3 Effective Strategies for Establishing and Maintaining Transformative Board Diversity

Posted March 6, 2024

The topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion is never far from the hallways and meetings of the nation’s nonprofit organizations. The evidence overall strongly suggests that diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces consistently outperform their peers. But what about nonprofit boards specifically?

On February 1, Development Guild hosted a webinar conversation on this topic with organizational and Board leadership from Dress for Success and Colby College, two leading organizations that drove transformational change by taking effective steps to foster inclusion and diversity on their boards. Panelists included:

  • Michele Meyer-Shipp, Esq. CEO of Dress for Success
  • Elena Hahn Kiam, Board Chair of Dress for Success
  • Richard Uchida, VP, Gen. Counsel, and Secretary of Colby College
  • Jane Powers, Board Chair of Colby College. 

Entitled “Building an Inclusive Leadership Culture for Your Board,” hosts Suzanne Battit and Guirlaine Belizaire asked the panelists to dive deep into how each organization defines diversity, the practical steps they’ve taken, and the impacts these changes have had on the Boards and across the organizations. Keep reading for 3 key takeaways from the webinar.


1. Define Diversity Holistically And Specifically for Your Organization/Board

Diversity as a concept should encompass much more than dimensions of race, gender, ability, etc. Think more broadly about life experience, career background, socioeconomic status, and more, so that you can identify and fill crucial gaps in your existing Board.


2. Avoid Closed Loops of Board Membership

Create systems for surfacing, evaluating, and recruiting potential nominees beyond existing board member networks. Avoid a closed loop of board membership by creating and enforcing term limits.


3. Embrace inclusion and diversity as key governance values

Panelists weighed in on how they maintain an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, including by: supporting members to be their authentic selves; designing board task forces to align with strategic pillars; and asking board committees to build diversity and inclusion into their work, including those whose functions might seem the furthest stretch, such as finance.

To watch the rest of the 50-minute webinar, please click this link. 


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