Essay on Diversity: Management and Building Diverse Board

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Words: 7358
Pages: 30

Organizational development and fundraising professionals, as well as board volunteers, have the opportunity to cross boundaries that divide people in other sectors. Whether we view this opportunity with apprehension or enthusiasm depends on our heritage, experiences, beliefs, and vision. Historically, nonprofit boards have offered limited opportunities to develop diverse leadership.

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Beyond representation: Building diverse board leadership teams
Maria Gitin
OVER THE YEARS ,

dialogue on board diversification has evolved from focus on the importance of representing constituents, to
“doing the right thing,” which is characterized by opponents as
“political correctness,” to the current widely held view that a nondiverse board is missing key potential donors and opinion leaders.
Diverse leaders can expand knowledge, create new resources, and open doors to partnerships necessary to fulfill an organization’s mission. Recommended strategies for board diversification must be understood in the context of the deeply divided society of the
United States. Although North American cultural issues are the result of a unique history, most elements of diversity planning will apply in other countries as well. By the year 2015 the nonwhite portion of the U.S. population is expected to increase to 30 percent

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR PHILANTHROPIC FUNDRAISING, NO. 34, WINTER 2001 © WILEY PERIODICALS, INC.

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DIVERSITY IN THE FUNDRAISING PROFESSION

(Changing Our World, 2001). In many communities, including large areas of California, the nonwhite population is already at
50 percent (Changing Our World, 2000).
Despite heroic efforts on the part of diverse public and nonprofit sector leaders and their allies, gaps between rich and poor, and between people of color and whites, have increased over the past decade: • Poverty rates for full-time U.S. workers have stayed constant in the past two decades while wealth concentration in the uppermost tiers of income has increased (Changing Our World, 2001).
• Although Hispanic males have the highest labor force participation of any ethnic group, according to a March 9, 2000, report by the National Council on La Raza, the number of low-income
Hispanic households has doubled in the past twenty years
(Pementel, 2002).
• The African American unemployment rate was reported at
9 percent, compared with 5.6 percent for the overall population, in
January 2002 (Hunt, 2002).
• The financial wealth of the top 1 percent of households now exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 95 percent (Wolff,
1998).
• As of 1997, the net worth of white families was eight times that of African Americans and twelve times that of Hispanics
(Wolff, 1998).
• A study of intergroup relations conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates (2000, p. ix) reports that “[o]nly 29% of respondents are satisfied with how well different groups in society get along with each other and that 75% feel that racial, religious and ethnic tension is a very serious or somewhat serious problem.”
• The National Asian Pacific American League ( [2002]) documented more than 250 hate crime incidents toward Asians since
September 11, 2001, the date of attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., buildings that left 2,800 people dead. In all cases where there were witnesses, the perpetrators mistook the victims for Arabs.

BUILDING DIVERSE BOARD LEADERSHIP TEAMS

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Despite the discouraging data, many nonprofit thinkers believe that our sector must take the lead in pluralism. Public tax-exempt status, nonprofit missions and their fulfillment and the success of programs depend in great part on the success of inclusion. Diversification is key to keeping the social sector relevant and sustainable. The social sector is also a potentially potent counterforce to the prevailing corporate and military domination of public and political thought. In the social sector creative responses to poverty,…