Diversity and inclusion matter.
If you are a nonprofit leader, employee, volunteer, or supporter, creating an inclusive space within the sector is crucial. It is no secret that there is racial bias within the industry, especially when it comes to leadership.
You hear stories all the time about racial inequalities: people not getting promoted, teams full of white leaders, or "equity and diversity" meetings that end with the last PowerPoint slide.
With an industry centred around building a more equitable and just society, there is still a huge need for more diversity and inclusion in the sector. Many of us will look within our organizations and say "not us," but it's more than not being racist. It's actively working towards seeing that change in yourself and around you.
But the conversation around diversity goes beyond race; it's disabilities, gender, sexual orientation and religion. It's ensuring that your workplace is a safe and just environment for people of all backgrounds.
Why Does Diversity Matter?
Diverse workplaces are innovative workplaces. More than a quote, a diverse team brings people of different life experiences together, meaning more ideas and higher engagement. If employees feel they can express themselves fully, they are more willing to participate and boost overall performance.
But most importantly, organizations need to reflect the communities they serve. You can't truly connect with a demographic if you are watching from the other side. They need people who understand firsthand what they are going through.
Ryerson University's Diversity Leads Report found that out of 8 Major Canadian Cities, women and racialized people are still under-represent on boards. Especially regarding board directors, on average, racialized people made up only 26% of all surveyed organizations. Of that only, 10% were board directors.
How Can We Build A More Diverse and Inclusive Nonprofit Sector?
The biggest hurdle a lot of BIPOC nonprofits face is that they are unable to secure funds. Echoing Green analyzed in 2019 and found that in the surveyed pool of applicants, Black-led organizations were receiving about $80k while white-led nonprofits averaged around $154k.
A few things could have contributed to the gap in funding, but it's believed to be because of a lack of access to nonprofit assistance. Just like any other industry, nonprofits have different networks that they go to for support. There are grantors, government officials, thought-leaders, etc that contribute and help with the industry.
Although they were put in place to help all organizations, these networks can get discriminatory or exclusive even if it's not meant to be. This is where privilege comes into play; it is often white-led organizations that have a head-start because they have easy access to support and other networks.
This is where technology can serve as a tool to help even the playing field. There has to be transparency and accountability in the sector and more conversations about the gaps many face. Numbers don't lie and have online communities that support and encourage growth are vital.
Best Practices When Creating a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive Environment
1. Start With Basic Terms
It may be helpful for some of your teammates to begin by defining what different terminology means to each person. The YWCA has a terrific list of terms you can start with. Building a common understanding of what these things mean will help put everyone on the same page while building a general understanding of what it means within your office.
2. Acknowledge Bias
Whether you are aware of it or not, everyone has a bias that can affect the words and actions that are put into the world. Each person has their own experiences that shape their thinking, so it's important to understand each other's bias' to move forward not only as a group but individually. Begin to ask why you feel a certain way about things that impact your feelings about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities.
3. Build A Diverse Team
This does not mean falling into the cracks of tokenism; it means truly building a team that reflects the diversity of your community and ensuring all voices are heard. It's essential that everyone feels respected, valued and safe to voice their concerns.
4. Be Open To Listening and Learning
There are so many consultants and resources out there that offer different perspectives and first-person narratives on inclusion. If you are speaking about race, sexuality, or gender, you should probably have someone who has lived experience speak about it.
Resources to Further Your Learning
It's important to continue to seek out the truth and learn more about creating just opportunities for all nonprofits and communities. We listed some of our favourite resources below to help you continue your learning journey.