Diversity encompasses many variables. In many, it prompts the notion of gender, ethnic, racial, religious and/or sexual orientation. Increasing diversity on a board, however, may translate to bringing in people from different fields or professions, or with different skills and expertise, as well as different ages, life experience and level(s) of education. All of this extends the notion of diversity.
A. What diversity encompasses. When people interviewed for this project talked about diversity,they commonly meant one or more of the following:
- How aging boards could find younger professionals who will become the future leaders.
- How grassroots boards could find high net worth people who will make substantial gifts, as well as bring on their friends and peers with "deep pockets."
- How a board comprised primarily of white professionals could identify and recruit professionals of color to serve on the board.
B. Keys to diversifying the board. There are three key elements that contribute to successfully making a board more diverse:
- Develop a clear understanding of the specific reasons for increasing the diversity of the board, and how the skills and talents of the board members brought in will be meaningfully utilized and engaged.
- Find qualified board members outside of their natural peer group. This is most challenging when considering how hard it is for many organizations to find qualified board members of any background.
- Create a welcoming environment that will allow people from different backgrounds to participate fully.
C. Consider the following questions for discussion on diversifying the
Are you looking for individuals who are more reflective of the people served by the organization? A classic example of this is where a historically philanthropic, benevolent board governs an organization that focuses on an underserved population. Seeking new, more locally-oriented board members will bring more informed, experienced voices to the work of guiding agency policy, and serve to more effectively represent the people served.
Are you seeking fresh perspectives as a way to enrich the board's deliberations? Some boards become too homogeneous and that can hinder both their effectiveness as well as their potential to grow and strengthen the organization.
Will you hold all board members to the same set of outreach and financial expectations?
What does the board need to do to successfully welcome people from different backgrounds, particularly when they are joining a board that is overly uniform in membership or has long established working and social relationships? The board need to understand its existing culture and be open to change in order to accommodate different perspectives and ways of working.
Click here for Creating a Healthy Board Culture
D. Recruiting people of different backgrounds. The following are suggestions for ways a board can pursue diversification by reaching out to specialized constituencies.
E. Sources of Board Candidates To go beyond the friends and associates of current board members consider some of the following sources of potential board members:
- Online resources such as BoardnetUSA.org
- Employee affinity groups
- Associations (e.g. the National Association of Black Journalists, etc.)
- Service organizations (e.g. Rotary, etc.)
For ideas about recruiting specific kinds of individuals:
Click here for Resources for Recruiting New Board Members
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