Drexel University’s Gupta Governance Institute and Grant Thornton’s biweekly Nonprofit Directors Dialogue Miniseries features nonprofit leaders and board members as they share insights and strategies for turning today’s challenges into tomorrow’s successes.
What do you see as the nonprofit board’s role in shaping diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) especially now that promises have been made by most nonprofits?
Absolutely, the board bears a great deal of responsibility as it relates to DEI, particularly of enforcement and measurement. Certainly, that starts with the leadership of the nonprofit and their staff and that needs to be reflective of a diverse organization.
From an oversight perspective, the board needs to make sure that is happening and that the strategies are supporting a type of organization that is bringing new perspectives to the table. Chances are, if your organization is more diverse and has more perspectives at the table, you are going to be better able to serve your constituencies and communities, which is the right thing to do.
Many boards have been focused on this previously, but I think what is happening now is like anything else, when you measure it, it is going to happen. Even for those organizations that they feel are doing a really good job, it really makes people more accountable and it puts some things in writing that says, okay, well, let’s compare. We said six months ago, this is what we were going to do, and this is what we stood for. Did we do it or did we not? That goes back to transparency. I think people need to share that and, in some cases say, “You know what? We made a lot of progress, but we’re not there yet and we have more to do.”
The board’s responsibility is to push the organization to say, “We are not there yet, and this is how we can do more and do better. Let’s look at other organizations who have been able to get there faster and why?” I am a big believer that with change and stretch comes growth and opportunity. And it can be scary, particularly if you have other things on your plate, but I would argue that DEI is not a nice-to-do it is a must-do. It needs to be who you are and part of your DNA. It cannot be a side project. It must be embedded in everything you do.