Setting Goals for a More Diverse and Inclusive Board


To Set Numeric Goals - or Not

Before moving ahead with action steps for creating a more diverse and inclusive board, give some consideration to the extent to which your organization wants to set concrete, numeric goals regarding the composition of the Board of Directors. Some organizations choose to be very deliberate about establishing diversity goals regarding their Board composition.

An example of a diversity goal for the board of directors follows (a variation of which can be approved as official board policy to be included in the by-laws): ____________ (organization) will strive to develop a board of directors that reflects the community it serves in regards to race and ethnicity. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the community we serve is comprised of 47 percent whites, 30 percent Latinos, 10 percent African Americans, 5 percent Asian Americans, 5 percent Native Americans, and 3 percent "other." Therefore, __________ (organization) will strive for similar representation in the make-up of the Board of Directors. As demographic changes occur, we will make adjustments to our Board composition accordingly.

Another way to approach goal setting is to start slowly and build up to a more ambitious goal. In general, organizations find the most success integrating new voices and maximizing the skills of new people when the new group (e.g., people of color, women) makes up at least 30 percent of the total (be it staff or board of directors), or, at a minimum, if there are at least three people (in a relatively small group) from the new group involved with the organization. The result of not having more diversity is that without critical mass, the culture doesn't change and the new participants feel isolated.

Advantages of Establishing Concrete Goals

You're more likely to focus on the issue at hand if an official goal or policy exists to remind you about what you want to achieve.

In the process of establishing consensus around the goal, the board and staff develop a shared commitment to the importance of reaching the goal, and everyone's involvement in the effort to create a more inclusive and diverse board increases.

Potential Drawback of Establishing Concrete Goals

Trying to reach a diversity goal can overshadow the more important goal of identifying individuals who have the experiences and interests that best fit your board's needs. The result may be that new board members feel treated like tokens who were only asked to serve on the board so that the organization can reach a numerical objective. Research by The Denver Foundation shows that individuals of color who feel they are treated like tokens experience frustration and negativity toward an organization that treats them this way. The consequences may be a more negative experience than existed prior to the effort.

As you proceed through this topic, keep in mind the issue of whether or not to set a concrete diversity goal for your board of directors.


Overview: Board of Directors

Why Board Composition Matters  

Creating an Inclusive Environment


Creating the Pipeline


Recruiting Board Members of Color


Retaining Board Members and Utilizing Exit Interviews


What To Do When a Potential Board Member Says “No”