Diversify Your Board

Thursday, 29 October @ 10:22 AM

Corporate boards around the world are clamoring for greater diversity.  And while embracing diversity has long been lauded as the right thing to do, new data overwhelmingly shows that diversity is also good, really good, for business.

For example, corporate executive teams with more gender diversity performed 21% better than their less diverse peers, according to McKinsey Consulting’s most recent Delivering Through Diversity report.  Similar studies by the Boston Consulting Group proved that more diversity in management resulted in revenues that were 19% higher than competitors.

While nonprofits may have a much different endgame in mind than their corporate counterparts, they can glean many benefits by incorporating a more diverse cadre of community members on their board rosters.  The fresh perspectives and experiences that new and different members bring to the table result in organizations that are more nimble, effective, and ultimately better equipped to carry out their mission.

How more diversity on your board is good for business.

Recruiting a board with diverse points of view is essential to a nonprofit’s success. Each board member will bring his or her own personal and professional contacts and life experiences to their service on your nonprofit board.  From fundraising to finding expertise, a diversified board will create a robust arsenal of human capital to catapult your nonprofit to the next level.  Here’s what a diversified board can offer your organization:

New Perspectives:  Not everyone has the ability to be in the soup kitchen or animal shelter weekly, but a general familiarity with your nonprofit’s staff and the mission is crucial.  By recruiting board members with unique experience and community contacts, your board can better stay abreast of community needs and the day-to-day realities of your nonprofit’s work.  Having more fingers on the pulse of your operations will help your organization to be more relevant and effective.

Expanded Networks:  We often talk about how board members need to be skilled at leveraging their networks for fundraising. Just as important, a great board member can tap his or her network for expertise and advice for the board.  This network of contacts can help you fill critical gaps in expertise that your nonprofit needs.  Attracting members with different skill sets as well as different personal and professional contacts will accelerate the growth of the nonprofit’s network and result in better decision making.

Fresh Dynamics: Introducing new people and ideas to your organization prevents stagnation.    A change in board composition can be challenging at the outset.  But change will challenge your board to reassess long-held assumptions and beliefs that may have previously stifled new ideas and growth.  And over time, recruiting and onboarding new and more diverse members will become easier with a board that is fresh and new.

How to create more diversity in your nonprofit board.

As humans, we are hard-wired to surround ourselves with people who are like us.  As a result, many boards tend to glean new directors from friends, family, or any social groups made up of people just like them.  While this is an easy and comfortable path, it’s imperative for boards to seek out the right mix of members who have the skills, experience, and community connections that your board needs to run a successful organization.

So how exactly do you go about finding the right people who demonstrate passion, purpose, and have the skills and talents that you need to move your nonprofit forward?

The first step is to take a fearless look at who you are as a board.  As you review your roster of members, how similar are your contacts, experience, and expertise as compared to your fellow members? And does your board possess the right mix of talent, skill, and vision to accomplish your purpose and strategic goals?  It won’t take much to recognize whether your board needs to shake things up.

After taking an honest assessment of your current board composition, identify the areas where you are falling short, and create a plan to address these shortcomings.  When evaluating new potential members, you’ll want to keep a few factors in mind:

  1. Is your potential candidate truly committed to your nonprofit’s mission and vision?  Are they involved in like-minded community efforts and what is their motivation for being involved in your non-profit?
  2. What unique skills, expertise, and community connections do they have to offer, and does this complement your existing roster of board members?
  3. Finally, do they have the time to commit to their philanthropic duties; enthusiasm and passion for your nonprofit’s pursuits is no substitute for being able to commit time and effort towards the work that needs to be done as a new member.

Above all, stay patient and committed to the process, knowing that over time, your efforts at diversifying your board will start to pay off.  Integrating new members from outside your zone of comfort will help your nonprofit cultivate a different viewpoint that will be vital in serving your demographic in the best way.

Ellis Carter is a nonprofit lawyer with Caritas Law Group, PC. To contact Ellis, call 602-456-0071 or email us at [email protected].

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