Why Pursuing Equity on Nonprofit Boards Still Matter

Have you heard of the phrase “mountain top experience”? When we arrive at the apex in life, it feels great, but then we are often forced to go down the mountain, sometimes to a valley or a plateau, because we can not stay on the mountaintop forever. We must keep moving; hopefully, we will get to another mountain experience soon. In 2020, we hit a mountaintop of awareness in this country regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion;  the conversations, actions, and even money poured into the space of DEI like never before. In the years that followed, 2021 and 2022, we slowly walked down from the mountain to a plateau. But in 2023, many of us working in the space are fighting to get out of what feels like a valley. The “yeses” are increasingly becoming “nos” almost instantly, and it feels like we’re back to being seen as too aggressive, unrealistic, and nearly unheard. 

But there is hope.

For one, if you are reading this, you’re still on this journey with us. 

And we want to make space for centering ourselves about why this work is still so important. For us at TNP, why equity at the nonprofit board leadership level is still critical to the improvement of our communities. 

The work of nonprofits can be life-changing for a city, a community, or a single person, from providing life-saving treatments to building dynamic programs with wrap-around services for families in need. This critical work is enhanced when we go against the status quo in our nonprofit leadership. We can not expect nonprofits to do transformational work when their leadership lacks lived experience, inclusion, and accountability. For example, 60%* of nonprofits serve people of color, yet 78%* of nonprofit board members report as Caucasian. This disparity means most nonprofit organizations that serve people of color need more representation at the leadership level where crucial decisions are made. Imagine a major tech corporation board run by many medical professionals (nurses and doctors). We know nurses and doctors play a vital role in our world; we know they are bright and work hard, but would we ever have them run a tech business without practical and hands-on experience? Why would we expect the same for our communities? 

The New Philanthropists is more than an organization that trains nonprofit boards. We actively help build the infrastructure to equip and enable diverse leaders to serve on boards efficiently and effectively with sustainable strategies, mentorship, and networks. Our communities need representation in the nonprofits that serve them. *(Sources: BoardSource, 2021 Leading with Intent Report and Annie E. Casey Foundation)

We can believe the false narrative that focusing too much on diversity, equity, and inclusion puts too much focus on our differences. But when we don’t recognize DEI nor intentionally pursue it, we miss out on how differences can enhance everything we do, especially in the nonprofit space. We will end with a quote we recently received from a wise global leader: 

“Diversity is Innovation. If someone doesn’t look like you, they don’t think like you, and they can help you. Think Different”

If you care about the work of The New Philanthropists, please consider joining the “New Crew” and becoming a monthly donor – starting at $10. Every dollar counts – because our supporters help us make it happen! 

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