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The Vibrant Nonprofit

Diversity can be something we must address or it can be something we choose to address because of its significant strategic value. When strategic value is the motivation, diversity becomes a competitive advantage for attracting clients, staff members, board members, and support of all types.

One of the reasons that it has taken a long time to demographically diversify many organizations is that is hard for people to surround themselves with people who are different. Those with a different personality, value system, or worldview can be harder to accept than those who are demographically different. The traditional view of diversity is important for social and political reasons. The other forms of diversity have significant practical, strategic, and competitive value.

Each individual adds a richness, flair, and benefits to an organization regardless of how they connect to the organization. Those contributions are independent of the individual’s gender, ethnicity, or other demographics. When the individuals are carefully chosen, they enhance the vibrancy of an organization.

Being strategically diverse is more than just echoing the diversity of your community. Let us assume that the executive is a sober individual who likes to be surrounded by other sober individuals. It is hard to imagine that nonprofit having a playful fundraiser or taking a risk on a bold new idea. It is also hard to imagine that nonprofit having a creative or bold marketing department, appealing to youth or young adults, or an early adopter of new techniques and technology.

It is easy to know who to hire to meet your demographic-diversity goals. If X% of your community is one ethnic group, it makes sense to have about X% of your stakeholders (staff, volunteers, board members, donors ,etc.) representing that group. Since it is statistically based, it is easy for one person to handle.

Non-demographic diversity takes more work. Look strategically at your nonprofit and decide what attributes are going to be most helpful to your plans. It is also necessary to determine which level (leadership or staff) and which area (accounting, fundraising, etc.) needs which attributes. It is best to use a team to make those decisions. Using a cross section of the staff will help to ensure that you can identify the best mix of attributes (risk acceptance, creativity, empathy, etc.) and skills (finance, technology, marketing, leadership, etc.). Since teams interact with other departments and external entities, the diversity requirements must strengthen your entire nonprofit. In addition, you are engaging stakeholders (staff, volunteers, donors, referral sources, advocates, etc.) you hope to keep for years, therefore choose candidates who will help create your foundation for future activity and add to your nonprofit’s sustainability.

Next Step:

Commit your nonprofit to all of the dimensions of diversity

Determine which attributes will add to the vibrancy of your nonprofit each time there is an opening for a new stakeholder

Use the change in your nonprofit’s ability to compete (for staff members, volunteers, donors, advocates, and referral sources) as an indicator of the effectiveness of your diversity program

All of your stakeholders contribute to the strength, competitiveness, and sustainability of your nonprofit. It makes sense for each group to be as diverse as possible.

Demographic diversity is never enough but the desire to be diverse makes it easier to find the individuals who will make your nonprofit vibrant as long as you are willing to hire someone who truly brings diversity to your nonprofit. Increasing your vibrancy will increase your nonprofit’s sustainability and competitive capabilities. It will also make it easier to serve your clients’ growing diversity of needs.

Take It Further:

Ask your board development committee to commit to make the board diverse in thinking, experience, attitude, and demographics

Hold your board and management accountable for improving the diversity of your nonprofit

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