January 24, 2018

Grow A More Diverse Board, A Fresh Approach

Increasing board diversity provides opportunities to grow revenue. Besides enhancing grant requests, diversity stimulates revenue growth. It generates:

  • Doors to new donors and income this year
  • Over time, better leadership improves services and enhances branding, which attracts both donors and customers.
  • Most important, but hard to calculate the time frame, fresh ideas that solve challenges.

Since you’re aware of these and other benefits, in all likelihood, you’ve already invested significant efforts to diversify your board. It’s also likely that the results of your efforts fell short of your goals. I hear this over and over again in my work with nonprofit CEOs and boards. What’s more, nonprofit statistics confirm the difficulty of building diverse boards.

Why this disconnect between the aspiration for diversity and the outcomes we generate? Moreover, what can you do differently to achieve better results?

Start at the Beginning

Many board diversity attempts flop because they focus only on filling seats. They ignore the process that creates consistently filled spots: growth in inclusivity. Growing inclusion establishes an environment where people who differ from the majority receive respect, create meaningful connections and involvement. You don’t create a diverse board to build an inclusive organization; you develop an inclusive organization and simultaneously grow a diverse board—inclusion fuels diversity.

Work hard at both board diversity and becoming a more inclusive organization.

Recruit Classes

Many individuals, recruited with diversity in mind, serve one term and disappear. What happens? You ask the recruit to lead, within an already bonded group, who have more in common with each other than the newcomer.

Instead of individuals, recruit a class of new board members, i.e., the class of 2018. Since you want your class active and confident, contributing fresh and possibly divergent ideas (that is, doing the hard work of serving as an excellent board member,) gather them for board training, insider tours, and the like before they serve. Provide pre-service bonding opportunities that build each classes’ power base.

Honest Feedback Loops

A CEO recruits a new board member. The current and exhausted leaders welcome the new member, assign them all the yucky work, and tell them exactly how they must do the tasks. Diversity efforts often flounder because insiders don’t see roadblocks to belonging and contributing that are obvious to newcomers.

Develop trusting relationships with new members, so they tell you what you might not want to hear. You might be able to fix it before you lose them or, at least, stop the cycle.

Grow A More Diverse Board

You embarked on a noble adventure to change the world. Success is possible. The Journal Profiles in Diversity recognized the Girl Scouts for 100 years of diversity. The journal included a quote from Martin Luther King in 1954, identifying the Scouts as a force for desegregation.

You like to work smart, not hard. So you build your diverse board for the long haul by growing inclusion, bringing in groups of new members, and encouraging members to tell you the truth about their experiences. Do this, and you will build your organization’s board diversity and enhance your bottom line.

Call Karen for a free discovery session to explore strategy-based, data-driven actions to grow your revenue, 941-924-4860.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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