Moving to Action on Board Diversity

March 15, 2018

Periodically, we’ll feature a thought piece from a local nonprofit professional. This week we are delighted to feature consultant and nonprofit professional, Rick Moyers. Rick currently serves on the boards of BoardSource (as chair) and the Community Connections Fund of the World Bank Group.  

According to BoardSource’s most recent national study, 84 percent of nonprofit board members and 90 percent of board chairs are white.

That’s almost exactly the same percentage reported in the organization’s first national study of board composition, which I co-authored 25 years ago.

Despite widespread acknowledgment of the need for more diverse boards and dissatisfaction with current board composition, we’ve made little or no progress in building more diverse boards over nearly three decades.

Many factors — including implicit bias, myths and misconceptions, and prevailing recruitment practices — contribute to this inertia. And nothing is likely to change until boards start having concrete conversations about diversity, inclusion, and equity — and develop action plans for change.

Here are four questions that can help your board get started:

  1. Are we satisfied with our current board composition? Does it reflect the diversity of our community, and the variety of viewpoints and life experiences needed to make mission-critical decisions?
  2. If we are not satisfied, what concrete actions can we take to disrupt the status quo? Who will champion this effort? How will we measure progress?
  3. Does our board culture welcome people with different backgrounds and life experiences?
  4. What education or training might the board need in order to tackle these questions?

Thoughtful consideration of these questions can help your board move beyond good intentions to develop an action plan. And action is needed, because decades of evidence show the value of diverse boards and suggests that diversity won’t happen without intentionality.