Examples of Impact of Inclusiveness on Program Effectiveness

In just about every area of organizational work, there are ways that racial and ethnic backgrounds impact the delivery of services and programs.

Here are three different types of organizational work that illustrate the direct impact of inclusiveness efforts on effectiveness.

Health Care
Many variables affect the treatment of groups of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Racial/ethnic backgrounds can be a factor in the way certain illnesses affect different individuals and can also affect the perceptions that people have about receiving treatment.

For example, some African Americans - especially older African Americans - may be reluctant to receive treatment because unsuspecting African Americans have been victims of experimentation by certain government agencies in the past. For example, in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, 399 African-American men signed up with the U.S. Public Health Service for free medical care offered as a part of a study examining the effects of syphilis on the human body. Though researchers identified that these men had syphilis, the men were not notified that they had the disease, nor did they receive any treatment for syphilis over the decades during which they were involved in the study because the public health service wanted to track the development of syphilis in the patients. By 1972, 128 men had died of syphilis or related causes. (See Bibliography: Levine

Also, some cultures highly value complementary, homeopathic treatments over western methods; this perspective will influence the approach and needs of different individuals when seeking health care.

Howard Ross of Cook Ross consulting firm, sums up inclusiveness issues in health care this way:

"We know that certain diseases and medications affect various races in different ways. We know that there are cultural patterns to what people expect from a doctor/patient relationship. This goes way beyond social justice. This is about how to deliver quality healthcare and make sure people are satisfied with the care they get."(See Bibliography: Barbian)


As the field of philanthropy becomes more inclusive, foundations have developed methods for addressing issues of inclusiveness through their grantmaking practices. Here are several methods that some foundations employ:

First, foundations may use an inclusiveness lens when creating funding guidelines.

For example, a foundation may ask grant applicants to discuss how race, ethnicity, and culture may affect how different communities perceive the organization's work.

They may also ask grantees to identify the demographics of the communities they serve and compare that information to the demographics of their staffs and boards of directors. Program officers and grantmaking committee members may also talk to organizations about these issues and encourage them to create inclusive programs.

Second, foundations may develop initiatives focused on addressing the specific needs of communities of color.

The Otto Bremmer Foundation in Minnesota has done just that. The foundation is located in an area traditionally populated primarily by Norwegians and Swedes in which the racial composition has changed significantly in recent years. The foundation set out to understand new racial tensions in the community. After spending time talking to community members, the trustees developed a new program, Promoting Human Rights and Equality, which "supports cooperative interactions to battle bigotry in its many guises."(See Bibliography: Otto Bremmer Foundation)


Conventional Museums
Many museums serving the general public wrestle with issues of inclusiveness, including questions about whether their visitors are representative of the broader community. Some museums have also noted that they have very little diversity among their board members, staff, and donors. Therefore, museums have begun to use the following strategies to create more inclusive programs:

Some museums analyze their permanent collections and traveling exhibitions to determine whether or not they are presenting works of interest to a broad array of cultural groups.

Additionally, some museums look at whether the images depicted and artifacts displayed may have a cultural bias that is disrespectful of racial/ethnic groups.

In examining inclusiveness and diversity, the British Museum & Galleries Commission researched best practices among museums and galleries and listed some issues for museums to consider when striving to create more inclusive programs:

  • Does the museum's local history collection cover the full picture of local communities?
  • Some collections contain objects acquired as a result of colonial conquest. It is important that the museum is clear about its policy on displaying these objects and makes the history of acquisitions clear in labeling and interpretation.
  • Some objects may have a sacred significance to communities. Having a clear policy both on their display and possible restitution could avert conflicts with different communities.
  • The occasional initiative directly related to ethnic minority interests will raise expectations within communities of color, and may, in the absence of ongoing work, lead to disillusionment. It is important to have a consistent policy and long-term commitment. (See Bibliography: Khan)

Whether or not your organization falls into one of the areas of nonprofit work described above, these examples can stimulate thinking among your Inclusiveness Committee members about ways that creating more inclusive programs and having a diverse constituency can directly impact your organization's effectiveness.


Overview: Programs and Constituents 

Defining Your Target Population 

Tracking and Evaluating How Constituents Use Your Programs

Approaches to Program Design 

Creating More Inclusive Programs and More Diverse Constituents 

    Developing Partnerships with Others Who Have Cultural Competence in Your Field 

     Asking Constituents for Suggestions 

     Creating a Programs/Constituents Advisory Board 

     Finding a Mentor