Nonprofit Boards Need to Get Tough on Advancements to DE&I

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 especially now that promises have been made by most nonprofits?

This will sound tough, but I don’t know how else to say it. I’ve been disappointed by the amount of talk in certain organizations without follow through and action; really long flowery statements and so forth. That’s good and well, but what you really want to hear are the specific activities that you going to do. Interestingly, in the best boards that I’ve seen, it’s a topic in the boardroom and the board asks the management team, “What specifically are you going to do and who’s accountable? How are we going to know if we’re successful or not, and whether it’s making a difference?”

Those are the discreet, granular action steps that are going to move the dial. If you look at companies and nonprofit institutions, really organizations of any type, culture is such a critical part. Historically boards didn’t pay as much attention to that, but when you look, especially in the corporate world where a number of issues have arisen, it’s all been around culture. So to me, you are seeing boards actually roll up their sleeves and say, “We don’t want to cross the line, we’re not management, but we want to know what kind of culture you’re creating and what kind of image you’re trying to portray in the marketplace. It’s very important to us that it’s the right one.”