I can’t be racist, sexist or biased because I am a good person! Sound familiar?
We in the United States all grew up in a white, patriarchal social system which is racist and sexist. We are thus all racist, sexist, gender biased, ableist, classist and religiously biased to some extent. We don’t like to admit this, yet that is the first step in looking at creating a healthy, diverse environment within your nonprofit. Doing so impacts how your charity organization is seen in our society by prospective donors and employees. How cohesively your fundraising team works effects everything – how much you raise and how quickly and effectively you grow your programs.
Why is Non-profit Diversity and Inclusion Important?
Nonprofits with a diverse staff, board and donor and volunteer base tend to be more successful than groups who are mostly alike. Diversity brings fresh experience which lends creativity and innovation in thought and nonprofit programs. While it may be uncomfortable at times to work with diverse board members and staff, the benefits outweigh the efforts.
Nonprofit and charitable organizations whose goal is to make the world a better place hold a moral and social responsibility for inclusion. There is no question of the importance of equity and confronting discrimination within nonprofit environments. We all need to unlearn our biases and don’t like to admit it. Prejudices or assumptions about others can be unlearned.
Oppression and discrimination is defined by the unjust treatment of people because they don’t fit our social structure. Nonprofits deny gender diversity issues, yet they exist at many nonprofits. Women and gender oppressed people may not speak up. Nonprofit leaders may resist addressing this. You may need to find partners within your organization to help you in bringing the topic to the table.
45% of our society today in the United States are black or Hispanic. If your nonprofit does not know how to manage equity, diversity and inclusion it will be less successful. White supremacy is a fact in the US. In order to grow and compete with successful nonprofits, addressing racism is truly of importance.
How Can Your Nonprofit Embrace Equity, Diversity and Inclusion?
Nonprofit leaders need to understand their privilege. They are then in a position to lead their charity organization in addressing equity, diversity and inclusion. They may not want to because they have benefited from this through better jobs, more power and pay. Hiring a non-profit diversity consultant can be the next step to help them so they can help their nonprofit organization.
Equity and equality are two different things. Addressing the individual needs of members of your nonprofit allows volunteers, donors and employees to get what they need. Addressing a group of color or gender as the same does not allow for this. Assuming all women or all black people have the same thoughts and needs is another form of inequity. Through a diversity expert, the leaders and supervisors of your nonprofit introduce such conversation between employees and leaders. Group facilitation is helpful so team members can hear each other. Bring diverse members of your nonprofit to an equal playing field.
Discuss incidents of bias in relation to your non-profit. Allowing specific stories of racial and gender bias to be known help your nonprofit to learn and become more effective in fundraising and carrying out your mission. Talk about how transgender behaviors interrupt the status quo. There is no shame in how we grew up, yet silence or failure to act is discriminatory and may be harmful to your co-workers and overall mission.
Many nonprofits say they cannot afford to hire diversity facilitation. Yet often they can and are resistant to the idea. And some nonprofits will find it difficult to pay for this. Partnering with other organizations in hiring facilitation is a way to reduce the cost. It also points the finger less at your organization, and brings it to a broader societal level. All organizations struggle with equity, diversity and inclusion issues. Learning from each other is very helpful when nonprofits join. Also, look for funding. While it is limited and needs to offered at a greater level, funding exists for diversity facilitation.
Realize that your nonprofit will be celebrated for having an inclusive gender and race environment. The difficulties you face and hard work you do in embracing issues of equity, diversity and inclusion will be seen by your donors, volunteers, staff and society. Know that confronting equity, diversity and inclusion in your nonprofit creates a more cohesive environment which impacts fundraising. Here are some ideas to help your non-profit embrace diversity:
- Seek out board members from diverse backgrounds. A wide range of diversity, equity and inclusion perspectives are critical to effective nonprofit leadership. Women, people of color and gender diversity all have unique experiences and different areas of expertise.
- Hire a diversity expert to facilitate classes, groups and individual interviews.
- If your leadership is resistant to address equity, diversity and inclusion, find partners within your nonprofit to start educating your nonprofit organization through books on diversity, online lectures and discussions.
- Actively seek acceptance and inclusion within your nonprofit staff by holding potlucks where everyone brings a dish from their childhood. Hold retreats where appreciating nature is the main goal and finding what team members have in common. Hold free pizza luncheons to have fun and sing karaoke. or hear lectures on interesting topics like nutrition, green energy, humor and much more.
- Add a section to your nonprofit website on equity, diversity and inclusion. Place video lectures on racism, sexism, gender bias, ableism, classism and religious bias. Add names of books and ebooks. Add contact information as to who to turn to for help and support on matters of equity.
Mistakes are inevitable when you start making changes and are learning. Be open to feedback and listen to any concerns regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. Learn together how to have an equitable environment, and never stop being open to learning.
Each nonprofit has a unique situation. Yet we know that all nonprofits have issues of racism, sexism and bias. Oppression is a part of our society and nonprofits cannot escape this. Consider it a lifelong learning process to address issues of diversity at your nonprofit. Enter this mission with an open mind and accept help from experts in equity, diversity and inclusion.
We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. – Anais Nin