By Elizabeth Voudouris
Nonprofits in Northeast Ohio address our community’s most complex and challenging issues. Nonprofit boards that prioritize and support diversity and inclusion are better positioned to navigate and address this work. Eighty-four percent of board members report as Causcasian, according to a national survey of nonprofit boards. Randy McShepard, vice president of public affairs and chief talent officer for RPM and co-founder of PolicyBridge, says “It breaks my heart that we have not moved the needle,” in response to the statistic that the levels of board diversity have mostly remained unchanged since 1994.
Diversity includes, but is not limited to, gender, age, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, language, socio-economic status, disability, geography and political viewpoint. Inclusiveness is the involvement of diverse individuals and the incorporation of diverse perspectives, needs, contributions and viewpoints. Nonprofit boards need these qualities in order to understand and address critical community issues, set policy and make decisions.
In terms of recruiting and engaging diverse board members, nonprofit boards must ask the right questions. For example: Are diverse individuals comfortable serving on this board? What can our board do to be more inclusive and welcoming? McShepard suggests that boards need to become more comfortable having the uncomfortable discussions, and new and diverse perspectives in the boardroom need to feel heard.
BVU interviews, trains and matches people to serve on nonprofit boards. At any given time, 95% of the boards we work with are seeking diversity, specifically minority professionals, for their boards. Since 2010, at least 12% of the individuals who participate in BVU’s board matching program have been minority professionals. In order to move the needle, nonprofit boards need to be clear on why diversity is important to the mission and in their boardroom, and how diverse voices will be heard. Boards will need to look beyond “who they know” and perhaps even redefine how a board member can be effective.
As Greater Cleveland Food Bank CEO Kristin Warzocha affirmed in Crain’s Cleveland Oct. 28, 2019 article, “The more diverse we are, the stronger we are.”
If you’re a BVU business partner, consider joining us as we work to increase the representation of diverse perspectives on nonprofit boards. Nominate board matching candidates today. Contact Allison Kimbrough at AKimbrough@bvuvolunteers.org
If you’re a nonprofit, make sure BVU knows your board needs and please reach out if we can help you with your efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. Contact Elizabeth Voudouris at EVoudouris@bvuvolunteers.org