One thing I found interesting in this class is all the different types of diversity there can be on a Board. Prior to this semester, when I thought of diversity, I mainly concerned myself with two categories – race and gender. I was aware that there are other things to consider, but especially in my current position, these are the two I pay attention to the most. Many of you may be wondering what I’m talking about. Well – diversity can be broken down into three categories – Diversity, Functional Diversity, and Representativeness. So what is the difference?
- Diversity is the variety of differences between people that include race, gender, marital status, and age. Our culture has led us to offense think of diversity in terms of gender (men vs. women) and race (Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc.). However, age of Board members, marital status, religious views and other differentiations in people may come up in this category.
- Functional Diversity is a variation among what peoples roles are within society. Functional Diversity is mainly thought of in regards to what a person’s profession is. However, it may also extend to socioeconomic class, whether they are a parent, or whether they have been a participant in a program offered by the organization recruiting them for the Board.
- Representativeness is a way to describe whether one group (in this case the Board) looks similar to the group it represents (in the case of nonprofits the stakeholders or community). The two most common criteria reviewed in terms of representativeness are race and gender. If the community the nonprofit works with is 70% Caucasian, 20% African-American and 10% Hispanic – does the board adequately express these different races or is only one race represented?
An article by Dr. Abzug (1999) helps to broad a lot of information regarding diversity on non-profit board. While it is important for you to understand the different types of diversity, I think it is also beneficial to be able to understand why this practice is important to nonprofit boards. The first benefit of having a diverse board is to increase the creativity thinking that occurs by Board members. When you have people with varying backgrounds and varying areas of expertise, you are more likely to have more ideas regarding fundraising, program development and even problem solving. There is also a largely held belief that if you have a board that is more representative of the community it serves, the organization will be able to better meet the needs of the clients. Abzug also explains that by having a diverse Board, the Board will be better suited to recruiting new and diverse talent when filling vacancies on the Board. And finally, some Boards are feeling more pressure from the government and other funding streams, such as grants, to have a diverse Board in order to obtain grant funds.
There is no longer just one type of diversity. However, understanding the different types and how they may help or affect your board is important. If you board is stuck in a rut or needs some new talent, you may want to consider ways that diversity can work for you.
Abzug, Rikki. “Perspectives on Nonprofit Diversity.” 1999. BoardSource. www.BoardSource.org