June 15, 2020

How to Move Toward Greater Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

The exercise was simple. Divide into groups of three. Two people talk and exclude the third person who seeks to join the conversation.
I chatted with Ginny. Clarence pushed to join us. He reminded me of a child begging for attention—he wouldn’t take no for an answer. The more he asked for “in,” the stronger my conviction that I possessed something of value with Ginny. My brain fired belonging and power, and it felt good.
We switched.
I became the outsider. Clarence and Ginny chatted.
I approached and said, “Hi.”
They nodded and continued their conversation, slowly moving shoulder-to-shoulder, placing their backs toward me.
After a few more half-hearted attempts to join them, embarrassed and vulnerable, I stepped back. With my arms folded over my chest and waited for the leader to call time.

Real Life Now

You encountered a barrage of words and images about equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the past months. Some are searingly beautiful. Perhaps you wrote the statement now posted on your nonprofit’s website front page.
Words are important, and the process of writing words—when it involves searching your soul—useful.
Yet, words, no matter how prominently posted, won’t suffice.
You seek action. You want change. You might even be ready to change.
It is not just police brutality that brings about pain. The behavior of good people, who forget what it’s like to an outsider, cause it, too.
If you share my Anglo background–you were regularly fitted with a virtual reality headset. Adjusting the focus allowed us not to see. It convinced us, we weren’t participating in an unfair system based on race.
If you were from the North, like I am, the problem was those terrible people down in Alabama and Mississippi. (If you’re from the South, roll your eyes here.)
No matter where we are from, our virtual reality headsets fit so well we didn’t know we wore them. That is until the video of George Floyd’s death blew the sets off.
We see.
We see the tip of the iceberg.

5 Strides in a Million-Step Journey to Move Your Nonprofit Organization Toward Greater Inclusion

This article has already extended beyond my five-minute goal reading. I hope you will indulge me a few minutes more to read some brief recommendations on what you might do to make manifest the words posted on so many websites.

1. See More

For a decade, you’ve answered questions about diversity in a positive light, often to get funding. Instead of doing it for others, assess yourself for your leadership. Where have you been successful? What’s falling short? Where have you said “hi,” and turned your back to outsiders? When have you been accessible? How will you build on your success?

Implicit Bias Testing-used Got bias? You bet. Project Implicit “is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.” This link allows you to choose between a dozen or so bias tests, everything from skin tone to the “link between liberal arts and females and between science and males.”

How to Use: Ask your staff or board to pick one and take it. What did they find out? Great as a discussion starter.

2. Establish Your Baseline

Run some numbers: how diverse is your board, staff, customers, and volunteers? How do these numbers compare to the community you serve? Here’s a link to the Census data.
Before you begin your discussions, establish some common vocabulary words.  Here’s a realistic list of seventeen words.

3. Become a Student

Watching and reading lists abound. Most are overwhelming. As you study, review what other nonprofits are doing. (If you’d like my recommendation on a list of what to watch, read, or nonprofits to consider, email me.) To begin, start with Caste

4. Establish a Strategy, Specific Goals, and Methods

Improving diversity has been on the radar of nonprofits for decades. Either your current strategy works, or it’s time to design a new way to win. Once you set your strategy, establish your targets, and plan your tactics. Read Nonprofit Strategic Planning 101 for my overview on strategy.

5. Act and Evaluate

You can do it. While you won’t change 400 years of history tomorrow, you can change you. You can work on the culture in your organization. Once you’ve been at if for a year, take a look back. Let me know how it goes, and thank you for your steps into the unknown.

Consider reading a book together or participating in the YWCA South Florida, 21 Day Challenge. This Challenge offers daily bight-size pieces of information  helpful, not overwhelming information. Look for next years event after the first of the New Year.Would you like to know more about constructing a strategy to meet diversity or other goals? If yes, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you create your master plan so you can achieve more of your mission.

More Resources

Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are on your agenda, even if you didn’t place it there. You face pressure from funders, donors, staff, and board members to move forward on social justice. Not only that, many nonprofit leaders I speak to embrace that greater DEI is overdue–that it’s the right thing to do.
Few roadmaps to get there exists. And, given all you need to juggle, it can be daunting even to know where to begin.
This collection of resources invites you to get underway and continue your journey. Discover:
Do you have a specific issue you’d like to tackle? Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
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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