Governance and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – JFKU

I’ll be presenting on Governance and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy and The College of Law at John F. Kennedy University on Thursday, May 2.

Recent movements have energized the drive towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across our society. Nonprofits have played a major role in these movements, but, as a sector, they have failed to lead by example. A 2017 survey of nearly 1,800 foundations and charities found that 90 percent of CEOs and board chairs and 84 percent of board members were white, figures which are largely the same as those from 20 years ago.

This presentation will focus on why nonprofits and their boards should include the promotion of DEI as a core organizational value, whether promoting DEI is a fiduciary responsibility, how to (and not to) build diversity on the board, and what steps a board can take in promoting DEI in their organizations and in furtherance of their organization’s mission and values.

There are conversations about DEI that we have with like-minded people that are cordial, that reinforce what we think is appropriate to believe in and say, and that make us feel like good people.

There are also conversations about DEI that we have where we discover we’re not so like-minded. Where we learn that we have very different ideas and priorities. Where we find that talking the talk isn’t the same as walking the walk. Where we find ourselves feeling very uncomfortable, and often frustrated, defensive, guilty, sad, and angry. And sometimes we leave those conversations filled with more bitterness than satisfaction.

Those latter conversations don’t seem very appealing and I understand that many of us tend to avoid them. We certainly avoid them at the holidays with family. We often avoid them when hanging out with friends and acquaintances. And we avoid them when we serve on boards of nonprofits. But we need these conversations if things are going to get better.

I hope we’ll start some difficult conversations on Thursday.