Seeking People of Color for your nonprofit board?

“Do you know any Hispanics (*Latinos), Black leaders in Austin?”

This is a very common question or request we get from Austin nonprofits. If you’re looking to become a more inclusive organization and reach people from Black, Latino or Asian communities, you’re asking the wrong question. 

Understanding of and access to underrepresented communities and cultures is an asset all nonprofits and boards should seek.  

We believe we need to treat board members and potential board members as whole people. People serve on boards because they want to make a difference, bring their own experiences, and speak for diverse points of view. When you put board members in a box (i.e. focus on money) you are limiting their potential to contribute to your organization in other ways and you show that you do not honor them as people who are passionate about your mission.

When recruiting board members, I believe people are asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking for Blacks, Latinos and Asians to serve on boards first (i.e. Do you know a Hispanic to serve on my board?), they should be asking for people that bring in diverse influences, passion for the mission, connections and relationships to the communities they’re trying to reach.

When we ask these questions first, treat people with respect and honor their worth and we tend to find a better match for the organization versus just a token seat on the board.  

We understand that it’s the board’s responsibility to provide for the financial well-being of the organization, but it’s important to note that, according to BoardSource’s most recent report: “Boards average 79 percent participation in giving; however, on the average only 52 percent of boards have 100 percent participation.” 

Why do nonprofits continue to hold a seat for people who not only don’t connect them to new communities but also don’t meet the donation requirements for serving? 

To get the most effective mix of people on a board, nonprofits have to re-examine its culture and policies – including how much it asks board members to contribute. This is part of what our process will include as we work with nonprofits to place more people of color. There are people of color in every community with the means to give. They don’t give – or serve on boards or volunteer or otherwise engage – because they’re not asked. 

Stay up to date with The New Philanthropists and learn more about our community meet-ups and events. Check out the photos from Latinos Take the Lead and Black Community Meet-up. Stay tuned for our next event that will focus on Asian communities in Austin. 

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