Diversity on the Leadership Board



Diversity in your organization’s leadership board leads to a variety of perspectives, experiences, and networks that will make your team stronger and more effective. Having a diverse board ensures that your leadership represents and understands the members you serve, and in the long run will give you a broader reach into all areas of your market, which will lead to growth as an organization.


Your Board of Directors needs to have ongoing conversations about diversity, and a plan for how you intend to address it within your organization. It may feel awkward and clumsy at first, but these conversations can lead to growth in areas that could be often overlooked. One question to ask is, What is the board’s current culture? What is the current makeup of the board? Assess if the culture is welcoming to individuals of diverse backgrounds. When you invite someone to join the board, you will want them to feel comfortable with the mission, their role, and their fellow colleagues serving on the board. If they don’t feel that way, it is important to address the root issues and get to the bottom of why they feel that way. Overall the goal of the board is to make members feel valued and appreciated, and this will increase the chances of members remaining engaged.


It is important to cultivate new board members who can expand the board’s general cultural awareness. You should look for candidates with a diverse and varied level of professional expertise, cultural backgrounds, geographic regions, and a spectrum of life experiences. This can help the board respond to the needs of a more diverse membership and possibly attract a more diverse membership. If the board lacks diversity among themselves, they may be unable to understand and identify with certain groups, ideas, or even needs that arise. When board members are searching for new candidates to add to the board, they often look within their own social circles, which leads to a lack of diversity. A diverse board adds value because they bring different experiences, expertise, and perspectives, which makes it easier to make decisions for a diverse team. It is hard for a board that lacks diversity to understand the needs of the people they are serving. A diverse board is also one that has a strong capacity to reach all areas of the membership and the surrounding community, which will help grow the team, club, or organization in the long run. It essentially creates a ripple effect in all areas of your organization, such as attracting diverse talent, new perspectives, and fresh ideas.


To move towards a more diverse and inclusive board, consider the following:


  • Although many organizations say they want to diversify the composition of their boards, it rarely happens. Consider doing a self-assessment of diversity, inclusion, and equity, which will give your organization a starting point to identify and address areas of concern.

  • To promote diversity, selection criteria need to be more inclusive. When establishing selection criteria, organizations need to reassess their board goals, including expertise and lived experiences, and other unique factors for diverse board member candidates. For example, at what times does your board meet? Does it give equal access to everyone, or could this be a major hurdle for a large percentage of people who may bring a lot of value to the organization?

  • Organizations need to look beyond their normal channels to find qualified candidates to serve on the Board, and the nature of a hybrid environment since Covid-19 presents the perfect opportunity to cast a wider net. To reach underrepresented groups, board leadership should evaluate recruiting tactics and processes, and even consider bringing in external support to gain a diversified pool of candidates. If your organization lacks diversity, maybe looking for outside help could begin to open doors and create a more inclusive environment for the entire organization.

  • Reach out to associations like African American Board Leadership Institute, the National Association of Asian American Professionals, and the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement which all have similar goals of strengthening public and private organizations through recruiting, training, networking, and sourcing professionals in a broad range of roles.

  • Leaders need to create an environment that enables board members to cultivate relationships that help identify potential board members. Seeking non-traditional board members takes an all-hands-on-deck approach. It is important to remember that to cultivate diversity, you want diverse ideas of people to include--this will mean recruiting from outside of your social circle.

  • Make sure that your board has developed a statement and policy on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Once the board determines why diversity matters to the organization, it can set goals and work toward them.

  • As a board, explore why diversity and inclusiveness matter to your organization. When you answer that question, it can lead to action, which drives your mission forward. When your nonprofit is sharing “mission moments” in a team meeting or at a board meeting, why not ask, “How can being more inclusive at this juncture increase our effectiveness?”

  • Strengthen engagement with diverse local communities to build trust and further grow the mission of your organization. Frequently ask, “How can being more inclusive increase our effectiveness?


A diverse board is important for many reasons, but perhaps the most valuable is the unique perspectives and ideas that can be brought to the table. In a recent study, Forbes found that increased diversity ties directly to increased innovation and creativity, which is something that every board and board member should strive towards. “This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.” (Scientific American).