What do you think of when you think about nonprofit board diversity? Diversity is about more than just “finding someone who checks a box.” it’s about bringing together people with different backgrounds and perspectives.
When a board becomes homogenous, it can be difficult to notice things that are outside of the board’s general life experiences. A board that is all one gender may not notice things that are apparent to another gender. There are things that people are blind to, and as they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Nonprofit board diversity is about more than just providing blanket representation, or being able to say “we have a diverse staff.” Diversity is important in and of itself. Both companies and nonprofit boards often struggle with developing diversity in a truly inclusive and authentic way.
A board that is just checking boxes isn’t valuing the benefits of diversity. The danger of checking a box is that diversity won’t be properly utilized. Instead, it will just be pursued for the sake of a label.
When checking a box, boards aren’t looking for people who have unique perspectives. Instead, they’re just looking for anyone who fits the classification of “diverse.” And ultimately, this isn’t going to lead to the board getting the best results.
In fact, this often leads to a lack of nonprofit board diversity. A board isn’t inclusive when it doesn’t value its composition, and board members will be able to tell when they were recruited for a “diversity” label rather than being truly valued.
When these recruiting measure fail, it leads to a weaker group dynamic. Board members and staff won’t be able to see the value of the initiatives, and members brought onboard under these diversity initiatives may struggle to work within the board’s culture.
To protect against this, boards need to have the right culture, and need to foster an understanding among board members regarding the importance of diversity as a whole.
Diversity and inclusion strategies often fail. Either they don’t achieve the results that were desired, or they just alienate people rather than being effective. At best, many institutions find that their diversity protocols do very little.
Diversity is incredibly important to any nonprofit board. But board diversity can’t be a method by which boards attempt to prove a point or check a box. It’s important to recognize why organizations are eager to pursue diversity. Approaching this topic with thought and self-awareness will protect your board’s future.
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