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Event Recap: Building Strong, Strategic, Sustainable Nonprofits.

Do you know that moment when you have a sense of a concept, but then someone comes along and clarifies it with a spot-on phrase or illustration? You think, “A-ha, if only I had thought of it this way.” Last week, many local nonprofits had that moment while listening to guest speaker Steve Zimmerman, co-author of Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, who shared insights into managing the sustainability of nonprofits.

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Creating a More Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: Ethnicity

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.   Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of diversity and inclusion in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

In a recent blog post, we shared that diversity is the presence of difference generally related to one’s identity and might include ability status, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Inclusion is the accepting, respecting, and valuing of this diversity.  Working to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a fundamental part of fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit. It creates an environment of involvement and connection and allows for the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives to be harnessed to create value for the organization, clients and the community.

To begin moving towards active inclusion in the workplace, nonprofit leaders must 1) examine their own lens to have a deeper understanding of their perspectives and perceptions to create a framework for approaching and addressing their own bias – whether that be conscious or unconscious.  Nonprofit leaders must 2) ask and encourage tough questions to create deeper dialogue within their organization, especially with staff who come from different backgrounds than them.  This will allow the leader to develop a clearer understanding of how experiences affect work styles, behavior, communications, and relationships and eventually form an atmosphere of greater trust.  Nonprofit leaders must 3) acknowledge institutional bias, which are the practices, policies, structures and traditions that push some people up and others down based solely on identity. It’s important leaders realize that institutional bias may exist in their own organization causing barriers towards inclusion and ultimately, equity and justice.

Local Barriers and Suggestions for Interventions

What are some of the barriers that organizations, leaders and staff create in local nonprofit organizations that prevent diversity and inclusion (in both the workplace itself and with clients and the community)? What are actions steps that they can take to intervene and overcome these barriers, leading to a more inclusive nonprofit environment?  The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders group analyzed several different “Identities” in relation to their own organization and below are the findings.  This week we focus on one of nine identities – “Ethnicity”.  In later posts, we will focus in on the others – gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Make sure to read our previous posts on Ability Status and Age.

 

Ethnicity

A main discussion from the group was around the difference between ethnicity and race.  Often, the words are used interchangeably but the two words do have separate meanings.  According to the World Atlas, race is the word used to describe the physical characteristics of a person and might include everything from skin color to eye color and facial structure to hair color. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is the word used to describe the cultural identity of a person. These identities can include language, religion, nationality, ancestry, dress, and customs.

Regarding ethnicity (we will discuss race in another segment) the group mentioned several barriers that they’ve observed in their workplace.  One well-known barrier in the nonprofit sector is under-representation of ethnic and cultural diversity on nonprofit boards.  The participants observed that many organizations that serve low-income communities that are often ethnically diverse have few board members from diverse backgrounds.  They extended this notion to upper-level management as well.  This makes serving and understanding the communities being served much more difficult.  One specific barrier related to this is a language barrier from those providing the services and those receiving them in the local nonprofit sector.

Another common occurrence is the lack of individual donors from diverse cultural backgrounds.  Nationally, this is true, as well.  According to Blackbaud’s latest “Diversity in Giving Study” nearly three-fourths of donors today are non-Hispanic whites, even though whites make up only 64 percent of the population. Conversely the study finds that both African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in the donor universe. Asian donor participation appears congruent with the Asian population size.  The study goes on to say that the under-representation of African-Americans and Hispanics suggests that organized philanthropy is not doing an adequate job of engaging non-white communities. For instance, African-American and Hispanic donors say they are solicited less frequently.  Furthermore, they suggest they would give more if they were asked more often.  The group agreed that understanding the differences in giving traditions in various cultures and creating engagement strategies accordingly would help to make the individual support base for their organizations more diverse.

The participants went on to express the importance of their organizations becoming very intentional in making all aspects of their organization more ethnically diverse.  This strategically could include training (that’s mandatory!) within their organizations to build cultural competency, professional development and looking at outside resources that might be available.

Regarding attracting more diverse talent, the group said that the organization should intentionally recruit for ethnic diversity within all levels of the organization as well as the board. Bridgespan has some tips on recruiting ethnically diverse staff and in an earlier post on D&I Jonathan Zur gives some examples of best practices for recruitment.  Here are some practical tips from Blue Avocado for recruiting for board diversity.  Board Source has a ton of great tools like this Diversity and Inclusion Assessment.  The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities also has a training coming up on June 14th through their Workforce Inclusion Network (WIN) on “Measuring Diversity and Inclusion Efforts” that can help you get started.

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Creating a More Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: Barriers and Interventions for Ability Status

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.   Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

In a recent blog post, we shared that diversity is the presence of difference generally related to one’s identity and might include ability status, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  Inclusion is the accepting, respecting, and valuing of this diversity.  Working to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a fundamental part of fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit. It creates an environment of involvement and connection and allows for the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives to be harnessed to create value for the organization, clients and the community.

