How to Truly Foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Your Nonprofit Workplace
Across the nation, Americans are coming together to denounce the unjust killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and, sadly in my own city, the senseless murder of Rayshard Brooks. So many of these deaths have reignited discussions around racial injustices and biases. This discussion is not too far removed from the nonprofit sector, specifically within the ranks of leadership.
According to PND by Candid, the percentage of people of color in executive director or CEO roles in the nonprofit sector has remained underrepresented. Specifically, 87% of executive leadership in nonprofits is white, while people of color represent 13% — of that, 6% are Black.
While one might assume the nonprofit sector would prioritize diversity, especially those that support underserved communities, in truth, systematic bias and exclusion has been persistent in the nonprofit community for years. For more than 20 years, there has been a high-level sector strategy attempting to bridge the diversity gap among nonprofits. However, research has shown that aspiring nonprofit leaders of color face unspoken and unconscious biases that prevent those with the hiring and promoting power from fairly assessing, recognizing and valuing their potential. There are a number of practical steps that nonprofits can take that will help create a more equitable
Create Meaningful Opportunities for Advancement
If an employee cannot see a clear path for advancement within an organization, they are less likely to stay. Establishing professional development and inclusive leadership training programs can help diverse employees see an organization as a place to grow, not as a stepping stone to something bigger and better. It’s also important for organizations to create mentorship programs that proactively include diverse employees, who — especially in mostly white environments — are less likely to receive organic mentorship and networking opportunities than their white counterparts.
Cultivate a talent pipeline of diverse, high-potential candidates. For some nonprofits, the moral imperative of equity may be enough to spur action. Others may be moved by data showing that diversity can boost the quality of decision-making and that a diverse workplace can encourage people to be more creative, more diligent and more harder working. Nonprofits should identify those high-potential employees within the ranks of their organizations and design specific advancement tracks and succession-planning to ensure that opportunities are afforded to those who are ready, are qualified and have the potential to lead.
Foster a Culture of Inclusion and Equity
Nonprofits seeking to attract and retain diverse talent should aim to foster diversity across — and beyond — the organizational structure, including staff, volunteers, boards and community organizations they partner with and support. In order to truly embrace diversity, opinions, perspectives and lifestyles need to be accepted. This can be easily achieved by creating diversity committees with representatives from all levels of the organization and setting inclusion and equity goals that are transparent and part of the nonprofit’s overall strategic plan.
The nonprofit sector, like the rest of the world, is an uneven playing field. Oftentimes what happens is people of color are invited to join an organization to satisfy the need for diversity. However, the voice of those individuals oftentimes go unheard. It’s one thing to invite someone to the party; the next step is inviting them to dance; and the realization of inclusion is letting them pick the music. Diversity in the room is one thing, but having a voice creates the opportunity for true inclusion
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.