Diversity, equity, inclusion …
These words get thrown around a lot, but do they really mean anything to your organization? How do you work to make them more than words and truly part of your culture?
These aren’t easy questions to answer, but they have to be asked and they were the topic of “Leaders of Color in Nonprofits: Representation & Inclusive Spaces,” a recent YNPNkc event.
In comments from a panel of local nonprofit leaders of color and through roundtable discussions with attendees, it was clear that real change takes time, hard work and everyone committing to it.
Several M&C staff attended and we took away good points for ourselves and the nonprofit community we work with. The panelists expanded our awareness of how people of color are often treated in this space and ways we can all work to make things better.
Get real. The reality is nonprofits are not doing well with this in general. Every panelist shared stories of their struggle to be taken seriously as a leader and person of color. When the audience was asked if they see any organizations doing diversity and inclusion well, no one responded. When the vast majority of nonprofits are led by white people, we must be honest about the situation in order to deal with it.
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Moving from some people having privilege to equity for all gets uncomfortable, but that’s ok and everyone has to be embraced. No one is perfect, and mistakes will be made, but awkward moments or difficult situations shouldn’t stop us from trying to improve.
True diversity means looking at more than one metric. You can’t have one token person and say you’re diverse. Not all minorities are the same, and not everyone in a particular minority group is the same. Look at diversity holistically - race, gender, socio-economic background, education, age and more. When that happens, we’ll know we’ve really achieved the goal.
Manage up. People of color need to look for ways to build relationships with leaders. If you just get a seat at the table, you’ve already lost when you come to the meeting because the important conversations happened beforehand. Leaders who are white need to be aware of this and work on inclusion.
Be rooted and find people to water those roots. Know yourself and your “why.” Because you won’t last if you aren’t self-aware and doing self-care. Know when to pick your battle and when to walk away, and find trusted allies who can and will help you navigate these decisions. Find where you can make an impact.
Everyone must be on board. The audience at this particular event was largely made up of minorities. Since the event was billed as advice for people of color on entering nonprofit leadership, it could be they’re the ones who showed up, but this meant others missed out on a needed discussion. Change will require everyone’s involvement. Those of us who are white must be willing to listen to people of color, learn and help.
Thanks to YNPNkc and the panelists who made this discussion happen. At M&C, we hope this was just the beginning. We look forward to supporting more conversations and the people working for positive change in the Kansas City nonprofit community and beyond.
To learn more about great programs like this, check out Nonprofit Connect’s 2019 program schedule.