By Frances Kunreuther and Ofronama Biu

October 12, 2018

This article was originally posted on the BMP blog.

The Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race Survey – the basis for the Race to Lead reports – was developed to learn more about why so few people of color head nonprofit organizations.

The findings were clear and powerful. The assumption that the problem was located in people of color was simply not borne out by the responses of more than 4,000 nonprofit staffers. People of color and white respondents had similar education, training, and years in the sector. In fact, people of color aspired to be leaders 10% more than whites. Advancement was so difficult because of the racialized barriers – from networks to boards – that excluded leaders of color from top nonprofit positions.

Our findings weren’t surprising, at least not to people of color who have plenty of experiences of being passed over. But personal accounts are often ignored until they are confirmed by the numbers. The data was rich and we not only reported on the national results, we also looked at the findings in California and Massachusetts.  We wrote a piece on the nonprofit racial leadership gap among LGBTQ respondents; a new report on the intersection of race and gender will be released this fall.

With all the information we have and our intention of resurveying in 2019, the Building Movement Project staffers are wondering about the data needs among capacity builders in the nonprofit sector. We interviewed dozens of people, among them organizational development and race equity consultants, before constructing the survey to make sure we were asking the right questions.  The initial data was presented at two well-attended meetings on the east and west coasts among capacity builders who worked on issues of race/race equity. They were invaluable in helping us think through our interpretation of the findings and several participants reviewed drafts of our national report.

Now, as we think of wide-scale culture change in the sector which moves people from ignorance to awareness, and from talking to action, we are excited to engage with capacity builders once again. Our questions are:

Where has data been useful and why?

What data do you need to do race equity work?

How could a growing database of race equity scores help you?

The nonprofit sector is looking closely now at diversity, equity, and inclusion. But we know from experience that gaze will be elsewhere in a few years. What information and interventions do we need now that will start to shift practices that prevent people of color from taking on leadership roles and offer the support needed once they obtain them.

We are looking forward to engaging with you at the Alliance conference to explore how data and capacity building expertise can make a real difference.