To begin moving towards active inclusion in the workplace, nonprofit leaders must 1) examine their own lens to have a deeper understanding of their perspectives and perceptions to create a framework for approaching and addressing their own bias – whether that be conscious or unconscious.  Nonprofit leaders must 2) ask and encourage tough questions to create deeper dialogue within their organization, especially with staff who come from different backgrounds than them.  This will allow the leader to develop a clearer understanding of how experiences affect work styles, behavior, communications, and relationships and eventually form an atmosphere of greater trust.  Nonprofit leaders must 3) acknowledge institutional bias, which are the practices, policies, structures and traditions that push some people up and others down based solely on identity. It’s important leaders realize that institutional bias may exist in their own organization causing barriers towards inclusion and ultimately, equity and justice.

 

Local Barriers and Suggestions for Interventions

What are some of the barriers that organizations, leaders and staff create in local nonprofit organizations that prevent diversity and inclusion (in both the workplace itself and with clients and the community)? What are actions steps that they can take to intervene and overcome these barriers, leading to a more inclusive nonprofit environment?  The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders group analyzed several different “Identities” in relation to their own organization and below are the findings.  This week we focus on one of nine identities – Ability Status.  In later posts, we will focus in on the others – age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors that make a person unique.  

Ability Status

Individuals with disabilities are often stigmatized, encountering attitudinal and physical barriers both in work and in daily life. Although federal legislation (i.e. The Americans With Disabilities Act) protects the inherent rights of individuals with disabilities, that legislation can’t always protect them from subtle forms of discrimination and prejudice. Some disabilities are more obvious but some may be hidden, known as invisible disability. There are many types of disabilities, including those that affect a person’s vision, hearing, thinking, learning, movement, mental health, communicating etc.

During the D&I session, participants reported a lack of physical accessibility in their workplace where there are no elevators, ramps or accessible restrooms.  They also mentioned the importance of considering the building and space accessibility when choosing an office location – for both staff and clients.  If you’re wondering if your older building is ADA Compliant, read this helpful article.   The nonprofit leaders also mentioned how physically demanding their roles often are, and they imagine that this could hinder someone with restrictions.  A common thread throughout the discussion was related to funding and support from grant makers.  To make physical organization changes, funding might be required, so grant makers need to be included in this conversation as well.

The participants reiterated that hiring practices within their organizations need to be adapted to accommodate individuals of all abilities, and policies must be established to address situations that might arise.  In general, there is a need for the organization and human resources to be more aware of legislation, as well as resources and assistance available to nonprofits to move them towards being proactive in this regard.  Furthermore, nonprofit leaders must cultivate an environment where staff feel comfortable asking for what they need or for help, particularly when it comes to mental health concerns.

The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) is a valuable resource that offers services to employers to help with recruiting, screening, training and retention efforts. Additionally, Virginia Business Leadership Network is a business-to-business (B2B) association focused on increasing workforce and marketplace diversity through the inclusion of individuals with disabilities.  They offer training and toolkits that include information like the Job Accommodation Network that provides free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

This summer, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) is a hosting a session on “Including People with Disabilities” during their Workplace Inclusion Network (WIN).  WIN is a convening of professionals who support or lead diversity and inclusion efforts within their organizations. These gatherings provide a unique opportunity for D&I leaders to hear from experts in the field and share best practices with one another while networking with professionals from across the region.

Stay tuned for more findings on D&I in local nonprofits in the upcoming weeks!

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YNPN RVA Recommends: Advice for Developing Your Nonprofit Staff

While mission and impact are the heart and soul of a nonprofit, there are many integral parts behind the scenes that make the magic happen. Beyond defining your mission and establishing metrics to measure your impact, it is essential to nurture your people. Yes, your people are your volunteers, donors and supporters, but your people are first and foremost your staff. The hardworking nonprofiteer that is daily putting your mission into action – teaching parents financial literacy, educating teens on healthy lifestyle choices, or providing meals to hungry children. And yet, many organization and nonprofit executives neglect or lack any formal strategic talent development or career progression plan for their staff – and to their loss

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Nonprofit Tips: Building an Effective CEO/Board Chair Relationship

As part of a Board Chair Series, Leadership Metro Richmond, The Community Foundation and Sands Anderson brought together Board Leaders from around Greater Richmond to learn and discuss best practices for building effective organization leadership – particularly around the relationship between the Executive Director (ED) and Board Chair. The CEO of ChildSavers Robert Bolling, along with Immediate Past Chair Linda Schreiner, talked in-depth about how they created an effective working relationship during their tenure of leading the organization together.

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Field Notes: Drawing Wisdom from Models of Success

Susan Hallett, Vice President of Programs at The Community Foundation serving Richmond and Central Virginia shares insights from her recent visit with Smart from the Start in Southeast DC. From this visit and through discussion with her local colleagues who joined her on the journey, she formed 3 key takeaways that we can utilize here in Greater Richmond.

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