Nonprofit Boards Still Not Diverse, Report Finds

Nonprofit Boards Still Not Diverse, Report Finds

Nonprofit boards are no more diverse than they were two years ago and do not seem to be prioritizing diversity in their recruitment practices, a report from BoardSource finds.

Based on a survey of nearly eighteen hundred foundation and public charity CEOs and board chairs, the report, Leading With Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (64 pages, PDF), found that 90 percent of CEOs and board chairs and 84 percent of board members were white, compared with 89 percent, 90 percent, and 80 percent in the 2015 survey, while 27 percent of the boards in the survey were entirely white, up from 25 percent in 2015. The figures have improved little since BoardSource's first survey on the issue in 1994, and while 65 percent of CEOs and 41 percent of board chairs expressed dissatisfaction with the racial/ethnic diversity of their current boards, only 24 percent (CEOs) and 25 percent (board chairs) said demographics were a high priority in board recruitment.

"These are really, really disappointing findings," BoardSource president Anne Wallestad told the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "You would hope that we would have made much more progress in the past twenty years than we have."

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett and Ford foundations, the study also found that 30 percent of CEOs and 35 percent of board chairs listed the board leadership pipeline among the top three areas needing improvement, after fundraising (67 percent and 64 percent) and outreach and ambassadorship (43 percent and 42 percent); that board members' understanding of an organization's programs is linked to stronger engagement, strategy, and leadership, including fundraising; that boards that assess their performance regularly perform better on core responsibilities such as developing and implementing a strategic plan; and that CEOs and board chairs agree that boards have an impact on organizational performance.

"Leading With Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices." BoardSource Report 09/06/2017. Drew Lindsay. "Diversity Among Nonprofit Leaders Still a Long Way Off, Report Says." Chronicle of Philanthropy 09/06/2017.