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Monday, June 6, 2011

Board Diversity- Functional, Demographic, or Both? - Brian K.

Our Readings have illustrated that diversity does affect the way that boards do business, and how effectively they serve their purpose. Some articles seem to think that functional diversity is more important, and there are some organizations that go strictly for demographic diversity. Demographic diversity can accomplish a representation of the client population. It can also be focused to completely compose a board of the clients (which is really in my opinion not a very diverse board), or it could be used to present a perception and image for the public that the organization serves. I agree with Dr. John Daley, who says that boards can and do decide what dimensions of diversity are significant to them[1]. I believe that it really is the function of the organization that dictates what types of diversity should be sought on the board, but I differ in that I believe that although the actual pathology or degree of diversity varies from organization to organization based on their needs, both functional and demographic diversity should be employed in every organization.

Our readings in class have shown that board makeup enhances certain functions, i.e. more women on the board could mean better fundraising skills for that organization, etc. It certainly makes sense that a representation of the client population in certain social service organizations would allow for better input on how those services are delivered to the client. There are always cultural, socioeconomic, gender, and age considerations when dealing with service delivery. Who better to advise about delivering these services than someone with similar demographic characteristics as the clients? It is important to have as many different or relevant views as possible when considering boards for these types of organizations

I also believe that a certain amount of functional diversity should be employed in every board. If there is no legal, financial, management, or organizational management experience represented in the board makeup, there is certainly the possibility that that organization will open itself to vulnerability in the area that isn’t represented. This would then make it imperative to outsource these consulting items, stressing a budget in a way that wouldn’t be necessary if board recruiting was done with these skill sets in mind.

It is worth noting that in the selection of a board it is often hard to find candidates that have the willingness or time in their schedule to actively participate in a nonprofit board. Reducing the pool of potential board members by being too picky about demographic information or functional skill could take you right out of the market for a good board member. This is a fine line to walk, but one that is quite possibly the best for the organization.

[1] Daley, D. J. (2002). An Action Guide for Nonprofit Board Diversity. Journal of Community Practice , 33-54.

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