April 12, 2011; Source: HR.BLR.Com | Is anyone surprised by the finding of a new report from Commongood Careers and the Level Playing Institute that concludes nonprofits are perceived as valuing diversity and inclusiveness but fail to live up to those goals?

The report, The Voice of Nonprofit Talent: Perceptions of Diversity in the Workplace, draws on interviews with some 1,600 nonprofit staff. It suggests that the perception that nonprofits care about diversity and inclusiveness helps nonprofits with recruiting and retaining staff, especially people of color. According to the report, 90 percent of nonprofit employees think that their employers value diversity, but 70 percent think that the organizations don't do enough to create a diverse work environment.

So, essentially it is a dynamic of nonprofit employees wanting, hoping, even sensing a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, looking for the taste of commitment to diversity as a reason to work for organizations, but seeing all too clearly the lack of nonprofits' making that commitment real.

The executive director of the Level Playing Field Institute noted that nonprofits' "diversity commitments must move beyond a tagline on a website." But isn't the disconnect all too common?

The issue not addressed, apparently, is the difference between simple diversity, the inclusion of people of color on the staff of nonprofits, and diversity that has more of an equity concept, where people of color, the disabled, LGBTQ staff, and others actually get to participate and share in the design and development of program.

The "disconnect between value and action" shouldn't be just a headcount. The report's five recommended strategies for creating and nurturing diversity in nonprofit organizations include conversations with executive leadership about race, effective communications about diversity commitments, building networks for recruiting, freeing the hiring process from "subtle bias," and mentoring staff.

All well and good, except that diversity in the nonprofit workforce isn't just a matter of race, and real diversity includes providing the opportunity for marginalized population groups to have a stake in the organizations, not just paychecks.—Rick Cohen