Racial Reckoning in Nonprofit

Beginning in 2020, America suffered its most recent and transparent racial reckoning, as the simultaneous pandemics of racism and COVID fueled mass movements calling for justice across our country. Through the efforts of communities of color on the ground, with Black Lives Matter setting the direction and pace, Americans could not hide (at least for a short time period) from the consequences of a country built on anti-Blackness, exploitation, and a “divide-and-conquer” orientation. In response to these uprisings, some white people and white-led organizations announced their intent to share power with people of color.

This effect was particularly pronounced in the nonprofit sector. Activists and organizers – and then donors and influencers – demanded that the nonprofit sector account for the gap between those who these organizations served, and those who actually made the decisions about how to serve. Consequently, after years of neglect at diversifying their leadership, nonprofit boards began demanding diverse candidate slates and hiring CEOs of color. This effort is to be appreciated and applauded — if these organizations are able to attract, support, and retain these leaders. However, early evidence suggests that board support for leaders of color who succeed white leaders is markedly different and deficient, potentially causing harm to organizations and individuals. 

A core research group, including VGA Consultancy, proposes to answer the following questions through quantitative and qualitative statistically significant research. 

● What are the gaps between the desire of nonprofit boards to have racially diverse leadership, and how they respond to racially diverse leadership once hired? 

● Based on the gaps identified, what recommendations or resources will support board members and leaders of color to make better choices during the executive transition process? 

The research aims to inform decision-makers in nonprofits, CEOs and potential CEOs of color, executive search firms, and those that work with nonprofits in the area of organizational development and staffing. 

● Boards of nonprofit organizations that have been white-led seeking to hire their first CEO of color will have steps that help to create an environment conducive to new, diverse leadership to accomplish the change they seek to better deliver on their missions. 

● Potential CEOs of color (especially for nonprofit organizations that have been white-led) can initiate conversations with search committees to assess the working environment. 

● Executive search firms will have a resource when working with nonprofit boards that are seeking their first leader of color. 

● Diversity, equity, and inclusion/organizational consultants will be able to incorporate these research findings as they advise on staffing, leadership, and organizational transitions. 
Reach out if you want to join us!   

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