News and Information about the nonprofit sector in Massachusetts. Check back frequently to keep informed.
September 30, 2020
Study: White Privilege Continues to Dominate Nonprofit Sector
White privilege

June 26, 2020 — While extensive diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by nonprofits in recent years have increased awareness of race and racism, "the entrenched disparity of white privilege continues to dominate the nonprofit sector," according to a newly completed report on the nonprofit racial leadership gap.

Financial stress stemming from the coronavirus pandemic is posing a challenge that "offers the opportunity for organizations and their funders to respond by addressing not only the immediate crisis but also systemic inequities both within nonprofit organizations and society at large," according to Race to Lead Revisited, produced by the Building Movement Project in New York, which seeks to catalyze progressive social change.

The report, based on a national survey of more than 5,000 paid nonprofit staff, which updates a 2017 report, found that "there is a white advantage in the nonprofit sector:"

  • Only 13% of organizations are led by people of color.
  • Only 8% of nonprofit boards are composed of people of color.
  • However, those organizations serve populations in which 34% are people of color.
  • 52% of white respondents and 33% of people of color work for white-run organizations, while 25% of people of color and 7% of white respondents work for organizations led by people of color.

In terms of their experience working for nonprofits, people of color and white respondents in white-run groups had very different levels of agreement regarding whether they would be happy to work for their organization in three years, while all respondents in organizations led by people of color are more positive about this prospect, with no difference between people of color (POC) and white respondents.

According to the report, "While all respondents reported more positive experiences in POC-led groups, respondents of color are most positive when they work in a POC-led organization and least positive, by a considerable margin, in white-run groups."

A second key finding the story reported is that "Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts are widespread throughout the sector and people are uncertain about their effectiveness."

The report noted "there are substantial differences in how people of color and white people understand the role of race in the nonprofit world. Overall, the increased awareness of race and equity has yet to produce measurable change in the racialized experiences of people working in the sector."

While 74% of respondents work for organizations with DEI initiatives, and training was the most frequently reported activity. Despite the prevalence of these efforts, people of color reported few shifts toward equity in the workplace

In addition, "people of color were more likely than white people to attribute DEI initiatives to their organization responding to a crisis, suggesting that people of color more readily identify organizational crises that are not apparent to white respondents."

At nonprofits with DEI initiatives, 65% of respondents cited training as the activity most commonly employed to promoted DEI. That was closely followed by efforts to clarify that diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to the organization’s mission (64%) and to address ways systemic bias impacts issues addressed by the organization (63%).

Most of the reported training topics focused on learning about systemic or structural issues such as understanding terms (68%), implicit bias (63%), understanding structural racism (58%), and white privilege (52%). Far fewer respondents said they were part of trainings on topics such as recruiting diverse staff (31%) or racial trauma/healing (18%).

SUBSCRIBE FREE – Keep current with the Wednesday Report emailed to you free each week. Click here.
Got news, advice, resources? Send it to