Why Board Composition Matters


Many, if not most, organizations have expressed an interest at some point in their history in becoming more diverse, yet the statistics show that only a few have been successful. A 2002 study by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Volunteer Consulting Group found that less than 15 percent of nonprofit trustees in the U.S. are people of color, compared with 27 percent of the total population. (See Bibliography: Gardyn) Research conducted by The Denver Foundation in 2002 indicated that only 7 percent of board members of nonprofit organizations in Metro Denver are Hispanic, compared with 17 percent of the population in Metro Denver. (See Inside Inclusiveness)

As you probably already know, the composition of a board of directors is important from many perspectives.

The board develops the mission, policies, and overall direction for an organization. People with distinct values, opinions, and relationships to different people and communities comprise the board of directors and it follows that the individual characteristics of the people who serve on the board will influence the mission, policies, and overall direction of an organization. Therefore, having representatives of diverse populations on a board of directors will have a direct impact on the mission, policies, and overall direction of a nonprofit organization.

A diverse and inclusive board of directors usually provides an organization with relationships to many groups, relationships that can open up multiple opportunities to build strategic alliances. A homogeneous board of directors, on the other hand, tends to build alliances with the same groups over and over again and is often self-perpetuating.

A diverse and inclusive board of directors also can provide an organization with access to potential donors who might not otherwise contribute to an organization. There is a widespread myth that people of color do not give as much money to charitable causes as white people. In fact, a study completed by The Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2003 indicates that on average African Americans who have incomes of $50,000 or more give 11 percent more to charities than whites who make $50,000 or more, and African Americans with incomes of $30,000 - $49,999 give 12.5 percent more than whites with the same income level. The Chronicle of Philanthropy also showed that Hispanics give 5.7 percent of their discretionary income to charities, Asians give 5.7 percent, African Americans give 8.6 percent, and whites give 6.4 percent. A significant portion of all giving is to religious organizations. (See Bibliography: Anft)

Official data collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics do not record the amount of informal giving that is done by communities of color. Yet it has been well documented that all communities of color have rich and deep traditions of aiding their families and communities by supporting entities that the IRS does not officially classify as nonprofit organizations. For example, an estimated 1.8 million Filipino-Americans send over $5 billion annually back to the Philippines every year to support a variety of causes (See Bibliography: Greene). Organizations that resist creating more diverse and inclusive boards of directors miss important opportunities to expand their donor bases.

A diverse and inclusive board of directors also can help you develop increased pools of volunteers, better connections with community decision-makers, and improved services for your clients.

Complete Benefits of Having a More Diverse and Inclusive Board of Directors and Analyzing Information.


Overview: Board of Directors


Setting Goals for a More Diverse and Inclusive Board


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”