Study Finds Disconnect Between Nonprofits' Diversity Goals, Outcomes

Study Finds Disconnect Between Nonprofits' Diversity Goals, Outcomes

There is a disconnect between the importance nonprofits place on diversity and the actual diversity of their staffs, boards, and senior leadership, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds.

Based on survey responses from more than two hundred leaders of nonprofit organizations with annual expenses between $100,000 and $100 million, the report, Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations (38 pages, PDF), found that while 70 percent of respondents believed it was very or extremely important for their staff to be diverse for their organization to achieve its goals, only 36 percent said their staff was very or extremely diverse. Similarly, while 64 percent and 60 percent of nonprofit CEOs said it was very or extremely important for their boards and senior leadership to be diverse, only 22 percent and 17 percent said their boards and senior leadership actually were very or extremely diverse. And while 70 percent, 61 percent, and 26 percent of respondents believed that their organization's full staff, board, and senior leadership should reflect the populations it seeks to serve, only 42 percent, 26 percent, and 23 percent said that was actually the case.

Funded by the Rita Allen and W.K. Kellogg foundations, the report also found that 42 percent of nonprofits said their funders have not discussed diversity issues with them, while 19 percent said they have done so with respect to programmatic work, 5 percent with respect to internal operations, and 34 percent with respect to both. And while 26 percent of respondents said their funders request and/or collect diversity information and 16 percent said their funders focus on or require diversity information as part of a grant, only 21 percent said those funders shared details as to how that information is used. Asked how funders could be most helpful to nonprofits' diversity efforts, 32 percent of respondents said providing more non-monetary support such as sharing best practices or offering training; 27 percent said providing more monetary support; and 17 percent said promoting the importance of diversity efforts in general.

"Since much of the talk among foundations about diversity focuses on grantees, it's vital to capture and lift up the voices of nonprofit leaders to ensure their needs and perspectives on their diversity efforts are heard and understood," said Ellie Buteau, CEP's vice president of research, who led the project. "We hope that this report can be a useful resource for foundation leaders and staff as they consider how they can most helpfully engage with their grantees on the topic of diversity."

"New CEP Research Sheds Light on Nonprofits’ Diversity Efforts." Center for Effective Philanthropy Press Release 07/19/2018. "Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations." Center for Effective Philanthropy Report 07/19/2018.