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The Race to Lead Survey

The Building Movement Project (BMP) conducted the first Race to Lead survey in 2016. Over 4,300 respondents answered questions about their current nonprofit job, interest in leading a nonprofit, training/supports, and views on race and the nonprofit sector. BMP re-launched the Race to Lead survey in 2019 and collected over 5,000 responses from nonprofit professionals. In 2022, BMP surveyed the sector a third time.

The “Race to Lead” report series explores the results of these surveys and challenges the way the nonprofit sector has been approaching the racial leadership gap.



The 2016 Race to Lead survey was designed after reviewing the literature on race and leadership in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, and conducting three dozen interviews with nonprofit leaders, capacity builders, and funders on the barriers people of color faced in becoming leaders. The link to the online survey was distributed throughout the U.S. by the Building Movement Project and 15 partner organizations, mostly national networks with reach to diverse nonprofit staff. These distribution partners – along with roughly 100 nonprofit “influencers”– publicized the survey link through newsletters and emails, and social media. More than one-third (37%) of respondents got the survey link from a distribution partner, and almost half reported receiving the survey through social media (24%) or a colleague/friend (18%). After three months in the field, the sample was closed with a total of 4,385 respondents.

Race Survey Race/Ethnicity Diagram


Race Survey Geographic Distribution of Respondents’ Organization Diagram

Geographic Distribution of Respondents’ Organization

Race Survey Age Groups by Generation Diagram

Age Groups by Generation

Race Survey Gender Diagram


Race Survey Immigration Experience Diagram

Immigration Experience

Race Survey Straight vs. LGBTQ Diagram

Straight vs. LGBTQ

Race Survey Gender Breakdown Diagram

Gender Breakdown

Race Survey Role Breakdown Diagram

Role Breakdown

Race Survey Education Breakdown Diagram

Education Breakdown

Race Survey Nonprofit Type Breakdown Diagram

Nonprofit Type Breakdown


2019 Survey Methodology

The 2019 Race to Lead survey was informed by the data and insights collected from the initial Race to Lead series, particularly from the write-in responses and follow-up interviews conducted with respondents. Several aspects of the survey were adapted, including the addition of new questions to explore respondent experiences with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) activities in their organization, their current workplace experience, and their current and past financial situation. The link to the online survey was distributed throughout the United States by the Building Movement Project and partner organizations via social media, newsletters, and other digital campaigns. It was live for approximately 3 months and closed with a total of 5,261 respondents. 





Since BMP surveyed the nonprofit sector in the summer of 2019, the nation has experienced the COVID pandemic, uprisings in response to the murder of George Floyd and police violence, the continuing epidemic of mass shootings, and dramatic shifts in the political landscape.

The 2022 Race to Lead survey offered the opportunity to understand how these changes are impacting all nonprofit workers, leaders and organizations. The survey explored new topics – like the experiences of frontline workers and changing expectations of nonprofit workplaces – while continuing to gather important information on the intersection of race, leadership and nonprofit culture.