Championing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What’s Your Client’s Action Plan?

According to the National Council of Nonprofits (NCN), it isn’t enough for a nonprofit to simply say it stands up for equity and justice. Today, nonprofits must demonstrate their commitment by taking their values and modeling them within and throughout the organization.

Why does this matter to your nonprofit clients? The NCN states that embracing DEI as part of the organization’s values is vital because “it is a way to intentionally make space for positive outcomes to flourish — whether in direct services or in the nonprofit’s capacity-building or public policy spheres.”

DEI in the boardroom

Given the leadership power inherent in nonprofit board service, DEI plays a critical role in the boardroom. Cause Strategy Partners, a purpose-driven enterprise aimed at inspiring and strengthening organizations, notes that “When board members, employees and other stakeholders who shape the values and activities of a nonprofit come from a wide array of backgrounds, they each bring unique perspectives that influence how best to advance the nonprofit’s mission and solve problems in more inclusive and innovative ways.”

The fact is, nonprofit board members are often making decisions that can affect the lives of people of which they may not be a part. According to Cause Strategy, this disconnect can be risky, yielding ineffective results or, worse, having a harmful impact on individuals, groups, and the organization.

So, where do organizations begin when putting together a DEI action plan?

Begin with the bylaws. According to the Neo Law Group, it is advisable for nonprofits to incorporate DEI principals into their bylaws. This not only demonstrates an organization’s dedication to DEI principals, but serves as a method within which to hold individuals accountable, should they be out of compliance with the bylaws.

Get the ranks involved. A Harvard study shows that a diverse staff unlocks and drives innovation by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas can be heard. Getting board members, employees, volunteers, donors, etc., involved in the DEI process brings unique perspectives to the table regarding how the organization can better approach and implement diversity-driven changes.

Put a DEI lens to the board. When approaching the board, Cause Strategy suggests starting with assessing where the board stands in terms of DEI. Next, implement a recruiting/onboarding process aimed at advancing DEI initiatives. And finally, ensure that the board culture is itself 100% inclusive and supportive of all identities — no exceptions.

Putting plans into action

The NCN offers the following considerations for organizations looking to implement and enhance diversity-driven values in their daily operations:

  • How transparent does the organization wish to be regarding its inclusive practices? For example, does it plan on sharing information publicly on its website, internally or both?
  • What’s the best way to open the organization’s board recruitment and hiring practices to include candidates from underrepresented, underserved and/or marginalized populations in surrounding communities?
  • What steps need to be taken to incorporate DEI messaging in the onboarding process for board members, staff, and volunteers?
  • How does the organization plan on tracking and assessing its progress in meeting established DEI goals?
  • Does the organization expect its community partners to maintain a level of like-minded DEI principals in their own values? If they don’t, will these collaborative relationships continue?


Do your nonprofit clients have questions about putting together a DEI plan? If so, we hope they will find this information helpful in creating a more diverse and inclusive board of directors, staff, and team of volunteers.

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