For a company to reach its full potential, it needs to have as many different voices in the room as possible. Diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives (DEI) are an important part of achieving this goal, but it can be difficult to know where to start and how to get it done right. This can be especially tricky for nonprofit organizations with limited resources.
To help, we asked the members of Forbes Nonprofit Council what steps nonprofit leaders can take to cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion into the daily operations of their organizations. Their best answers are below.
1. Practice What You Preach
Make sure that your talk matches your walk. Get into the weeds and review not just your company policies for equitable treatment, but view your daily operational practices with a racial equity lens. Showing diversity on company web pages and in advertisements is one thing, but demonstrating diversity, equity and inclusion through what you do every day speaks volumes. – Kimberly Lewis, Goodwill Industries of East Texas, Inc.
2. Audit Your Organization And Its Leadership
To accelerate DEI, conduct an audit, scrutinizing yourself and the organization’s leadership. How have staff and board volunteers advanced? How accountable is leadership for DEI initiatives? Beyond just checking boxes on age, ethnicity and gender, create recruitment and retention strategies that promote impartiality, fairness and justice. Enrich your organization with a wide range of traits. – Thomas Bognanno, Community Health Charities
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3. Target Specific Outcomes
Nonprofit leaders must target real, specific and tangible outcomes in order to see real progress in their organization’s DEI initiatives. It’s helpful to initially gain staff perspectives of what “success” looks like, and then unapologetically put focus and leverage where necessary to bring those outcomes to life. – Arthur Mills IV, New Teacher Center
4. Focus On The Three P’s
Focus on the three P’s: people, purchasing and philanthropy. Hiring diverse staff and asking key partners about their hiring track record will help diverse candidates get and retain jobs. Focusing your purchasing on companies led by diverse owners will ensure that local businesses grow and thrive. Focusing philanthropy on helping communities in need will provide support to those most in need. – Peter Taylor, ECMC Foundation
5. Encourage Team Members To Share Experiences
Encourage honest sharing of microaggressions that happen everyday of which most people are unaware. Provide regular reminders that language is important. Regularly review recognition of employee values that address diversity and inclusion. – Cari Cho, Cornerstone Montgomery
6. Ask Your Staff For Feedback
Nonprofit leaders should solicit suggestions directly from their staff. Employees typically talk amongst themselves about the things they wish leadership would do to make the organization more equitable and inclusive, but often feel intimidated about offering their insights. Proactively soliciting employees’ feedback will go a long way toward modeling inclusion while also improving operations. – Yolanda Watson Spiva, Complete College America, Inc.
7. Make Space For Employee Voices
Make space for the voices of employees. Start by acknowledging that your company needs to do better and that it will likely involve a great deal of unlearning. Then, invite members of your team to share their own stories and make time for everyone to listen. Once employees realize how some of their coworkers have been personally impacted, they will begin to understand the systemic nature of racism. – Tammy McLeod, Flinn Foundation
8. Check Your Blind Spots
Before you act, check your unconscious biases and blind spots. We all have them and are very unaware. Consider culture beyond the often quick definition of geography, race or gender. There are many other facets of diversity. Be curious and always listen for innovation and creativity. As a leader, model that curiosity. And finally, act! – Magdalena Nowicka Mook, ICF (International Coach Federation)
9. Engage Leaders Across The Organization
An important step to take would be to engage leaders. Across the organization, leaders should create a collective DEI strategy that will be used organization-wide. – Charles A. Archer, One Hope United
10. Be Consistent In Your Efforts
Consistency creates credibility all the time, not just when topics are in the headlines. Make communication of pathways to engagement and opportunity a consistent part of public, stakeholder and sponsor communication. Have committees and volunteers who can engage this topic and provide critical feedback. The largest room in the world is room for improvement. – Aaron Alejandro, Texas FFA Foundation
11. Infuse DEI Into Every Aspect Of Your Organization
Diversity, equity and inclusion must be in our DNA and therefore omnipresent in all program work. As nonprofits enact internal changes on DEI, we must infuse these perspectives in every aspect of our program design and implementation. As a global education nonprofit, we are aware that a failure to embrace DEI in our children’s books, for example, would be a failure against our mission. – Geetha Murali, Room to Read
12. Examine Your Hiring Policies
First, take a look at your hiring and procurement policies. An organization’s staff should be representative of the population it serves, especially within leadership roles. Also, make sure your HR policies promote advancement for everyone in the organization. Finally, reach out to organizations that have already embraced diversity and ask for support. – Alejandra Guzman, New Orleans Business Alliance
13. Hire Diverse Vendors And Consultants
As nonprofit leaders, we must strengthen our ability to recruit, promote and retain exemplary, diverse staff and leadership. Another way is to hire a diverse pool of vendors and consultants. – Simone Joye, Howard University Medical Alumni Association (HUMAA)
14. Know Your Numbers
What is the makeup of your organization? Don’t assume you have an accurate view of that because of who you know or interact with. Really look into the numbers and slice and dice them in many ways to not use them defensively or to justify how well you’re doing on DEI, but to know how you need to change and it’s very likely you will need to change. Most of us and our organizations do! – Carolyn Hart, JSI Research and Training Institute
15. Get Support From Your Board
It is important for nonprofit leaders to solicit and obtain support for DEI initiatives from their board. The board can provide conceptual clarity to the staff, reinforce the importance of DEI efforts by budgeting for them and frame how these organizational initiatives contribute to the health and well-being of the larger surrounding community. – Christopher Washington, Franklin University
16. Vocalize Your Support For DEI As A Leader
At a time when the very fabric of our society is being challenged, nonprofit leaders have a strong role to play in lifting up communities by fostering inclusive, equitable workplaces. In addition to ensuring diverse hiring practices, leaders can vocalize their support on a daily basis and create space for employees to voice their concerns often. Employees must feel valued in their workplace. – Carrie Rich, The Global Good Fund