July 15, 2019
Study: Nonprofit Boards Lack Diversity; Few Are Acting on It

February 3, 2019 — As the nonprofit sector has become more aware in the last few years of its lack of diversity and inclusion and as organizations have taken steps to become more diverse, the composition of boards of directors have significantly lagged behind, according to a recently completed national survey.

The Governance Gap survey of 102 nonprofits, conducted by the national search firm of Koya Leadership, found that fewer than 50% of survey respondents reported any action at all in relation to increasing diversity representation on their boards.

In addition:
  • 74% of respondents said their board/executive committee lacks a written statement/policy on diversity and inclusion of board membership, and an equal number said their organization does not make diversity and inclusion training available to its board/executive committee.

  • Only 34% of respondents said their the board/executive committee ties its diversity and inclusion goals to the overall strategic plan of the organization and only 44% said their board/executive committee evaluates its own diversity and inclusion efforts.

  • 61% of respondents feel their board/executive committee does not adequately reflect the community/communities their organization serves.

  • 70% of respondents said they are not content with the current level of diversity and inclusion represented in their board/executive committee.
"A compelling “business case” for diversity from the for-profit sector indicates that diversity drives innovation and increases market share," the report noted. "Dozens of studies have shown that diverse companies are more successful in every possible form of measurement. The same is true for nonprofit organizations.

"Nonprofits that are not diverse and inclusive are not unlocking their full potential. Nonprofits that aren’t diverse at both the staff and board levels are likely missing opportunities to better understand and meet the needs of increasingly diverse clients and stakeholders."

Survey respondents who said diversifying their board/executive committee is a key objective believe that doing so will support a number of objectives, including better reflecting the community/communities they serve, increasing creativity and problem solving, and enhancing the organization's reputation.

However, those sentiments are not reflected in current board composition: Only 24% of the board members participating in the survey self-identified as people of color, which is high compared to national data.

BoardSource’s most recent survey reports that 84% of board members were white and 27% of boards lack a single member of color, Koya reported, noting, "The BoardSource survey found that while 63% of organizations say diversity is a core value, the percentaage of people of color on nonprofit boards has not changed in 18 years."

People of color are currently 36% of the US population and are expected to grow to 50% as early as 2042.

The survey found that less than half of respondent's organizations engage in any diversity recruiting strategies at all.

Lack of access to qualified board/executive committee candidates was cited by 51% of survey respondents as an obstacle to recruiting diverse members. Ten percent said their board/executive committee is not actively seeking to recruit diversity.

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