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June 14, 2021
Nonprofits Prioritize Diversity, but Only 21% Have a Strategy

May 1, 2021 — While 63% of nonprofit organizations made adjustments to prioritize or reprioritize diversity objectives, programs, and/or initiatives in the past year, only 21% currently have a formal diversity strategy, according to a recently completed survey.

According to the 2021 Nonprofit Diversity Practices Survey, conducted by Nonprofit HR, 43% of 675 responding organizations across North American, indicated that their organization explicitly states that diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) is a core value. However, only 19% have a formal budget for DEI initiatives.

Fifty-three percent of survey respondents said their organization reflects the community it serves, while 47% it did not.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said their organization has no diversity statement, strategy, or budget.

Among those with a formal diversity strategy, 23% of respondents said the desire to improve organizational results was the primary driver for creating. Ten percent cited stakeholder expectations, and 7% cited the “need to improve internal diversity of thought.” Three percent said improving talent retention was the principal reason for adopting a formal diversity strategy.

DEI efforts spearheaded by leadership are more common (41%), followed by the president, executive director, or CEO (30%), and the human resources or talent management (14%).

“As more energy and momentum generate around this topic, executive leaders are making decisions on where they fit in the process. In some spheres, the issue of inequity in the workplace has become a crisis of operations and sustainability,” the report noted. “Many leaders in the nonprofit sector might see their place as being at the helm, leading those efforts directly and with the same consistent approach that has successfully navigated crises in the past.

“There will be organizations that find a meaningful change with this approach, but for others, it may be necessary for an experienced executive leader to play a different role as their organization’s strategy becomes more focused on DEI.”

Survey respondents signaled that the following were the following diversity challenges apply to their organizations:

  • Obtaining and/or maintaining diversity at senior leadership levels: 68%
  • Obtaining and/or maintaining diversity on the board: 68%
  • Establishing accountability for diversity objectives, initiatives, or programs: 54%
  • Obtaining leadership buy-in on the importance of diversity: 23%

Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said their organizations offer general diversity training, with 32% reporting that their organizations do not offer any diversity training.

To measure progress of diversity efforts and initiatives, 43% of respondents said their organization implemented race/gender/age and/or diverse ability metrics; 17% adopted retention metrics; and 44% had not implemented any diversity metrics.

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