Brookings video from William Frey. I’m helping lead a group of Kennedy School fellows to visit San Antonio and Laredo to study demographic changes. Any suggestions on people to talk to or places to see?

  • Tharesa Lee

    Well, many would say as a sector that we do not have that problem. I enjoin us as a sector to look around, be honest with ourselves and let’s move forward into the next century with a renewed hope and mindset.

  • Carolyn M. Appleton

    Yes! San Antonio is a wonderful city – very diverse and comfortable with its diversity.

    I would suggest Dennis Noll, President and CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation (210.225.2243), and also, the leadership of the MLK Commission of the City of San Antonio (https://www.sanantonio.gov/mlk/aboutMLK.aspx). The annual MLK March in San Antonio is the largest in the nation (100,000+). I created a video collage of the 2013 MLK March ( http://youtu.be/OV0NEOuDZzc?list=PLfjrHQHxvxHo4tQOw7Vq72THu9qyy2dFP) just in case – a life changing event!

    Ivy R. Taylor, Mayor would certainly be a good choice (https://www.sanantonio.gov/mayor). You might also want to see Belinda Grant-Anderson of AT&T (https://www.conference-board.org/bio/index.cfm?bioid=2227).

    Last but not least a noteworthy news clip:

    “SA tops list for ‘Surprisingly Hot Market’ For Young Americans” on KENS5 (http://www.kens5.com/story/news/local/2014/07/24/sa-hot-market-for-millennials/13139215/).

    Have a great trip and if I can help further, please let me know.


  • Mat Despard

    Derwin raises excellent points. This is a glaring problem in the sector. In addition to strategies readers are discussing about board diversification, I wonder too about the need to increase funding for minority-led nonprofits. There seems to be a two-tiered nonprofit sector that mirrors broader social inequities and I think it may get worse in the rush toward pay for performance schemes/strategic philanthropy – only the largest and most resourced nonprofits benefiting from things like growth capital aggregation, with an occasional exception like Harlem Children’s Zone. I think funders need to move beyond the standard set of excuses about small, grassroots, minority-led nonprofits not having the “capacity” to handle grants and deliver results. Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock are exceptions. Are there others?

  • Derwin Dubose

    Thanks, Tharesa, for a thoughtful comment.

  • Angie F

    I completely disagree – adding employee and board demographics to Form 990 not only infringes on privacy of nonprofit organizations but it may also hurt them in the long run. People may target these organizations based solely on these demographics rather than focusing on their impact. If the organization is doing good and helping their community, they should not be penalized for the structure of their management and governing bodies. While I agree that this is an issue, making it part of the public disclosure for the organizations is overstepping bounds. Similarly the IRS suggested a mandate to control the number of voting board members which was disputed as overstepping their bounds, mandating a demographic for decision-makers may not be in the best interest of the organization or the community being served by the nonprofit. The board and management should be determined by experience and ability to perform duties first rather than focusing on race or other attributes. As a business woman very active in the nonprofit community, I understand breaking stereotypes; however I also value that we put people in positions that suit them and their expertise. Thank you for your article and bringing attention to this discussion!

  • Ashley

    From the context, I interpret this term – “Ferguson problem” – as emotionally-charged, and deliberately so. If that’s the case, it detracts from the credibility of your proposed solution. If that’s not the case, the term is glib, at best

  • Ashley

    Agree with Angie. Nonprofits should be focused on outcomes, not intentions.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Matt, indeed organizations led by minorities indeed struggle for capital. I see two categories of organizations in your post: 1) Ones that come to mind are organizations that historically served people of color, like historically black colleges and universities, during de jure and de facto segregation. 2) Social ventures launched by minorities. A body of philanthropic and venture capital work to support these types of groups would go a long way.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Angie, thanks for the kind words. I need to clarify one thing: We agree that demographics should NOT be included in 990s, but I think nonprofits should release them to watchdogs and grantors alongside their 990s.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Ashley, thanks for commenting. Data shows that diversity and cultural competence influences positive outcomes, so it’s not about intentions.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Ashley, thanks for weighing in again. I believe it’s hypocritical for the nonprofit sector to express outrage at Ferguson’s demographic shifts when the data shows a similar disparity within its own ranks. We’re not relying on emotion here; we’re relying on data.

  • Dan L. Gibbons

    Finally…some light on the elephant in the room! A well written and much needed article. Now will the sector have the courage to look at this issue honestly and begin to address it in earnest?

  • Eva Hernandez

    While I have not seen this particular disparity in non profit organizations here in rural BC Canada, in our larger centres I can imagine it is also true. My thoughts are that it points to a much broader engagement issue/gap of the sector. If a sector fails to engage with all those that would benefit from or be impacted by the issue being solved, the effort will fail. We continue to provide band aid solutions to gaping wounds in our silos without true engagement of those impacted. Time for an evolution.

  • Leslie Forsyth

    “The board and management should be determined by experience and ability to perform duties first rather than focusing on race or other attributes.”

    I agree, but if that is truly the case, then why are board members and senior staff so white? The implication is that black people don’t have the skills or experience. Do you think that is true?

  • Derwin Dubose

    Leslie, I’m behind in responding to comments, but thank you for raising this question. The underlying assumption to many who don’t like diversity work is that people of color don’t have the skills and experience, which I completely disagree with. One of our next columns will focus on how to find qualified people of color.

  • Derwin Dubose

    Dan, thanks for your kind words. The sector will have the courage to look at this issue an address it when people like you have the courage to lead the charge. I think our January column will focus on how we can begin to address the diversity issues quickly and efficiently, starting with white nonprofit staffers. Do you agree?

  • Stephona

    I completely agree with this article and thank you for enlightening me, personally, to this issue. One question keeps bouncing around in my mind, though. Is there data to show that people of color simply are NOT applying for and/or showing interest in these positions? How big a factor is apathy (for lack of a better word) in the reduced presence of POC on these boards and in leadership positions versus the numbers of volunteers and, of course, recipients?

    Please forgive me as I am rather new in this arena and am still trying to comprehend the dynamics involved. I guess in a nutshell I’m wondering how much we are holding ourselves back rather than how much the organizations are holding us back. How many of us think this big and move toward those levels?

  • Laurin Mayeno

    Thank you for this great piece. I am sharing with my contacts and would also like to include a link to your piece in the blog post I wrote, which can be seen on this link.http://www.mayenoconsulting.com/wordpress/blacklivesmatter-tips-for-nonprofit-and-public-organi zations/

  • Lowell Perry

    Well said! It is an embarrassment that the sector lags so far behind when it comes to having a culture of inclusion. That is probably a big reason for the staggering lack of diversity one finds at the leadership and policy making levels. You might enjoy a related article – http://philanthropynewsdigest.org/commentary-and-opinion/nonprofits-are-not-doing-enough-to-help-young-men-of-color.