Nonprofit board diversity has been the topic of many articles and research papers. The general thought is that it is beneficial for boards to be as diverse as possible. However, are there specific types of diversity that are more beneficial than others? Class diversity is one type of diversity espoused by Pablo Eisenberg (2011). Eisenberg argues that boards are much more diverse by including more women and minorities. Usually, these women and minority members are also wealthy and have achieved prestigious positions in their respective industries. So they mimic their white, male counterparts, according to Eisenberg. The biggest inequity in diversity today is that of social classes. Eisenberg posits that boards should include more blue-collar, working class individuals in their membership. In his view, nonprofit boards are not democratic enough to be effective.
Demographic diversity and functional diversity are two major types of diversity discussed in our class readings. Demographic diversity refers to being diverse with gender and ethnicity. Functional diversity is more focused on having a diverse background of experience on the board to contribute the most professional resources. In other words, many board members have various skills they can bring to the benefit of the organization. There has been little research on class diversity in our readings. The research has exclusively focused on demographic and functional diversity. Class diversity can have similarities with both types of diversity. The working class could bring both racial/ethnic and gender diversity, or it could bring a functional diversity based on the skills of the members. According to research by Gazley, Chang, and Bingham (2010), greater functional diversity has a positive correlation with organizational performance. However, demographic diversity was not shown to have an effect on performance (p. 616). Therefore, class diversity would only have an effect on organizational performance if it increased functional diversity. The level of increase would vary based on the organization’s needs.
The revenue streams of the organization are a major determinant of how diverse a board can be in its social classes. If the organization must rely heavily on board members to raise funds, then it would usually be more beneficial, if not necessary, to have affluent board members with deep pockets and significant resources and contacts to be able to raise those funds. There may be times when a blue-collar, working class board member can raise funds based on connections in the community, but the majority of fundraising is successful based on major contributions from affluent board members and their associations. Boards should always assess themselves to determine if the optimal level of diversity has been achieved. However, optimal is the key word in that a board must only be as diverse as it can handle in order to remain effective. An effective board almost certainly will translate into an effective organization, and an effective organization will be most successful in accomplishing its mission.
Eisenberg, P. (2011). Foundation Boards Can’t Just Be Filled With Wealthy People. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://philanthropy.com/article/Foundation-Boards-Shouldnt-Be/127738.html
Gazley, B., Chang, W. K., & Bingham, L. B. (2010). Board Diversity, Stakeholder Representation, and Collaborative Performance in Community Medication Centers. Public Administration Review, July/August 2010, 610-620.