BoardSource’s Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: For Ourselves and the Social Sector
BoardSource envisions a world where every social sector organization has the leadership it needs to fulfill its mission and advance the public good. While many factors contribute to strong and effective board and staff leadership, we believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity is essential to making this vision a reality.
As stewards of the public good, all social sector organizations, regardless of mission, are called on to embrace and celebrate our common humanity, and the inherent worth of all people. In doing so, we must also acknowledge that a climate of growing intolerance and inequity is a challenge to our democratic values and ideals. Divisions along economic, racial, religious, and political lines have created an increasingly polarized society in need of healing. And the complex issues and dynamics at the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality call for deeper thinking as we seek to understand each other.
Nonprofit organizations play a unique role in bridging these divides and brokering solutions. As a sector, we have the power to bring together communities and speak out against and change longstanding systems and policies designed to benefit some groups while marginalizing, excluding, or harming others.
For some organizations, creating a more inclusive and equitable society is at the core of their missions and the reason they do their work. For others, a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity reflects the context in which their organizations are working — an acknowledgement that to fulfill their missions, they must understand and embrace the full diversity of their community and the societal realities that affect all of us.
We believe that social sector organizations are better able to do this work effectively and with authenticity when they are led by boards that are intentionally diverse, inclusive, and focused on equity:
- Diverse: The individual leaders who compose nonprofit boards are a reflection of an organization’s values and beliefs about who should be empowered and entrusted with its most important decisions. We believe that all social sector organizations can better achieve their missions by drawing on the skills, talents, and perspectives of a broader and more diverse range of leaders, and that the diversity of viewpoints that comes from different life experiences and cultural backgrounds strengthens board deliberations and decision making.
- Inclusive: The most effective boards work to build a culture of trust, candor, and respect — none of which is possible without a culture of inclusion. Boards that cultivate an inclusive culture ensure that all board members are encouraged to bring their perspectives, identity, and life experience to their board service. An inclusive board culture welcomes and celebrates differences and ensures that all board members are equally engaged and invested, sharing power and responsibility for the organization’s mission and the board’s work.
- Equity-Focused: Boards play a critical role in helping organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on that reality. An awareness of how systemic inequities have affected our society and those an organization serves enables boards to avoid blind spots that can lead to flawed strategies, and creates powerful opportunities to deepen the organization’s impact, relevance, and advancement of the public good.
BoardSource is committed to supporting and encouraging boards as they work to strengthen their leadership on diversity, inclusion, and equity, both within their institutions and in the work their organizations do. We do this by:
- providing tools and resources to support boards as they work to be more intentional about board recruitment that results in diverse board composition and to build a culture of inclusion within their boards
- advocating for and supporting board-level thinking about how systemic inequities impact each organization’s work, and how best to address that in a way that is consistent with their mission
- highlighting and celebrating boards that are working to address issues of racial and structural inequity within their organizations and through their organizations’ work
- helping to challenge assumptions about what it takes to be a strong board leader, and who is well-positioned to provide leadership as a board member
- continuing to be intentional about our own board and staff diversity, our internal work to cultivate a culture of inclusion and accountability, and our actions to support equity
As leaders and the ultimate decision-making bodies for nonprofit organizations, boards of directors guide the way that each organization articulates and upholds its purpose, its values, and its responsibility to advance the public good. Through these focused efforts, BoardSource aspires to help unleash the full potential of the social sector to be a force for a more just society and world.
Adopted by the BoardSource Board of Directors, March 2017.