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The Problem of Declining Board Diversity

BoardSource has released the most recent version of its National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices and it raised some significant concerns about trends in Board diversity. 

In 2015, a “Leading with Intent” survey found that 89% of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and 80% of Board members identified as caucasian. 25% of nonprofit Boards had every Board member identify as caucasian. These statistics gave leaders pause and they stated that it was really important to improve the diversity of their organizations. Unfortunately, these concerns did not translate to results.

Now in 2017, even more CEOs (90%) and Board members (84%) identify as Caucasian and 27% of Boards are completely Caucasian. Of the CEOs who expressed dissatisfaction previously, only 25% made diversity a priority in recruitment efforts.

What was particularly striking was that there was a distinct difference between CEOs and Board members as to their satisfaction with participation.

Board diversity is critical for a few reasons. Different voices, experiences and perspectives affect service prioritization and function. Board makeup is a reflection of the organization’s values and a lack of diversity may suggest a lack of commitment to all populations. Finally, it is important for an organization’s network to reach beyond the people already in the room. If the Board is homogeneous it is difficult to reach into new networks.

The complete “Leading with Intent” report can be found here.

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