Plants of different colors sprouting from the ground

Illustration generated by DALL·E

Samantha Novak

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Samantha Novak
Fall 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

The nonprofit sector is not the first or last entity shifting through the issue of impactful diversity, inclusion and equity within its organizations. However, the role that leadership plays in ensuring the success of creating lasting impact to its beneficiaries and stakeholders through accurate representation of demographics is still to be seen. Board diversity is an essential tool in broadening the impact of DEI in the nonprofit sector.

Board representation

Nonprofit boards currently hold an average of 80% of members representing white men. Looking at the overall demographics of the United States, which has grown considerably over the past ten years in diversity, accurate representation between nonprofit boards and the rest of the United States does not match. As nonprofits are in the business of seeking change within various populations, diversification within leadership in order to ensure the best outcomes of goals for all population demographics comes with the need for additional characteristics within its members.

A diverse board provides additional expertise

Having board members who are able to provide expertise on the issues and needs of the organization’s beneficiaries will create a better depiction of the best practices needed to fill those needs. Board members who have shared experiences as beneficiaries provides an added element of knowledge on how to best serve said population. Board members are to be experts in their field. Adding the element of knowledge regarding a range of demographics and consistencies that go along with the diverse population served adds an additional resource through board expertise.

There is a positive correlation between a diverse perspective with board members and producing an inclusive environment

Recognition between a community and those who are pursuing beneficial change requires the understanding of accurate needs and engagement tactics to produce broader knowledge on positive outcomes. When the knowledge of how to deliver the best work and serve a community through understanding cultural practices, demographic challenges and other intricacies that correlate with diverse populations, the reach of expertise becomes impactful.
Diversity increases productivity.

Boards with higher percentages of female members have seen an increase in fundraising performance and engagement than its high male volume boards. Additionally, with an increase in both gender and racial diversity amongst members, board reputation has been seen to improve in organizations across the nonprofit sector. Those who bring the aspect of diversity increase the influence that board members hold within an organization.

Nonprofit performance increases with a board’s high regard for the field being impacted

Board knowledge and expertise are an additional resource for nonprofits seeking best practices for programming. Having members who hold a high regard to any field that holds relation to the organization’s mission will increase the resources available, and in turn, drive the organization to host successful outcomes based on knowledgeable experiences. A committed board that supports and provides assistance to the nonprofits they serve is attributed to nonprofit success.

Board diversity is more than just ensuring that the leadership team reflects the call to action on DEI within the nonprofit sector. It provides an accurate representation to those who are impacted the most by the mission and goals of the organization the board oversees. Leadership has the ability to hold significant influence over a group of people. By having a diverse board, the impact of DEI representation starts at the top. As diversity continues to increase across the country, nonprofits must match the call for DEI. Starting with leadership, the impact of diversity will be the norm of need and influence in nonprofit success.

Samantha Novak is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. After being raised in Kansas City, she pursued her undergraduate degree at Missouri State University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Linguistics. After four years in the nonprofit sector, she returned to Kansas City to work as the director of communications at the Guadalupe Centers Charter School district, whose mission is to educate and empower our school community by providing rigorous and engaging academic and cultural experiences.

Learn more by enrolling in the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate from the ASU Lodestar Center’s Nonprofit Management Institute. This is an exclusive learning and networking experience just for executive directors, senior-level managers and emerging executives of nonprofit and public organizations. Gain the confidence, skills and networks you need to successfully lead your organization into the future. Scholarships are available.