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What We’re Learning about Nonprofits’ DEI Journeys

A few years ago, I came across this quote:

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin

It immediately struck a chord. In my personal life, I think of this often for everything from my health to my relationships. In my professional life, I’m an analyst at GuideStar. I keep this quote framed on my desk to remind me why analyzing and improving nonprofit data is so important. The data that nonprofits collect and report isn’t just information in a database. It has the power to shape decisions.

In recent years, the sector has begun to focus on data collection for organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).


Moving Through (Not Around) Racial Equity Work: Lessons from a Community Foundation

“Look within. Be explicit. Don’t be afraid to be messy. Commit for the long term.” Jennifer Aronson, the Boston Foundation’s (TBF) Associate Vice President for Programs, shared these recommendations for shaping a racial equity lens at this month’s Grantmakers for Effective Organizations national conference. These tips ring true for most social justice work both within the philanthropic community and among our partner nonprofits. Understanding that this work, of looking both inward and outward when bolstering our racial equity lens, is not linear is necessary to move through, and not around, difficult conversations about race, power, and privilege. I would humbly add “be hopeful” to Jennifer’s tips, as there is more traction and more motivated people on similar journeys to building or strengthening the racial equity lens in their work than you might think.


All Right, “Color-Blind” Colleagues, We Need to Have a Talk

In my work and travels I’ve met some really incredible people doing amazing stuff. Every meeting, every trip restores my faith in our sector, as well as replenishes my office’s supply of pens and chapsticks from various exhibitors at conferences.

But once a while, I encounter people who are “color-blind,” who say things like:

  • “Vu, I love what you say about nonprofits needing to be more inclusive. You know, I have a grown son who has diverse friends. And he has never once referred to his friends by their skin color characteristics. Not once. I think it’s wonderful that he just doesn’t see color.”

Why We Need to Stop Asking “What Do You Do?”

A while ago, while I was seeking input for a post on how we can all be more disability-inclusive, a colleague mentioned that we should drop the get-to-know-you question “What do you do?” because people with disabilities face significant employment discrimination, and this question is often a painful reminder of that. Another colleague of mine who is brilliant and talented and hilarious and wheelchair-enabled told me she spent seven years searching before someone hired her. I can imagine all the times during those seven years when people asked her “What do you do?” and how she must have felt. This has made me think of the “to-do” culture that we have and how it’s been affecting our work.


Everyday People Are Heroes: Using Big Data to Engage New Agents of Change Online


Note from Beth Kanter:  
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Data Driven Nonprofits by Steve Maclaughlin (launching today, Sept. 6th) and so data and nonprofits has been on my brain.  So when colleague, Cheryl Contee reached out an idea for this post, I could not resist!  Speaking of books, you can pre-order my next book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout due out in October.

Guest Post by Cheryl Contee


Two New Resources for the Nonprofit Diversity Conversation

Two works related to nonprofit diversity arrived at GuideStar last month. The first, "Engaging Nonprofit Employees: 3 Key Strategies to Retain and Engage the People Behind Your Cause," adds more evidence of diversity's importance to the sector. The second, "If Your Board Looked Like Your Community," offers steps for moving toward a more inclusive sector.


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