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On the Road to Diversity: Is Delaware Nonprofit Leadership Reflective of the Community?

photo of Sheila Bravo

Sheila Bravo, President & CEO
DANA (Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement)

What does diversity mean for a nonprofit’s board and leadership? Diversity reflects many different characteristics that can include gender, age, race, ethnicity, education, professional experience, physical disabilities, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. Diversity will be specific to an individual organization based on its mission, the community in which it operates, and the people that it serves.

In 2022 DANA, the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement, began surveying Delaware’s nonprofit boards to explore how reflective they are of their communities, and to compare local information with the available national data. The results show an improvement in the degree of racial diversity at the board level since 2014, however, Delaware’s nonprofit leadership are still predominantly white, despite increasing diversity within our communities. Some local communities’ stakeholders are still vastly underrepresented on nonprofit boards. The study explores racial diversity, along with other characteristics such as age, gender, and even where board members live compared to the communities they serve. 

Delaware board and executive nonprofit leadership diversity profiles are similar to the national average as reported by studies from BoardSource (Leading with Intent, 2021) and Building Movement Project (2020).  Their reports reflect minimal progress in diversifying nonprofit boards and advancing people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) into leadership positions.

Although many factors influence board and leadership diversity, there are practices that can improve the diversity composition of nonprofit boards and their leadership over time. 

What practices are nonprofits employing to improve board and leadership diversity?

Delaware’s nonprofits are at different stages in implementing their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices. Those nonprofits who have been working on enhancing their DEI policies for more than five years do have more diverse boards of directors and more leaders of color.

Regular reporting on progress with recruitment and retention of diverse board and staff, identifying networks of diverse individuals while building relationships, supporting staff of color in their leadership development, and providing opportunities for engagement with the nonprofit’s programs are just some of the beginning steps nonprofit leadership can take. 

For those nonprofits further along in their journey, DANA provides an online assessment, developed by Michigan Nonprofit Association, which can give a snapshot of an organization’s DEI practices. This will help nonprofits understand their progress in furthering policies and practices.  The results can be incorporated into recommended changes for strategic and operational planning.

With time and continued study, we hope to better understand all the ways nonprofits are engaging to create diverse, inclusive, and equitable boards and organizational cultures across the First State.

[DANA DEI Report 2022]

Article originally published in the Delaware Business Times.