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Friday, June 17, 2011

Class Diversity - Leah

Nonprofits are struggling just as much as the economy has been of late, both as a result of the economy and their own actions. One thing that has added to the fall of nonprofit successes has been the makeup of boards and staff amongst nonprofit organizations. It can be proven that over the years the overall diversity of the country has increased and that the overall mindset of the country has also changed to accept that diversity. However, there can still be found a lack of diversity amongst classes being represented in positions of power.

This can be seen in government, business, and nonprofit sectors across the board. We see individuals that are educated and settled with successful financial situations being put into positions of leadership and power in all three areas. This is not to say that people are doing this unknowingly. We, as a society, admire and reward these qualities, on purpose more often than not. The problem arises, rather, when we choose these individuals without even considering the benefits that may be reaped from having someone from a different class in that same position.

Pablo Eisenberg in this article suggests that nonprofits, specifically, haven accepted this close-minded approach to who best should be in positions of management and leadership for their organizations. Even within our community here in the Roanoke Valley, I can see this trend amongst many well-known nonprofit boards and staff. What Pablo suggests is that our organizations that are impacting our communities greatly should have the same people making those decisions as are feeling those impacts. His argument here is “If American juries, with power over the life and death of people accused of crimes, are composed of diverse groups of Americans from all classes, why is it that electricians, teachers or grassroots leaders aren't qualified to be board members of foundations and nonprofits with far less responsibility? It just doesn't make sense.”

He makes a good argument. So, what can we do about it? We must ensure that the organizations we as professionals are working within the area are making a concerted effort to add class as a factor of diversity to their policies. We must explain why the viewpoints of individuals of working level and other classes are important to the discussions and decisions that the organization needs to me. We must clarify that diversity includes many more aspects than race and gender, that we must make sure we include voices of all individuals that we are affecting with the services and products made by our organizations.

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