Four years ago, I became the first woman of color to lead the Alliance for Youth Organizing. I was a 33-year-old Latina and first-time executive director with limited fundraising experience tasked with overseeing a nationwide network of groups mobilizing young voters.

This fall, I am stepping down from that position and taking stock of what I’ve learned about how people of color can succeed at the nonprofits we are asked to lead. While less than 20 percent of nonprofit executive directors or CEOs are people of color, efforts to significantly increase those numbers have recently gained momentum — especially following last year’s massive racial-justice protests. But simply hiring more of us isn’t enough. Without intentional support, it’s too easy for executive directors of color to feel like — or be seen as — props or tokens who are set up to fail.


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