When Raychel McBride and Sarah Tapscott contacted Innovate Springfield about an initiative encouraging more diversity on local nonprofit boards, we only had one question. “When do we start?”
The 2017 BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices found that nonprofit boards in the United States were no more diverse than in the previous two years. 90% of both chief executives and board chairs were white, as well as 84% of board members. Only 16% of board members surveyed were people of color, though people of color made up 39% of the population at the time. Also, while many of the chief executives surveyed were dissatisfied with the racial and ethnic diversity of their boards, nearly 20% of them reported that they were not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment strategies.
Raychel McBride, Innovate Springfield member and CEO of Corporate KIN Diversity Consulting, believes deeply in the power of diverse leadership, but also knows that encouraging nonprofits to diversify their boards is only half the battle.
“Not only do we need more diversity on boards, we need businesses that will encourage their employees to serve and share their expertise. This call to action is asking for a commitment from the entire community, both for-profit and non-for profit,” said Raychel.
As a result, Building Board Diversity was born, a collaborative volunteer-led effort between Forefront and the United Way of Central Illinois. As the initiative gained momentum, the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Innovate Springfield, The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce, and Memorial Health System joined the team.
Forefront is an education and advocacy association that supports both nonprofits and grantmakers in Illinois. While the Building Board Diversity Initiative has focused its efforts primarily in Central Illinois, with Forefront as a founder and lead partner, this initiative has potential to impact organizations statewide.
"Building Board Diversity strives to raise awareness within the nonprofit sector of the positive impact that individuals with different perspectives, different lifestyles and different experiences bring to every boardroom table," said Sarah Tapscott, Director of Statewide Partnerships at Forefront. "It makes a board more productive and enhances creative thinking, innovation, and decision making."
How does it all work? It begins with nonprofits taking the pledge to be intentional in their efforts to diversify their boards through education, evaluation, and inclusion. Businesses can also take a pledge to support their employees in seeking out and serving on those boards, whether they are senior employees or new to the team. Nonprofits and businesses who take the pledge will be asked to share the demographics of their boards annually in order to track that change over time. Finally, Building Board Diversity is providing a space for community members to find board opportunities as well as professional development and training opportunities for nonprofits and businesses.
Memorial Health System has joined Building Board Diversity as both the first business and the first nonprofit organization. “Memorial Health System has always believed that high-quality healthcare should be accessible to everyone. We must establish a culture where everyone’s voice can be heard,” said Mitch Rogers, vice president and chief EDI officer for Memorial Health System. “To that end, the work of Building Board Diversity to increase nonprofit board diversity aligns with our goal to help create that culture. We are excited to join with them on their mission.”
“Becoming an inclusive organization that equitably embodies the values and knowledge of community members isn’t a process that happens overnight. Every organization needs to begin from its own starting place,” said John Stremsterfer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln. “Taking the Building Board Diversity pledge is an important step toward thinking about, advancing and improving efforts at inclusiveness.”
Nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and community members can find more information about Building Board Diversity and take the pledge at https://myforefront.org/building-board-diversity/.
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