Addressing Race-Based Inequity, Part 2
Where Businesses and Nonprofits Come In
Remember the National Council of Nonprofits quote in the beginning of part one? Nonprofits “foster civic engagement and leadership, drive economic growth and strengthen the fabric of our communities.” That sounds like the perfect sector to engage in the work that leads to that infinite cycle of improvement with regards to racial inclusion, diversity, equity and access in the workplace and our communities.
Tarnisha Cliatt, president of the Manatee County NAACP and founder and CEO of the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce shared her thoughts with regard to businesses and nonprofit organizations working to address issues that arise as a result of long-ingrained systemic inequities:
“I believe nonprofits, donors and foundations should focus on efforts to ensure a longer effect of changes. For example, I believe systemic racism costs the entire community money.
If we aren't building or supporting Black-owned businesses, we're losing money that could be filtered within the community. Supporting these businesses provides economic equity and helps lessen economic gaps across all ethnicities.”
Cliatt continues, “We need to be specific on how we effect change. If we’re using the business community as an example, we need to:
- Target. Decide which businesses and nonprofits exhibit the desired operational traits, and then use them to form a positive model for comparison.
- Monitor. Look at organizations’ systems and processes to see how they are operating when compared to the target model.
- Educate. Provide education and feedback to help elevate the businesses forward.
- Measure. Once new procedures are implemented, look at the measurable outcomes and the larger impact they have within the community.
This model could be adapted to not only to elevate the Black business community, but to improve nonprofit organizations and corporations as a whole.”
Cliatt’s model opens a couple of doorways to action that can be traversed by the nonprofit industry:
- Nonprofit organizations can follow this model to evaluate and improve their own operations in everything from human resources, to fundraising, to mission delivery. Remembering that the nonprofit industry employs 12.3 million people in the U.S., implementing steps for positive and lasting change just within those 1.3 million nonprofit organizations would result in broad improvements to the country as a whole.
- Various nonprofits can assist with implementing the steps of the model — target, monitor, educate and measure — in other entities such as corporations, government organizations and educational institutions.
When we consider the totality of our society, nonprofits are uniquely positioned to be part of the process to:
- Identify root issues and prioritize work on them in the order of highest to lowest potential for deep and wide societal impact.
- Serve as impartial review boards to monitor and assess areas of concern (assuming the Johnson Amendment that prohibits political influence on nonprofit organizations stays intact).
- Be a part of the delivery mechanism for implementing the first two bullet points.
For nonprofits to be effective partners in this community effort of dismantling systemic bias and racism, they must be able to hire and retain top talent with expertise in the appropriate areas of concern. They must commit to open, effective and true diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization. For that to be possible, the applicant pool must be as diverse as the demographics of our country. This would likely necessitate increased educational outreach in specific fields.
Forward-thinking foundations can help make this type of hiring requirement a reality by funding corresponding educational outreach and nonprofit positions at the salary level that is necessary to employ experienced experts who can:
- convene the appropriate experts/players locally and nationally
- identify, record and evaluate the issues identified as well as potential solutions
- gain consensus on the best solutions
- strategically plan steps for implementation
- monitor the work
- assess the outcomes and impact
- make adjustments and improvements when necessary
- launch a reimplementation that reflects the new data/knowledge
The U.S. is poised to make changes that address societal inequity and injustice that have existed as long as we’ve been a country. Community leaders, nonprofit organizations, foundations, educational institutions, research institutes, government agencies and businesses are standing together on a plateau. We can decide right now to form one cohesive unit that will enable all the participants to work together to climb the steep and arduous rock face of inequity and to hold each other accountable. Will the climb be easy? No. But it is worth it.
Tracy Vanderneck is president of Phil-Com, a training and consulting company where she works with nonprofits across the U.S. on fundraising, board development and strategic planning. Tracy has more than 25 years of experience in fundraising, business development and sales. She holds a Master of Science in management with a concentration in nonprofit leadership, a graduate certificate in teaching and learning, and a DEI in the Workplace certificate. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), an Association of Fundraising Professionals Master Trainer, and holds a BoardSource certificate in nonprofit board consulting. Additionally, she designs and delivers online fundraising training classes and serves as a Network for Good Personal Fundraising Coach.