Leading with Intent: National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices reveals some troubling information about the diversity of today’s nonprofit boards: We’re making little progress in diversifying our boards, are dissatisfied with our board diversity, but are doing little to prioritize it in our board recruitment practices. In an effort to spark action, we present five questions for your board to contemplate.
At the most fundamental level, who serves on a board impacts how it functions and the decisions it makes. While board composition is not one-size-fits all, a board that is homogeneous in any way risks having blind spots that negatively impact its ability to make the best decisions and plans for the organization. The blind spots created by a lack of racial and ethnic diversity are particularly concerning, as they may result in strategies and plans that ineffectively address societal challenges and inequities, or even reinforce them.
That’s why BoardSource is so troubled by the findings from Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, which revealed /the following about the diversity of today’s nonprofit boards:
• The levels of board diversity have largely remained unchanged since 1994.
- In 2017, 90% of chief executives and 84% of board members report as Caucasian.
- In 2017, 27% of boards identify as all white. This compares to 25% in 2015.
- Since BoardSource began tracking diversity data through this study in 1994, people of color and ethnicminorities have never represented more than 18% of board membership.
• Chief executives consider board diversity important to their organization’s work.
77% to 89% report it important to
- understanding external context from a broader perspective
- developing creative new solutions to problems
- understanding the organization’s client populations
- enhancing the organization’s public standing
- planning effectively
• Chief executives and board chairs are dissatisfied with the level of racial and ethnic diversity on their boards.
- 65% of chief executives report they are somewhat or extremely dissatisfied with their board’s racial and
- 41 percent of board chairs express the same levels of dissatisfaction.
Given these findings, one would expect that boards would be hyper-focused on diversity when recruiting new board members. Unfortunately, Leading with Intent documents the opposite.
• Only one quarter of boards are placing a high priority on demographics in board recruitment.
• Changing board recruitment practices does not rank as a top three priority for most boards.
• Nearly one in five of all chief executives report that they are both:
- dissatisfied with their board’s racial or ethnic diversity; and
- not prioritizing demographics in their board recruitment practices.
Don’t be one of those boards. Take the time to articulate your values regarding the importance of diversity, and then put them into practice throughout your organization and your board.
• For more on the board’s leadership role on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and equity, visit DEI.
• For more information about board recruitment, visit boardsource.org/fundamental-topics-of-nonprofit-boardservice/composition-recruitment/
• Visit leadingwithintent.org for more on Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices.