To expand on the topic of this year’s Partner Network Kickoff in January that focused on the power of inclusion and building a culture of inclusivity, Youth INC organized an Executive Director Roundtable discussion centered on building an inclusive board culture. The conversation was facilitated by Katherine Armstrong, Consultant at Russell Reynolds, whose work revolves around nonprofit executive searches and advising nonprofit boards.
Partner Network EDs gathered with Youth INC staff at Russell Reynolds for the roundtable discussion that began with a review of statistics about the state of diversity on nonprofit boards from BoardSource’s Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. Key findings from the report explained that board diversity has remained unchanged since 1994 despite the overall dissatisfaction of chief executives with the level of racial and ethnic diversity on their board and their belief that board diversity as instrumental to their organizational work. Though it top of mind for nonprofit executives, the statistics show that nonprofit boards have not been able to prioritize recruiting diverse board members. Considering these results, the conversation then shifted to a major reason why a shift in board diversity is so difficult: board culture may not be welcoming or conducive to new, diverse members.
Diversity is only the first piece of the puzzle; it is inclusion, the environment in which diversity can thrive, that is currently missing in many nonprofit boards. The board culture must be established and maintained so that new members can contribute to the success of an organization as opposed to feel like a token. Executive Directors and Board Chairs must spearhead the culture of collaboration within the board. Since this culture shift is a long-term process of organizational evolution, the addition of diverse voices to a board is not simply just a solution to a problem. It must be paired with intentional efforts to amplify and bring power to those voices.
The discussion was very informative and allowed all of the Executive Directors in attendance to reconsider their diversity and inclusion efforts and begin to reframe them as long-term practices instead of short-term initiatives.
Executive Director Roundtables are quarterly discussions for Partner Network Executive Directors to connect with each other and an expert in the field, and this session was part of a series of wider Partner Network engagements that will be promoting diversity and inclusion on nonprofit boards. The next event in the series, Youth INC’s Nonprofit Board Fair on November 5, 2018, will connect 20 of Youth INC’s Nonprofit Partners to corporate professionals from a variety of industries and backgrounds. Additionally, Youth INC will be hosting a workshop to provide tangible resources and tactics for building a diverse and inclusive board that will be led by longtime consulting partner Jennifer Rutledge of Delphi Consultants.