Building Diversity to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Nonprofit Board of Directors

Your board of directors is an important asset. These individuals are a key factor in guiding the direction and growth of an organization by making key decisions that define its mission, vision, and culture. Naturally, the individuals who make up the board should be chosen with care, and experts agree that diversity – in gender, ethnicity, backgrounds, age, and abilities – is one key to ensuring effectiveness by bringing multiple viewpoints and experiences to the process.

So, what does it take to build and maintain a strong and effective board? According to Leading with Intent, the most successful boards are thoughtfully created around skill sets, leadership styles, and diversity of thought and background.

To create your most effective board, consider the following:

Identify candidates who have the specific skills your nonprofit needs to fulfill its mission.

Strong community ties, a personal connection with those you serve, or financial or legal expertise, are examples of specific skills that can positively impact the strategic direction of a nonprofit. While the goal is to create diversity among board members, you should still have a strategy in mid for what makes a passionate, committed board member. For example, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide meals to those in need may seek someone who has played an active role in a local food pantry or soup kitchen rather than a local chef. Or, for a nonprofit that serves physically disabled individuals, including a board member with a physical disability will provide personal perspective that only he or she can give. Choose candidates that are passionate about what they do AND about what your organization does, to enhance their contributions.

Your board should reflect the diversity of the community it serves.

If not, the signal that sends to the external world about who your organization is and what it values won’t align with your mission. Creating a diverse board with individuals of different genders, races, backgrounds, and experiences will allow your nonprofit to draw from a greater network within your community. Stagnation can occur when many board members overlap in experience and similar social networks, and that could put your organization at risk. The more outlooks you have at the table, the greater the insights your board will be able to draw on as they make decisions and the more confidence the individuals you serve will have that their interests are being considered.

Age diversity matters as well.

Technology has become embedded in every aspect of your lives, especially in business. Consider younger members who bring a deep understanding of modern technology and digital communication to the table. Those who have grown up in the computer and social media era can bring a unique set of solutions to problems. Also, these board members may be better able to relate to the issues facing a younger demographic. Younger members also bring with them their own, unique sphere of influence that will expand the reach and promotion of the nonprofit through the community at large.

Diversity may not be easy to achieve or maintain. Matters of race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, and gender identity, for example, may lead to challenging discussions or vastly different views. However, differing viewpoints will provide an essential opportunity for everyone at the table to come together, to build a greater level of respect for the diversity of those you serve, and to gain a deeper understanding of the issues before them, ultimately strengthening your organization.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Sara O’Neil @ sara@accreditationguru.com / 414.573.9287.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

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