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Aug 8, 2022
Posted Under: DEI President's letter

In June, we debuted our From Bias to Belonging℠ services and stated again our commitment to talking about and doing something about the very real challenges of diversity, equity, and belonging in the nonprofit sector. Indeed, every day in some way we are dedicated to looking deeper, to asking more questions, to listening more, and to learning more. That is our path, and this is the work – to take the lessons learned, turn them into new goals that stretch us, then achieve them, then tackle the next set, and the next.

At Foraker, we acknowledge that as a capacity builder we must constantly be learning what the data and our experiences tell us while we meet people and missions where they are. We talk internally about our work as both “upstream and downstream.” That means that we can do much “upstream” by engaging in public policy to change the systems and structures and by inspiring essential conversations on diversity and the inequities among nonprofit boards and staff. At the same time, we must continue to work “downstream” by providing services for those who are currently doing the work. And even in the downstream work, we raise issues of racial diversity, gender pay, and other forms of inequity to move the whole sector forward, pairing that with specific and focused From Bias to Belonging services. Indeed, downstream work does not mean quiet acceptance and acquiescence, it means the work toward equity and change starts in a different place.

Much of our approach depends on listening, observing, and understanding all the groups we work alongside. It also depends on turning data into action. When we started this journey, little data existed on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sector. Over time, data multiplied and disturbing trends persisted. Today, exceptional sources of reliable data are available that not only bring us essential information but also deep knowledge of the issues. For example, the research from BoardSource found in their Leading with Intent reports, which started in 1994, has yielded important information on boards that guides our work. Their most recent report, Leading with Intent: Reviewing the State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Nonprofit Boards, highlights three key findings:

  1. Boards may be getting slightly more diverse, but they are far from representing the communities they serve.
  2. Board recruitment practices are not aligned with diversity goals.
  3. Boards that include people of color are more likely to have adopted diversity, equity, and inclusion practices than boards that do not include people of color.

Exceptional data on nonprofit staffing is available from Building Movement Project in their reports Race to Lead and Race to Lead Revisited highlighting the barriers for people of color who aspire to leadership roles in the nonprofit sector. Now they are moving into their third survey, and we want to ensure representation from Alaska nonprofits. We will share details on participating in the survey when it opens on August 22.

There is plenty of data not just from these studies but from others like those below, which report that the nonprofit sector as a whole has much work to do. If you are interested in reading about changes needed in our nonprofit systems and structure, I encourage you to dive into these resources. Much more is available beyond these few options, but this is a way into the conversations. Check out one or all and come back for more.

While we continue to acknowledge that no one way, or one tool, nor a check-box solution exists to keep us on the path toward diversity, equity, and belonging as a sector, we are grateful for the research we do have and the efforts of trusted national organizations that can inform our daily commitment of turning data into action.