Updated: May 8
ENSURE YOUR NONPROFIT’S INVESTMENTS AND HIRING PRACTICES REFLECT YOUR ANTI-RACIST PRINCIPLES. ENSURE YOUR MATERIALS INCLUDE CONSTITUENTS OF COLOR AND INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR PLANNING PROCESSES.
In 1995, Freedom Theatre’s renown artistic director Walter Dallas chose me to lead his development team. I was one of the few white employees. I knew a lot about fundraising but not much about race relations. My Freedom colleagues taught me some important truths, kickstarting my ongoing education.
The one thing they didn’t have to teach me was that Black lives matter.
Freedom was founded in the 1960’s to present theatre rooted in the African American tradition. At that time there were no Black actors in commercials. They rarely appeared on stage, TV or in films except in menial or comic roles. Freedom helped create the professional performing opportunities that we take for granted today. That’s progress.
Off-stage, the violence of racism persists, as George Floyd’s killing highlighted… again. The world is watching to see how our leaders, including our nonprofit leaders will react.
Nonprofit leadership begins with the board of directors. In 1994, BoardSource’s Leading With Intent report, found 86% of our nonprofit board members were white. In 2017, they found 84% are white. That’s only a 2% improvement in 23 years! Even another respected source, the Fundraising Effectiveness Report, found that more diverse boards make better decisions and that the nonprofits they lead are more resilient.
Almost all of us are connected to nonprofits, as donors, staff or on boards.
HERE ARE THREE THINGS YOUR NONPROFIT CAN DO TO SUPPORT RACIAL JUSTICE:
Step One: Money
Am I insisting that my organization makes investments that align with its mission?
Your environmental nonprofit wouldn’t invest its endowment in coal plants. Its investments align with its mission. Similarly, if your nonprofit takes an anti-racist position, insist it invests its endowment in companies with diverse leadership. This is harder than it sounds. There are no uniform metrics for corporate diversity, and some don’t report it at all. Still, if your endowment is invested in publicly traded companies, your nonprofit is a shareholder and shareholders have rights. Primary among these rights is the right to vote, including for board members, and to inspect corporate records! Check out wallstreetmojo.com for more information.
Step Two: Jobs
Am I posting job ads on platforms for Black job seekers?
Ensure your recruiting strategies match your anti-racist position. If you post positions on mainstream platforms, you’ll likely get mainstream candidates. Try posting on sites like www.diversityjobs.com and www.blackjobs.com. Seek potential Black board members in professional associations, such as the Barristers Association for Black lawyers in Philadelphia or the National Black MBA Association‘s local chapter.
Step Three: Action
Do I listen to and reflect the wisdom of our Black constituents and do I include them in our materials and planning?
Who do you feature? What testimonials does your nonprofit share? If your planned giving brochure features only white donors, you can’t expect Blacks to include your nonprofit in their wills! Consult colleagues and constituents of color before launching new initiatives or fundraising campaigns. By listening to them, you’ll improve your project, serve everyone better and (possibly) avoid awkward and expensive mistakes.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES THIS PRESENT?
For your nonprofit:
If you want a more robust nonprofit, diversify your staff. If you want to keep abreast in a fast-changing society, recruit trustees with varied backgrounds and run your ideas past constituents of color. If you want to strike a blow for racial justice, put your endowment money where your mouth is.
A friend once said, “Val, you have white privilege. You can choose whether you deal with racism. Every morning, I wake up Black. I don’t have a choice.” Have those uncomfortable conversations. Read, learn and work to free yourself of racial bias.
My mentor, Walter Dallas, died in May. Missing him, I took out my old Freedom Theatre sweatshirt. It’s a bit threadbare, but you can still see the embroidered “Val,” followed by the saying, “Freedom Begins With Me.”
Thanks, Walter. I’m working on it.
-Valerie M. Jones, CFRE