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Diversity and Inclusion in Nonprofit Governance: No More Excuses! - eBook

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ISBN/ISSN: 978-1-95281-541-6

Author(s): Ruth Sessler Bernstein, Christopher Fredette

Copyright year: 2021

Edition: 1st

pages: 53

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This book provides guidance, through practical exercises, for nonprofit board members and chief executive officers (CEO) to achieve the benefits of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the boardroom and for their organizations. Adoption of specific inclusive practices enhances performance outcomes while benefiting members of underrepresented groups.  

The book challenges leaders and board members to take new approaches, beginning with understanding what diversity and inclusion mean to the individual board members, the collective board of directors, and the organization. Additionally, the book challenges board members and top leadership to think about how to foster an inclusive culture by focusing on inclusive interaction practices among board members. This book takes a look at eight common excuses boards of directors use as to why they have not made diversity, inclusion, and equity central to their leadership demographics and decision-making processes. For each excuse, we provide an easy-to-understand rationale, often including definitions and research- or practice-based evidence to justify for why the excuse is just that, an excuse!  

Practical exercises provide step-by-step suggestions for improving your organization’s diversity, inclusion, and equity, while simultaneously enhancing board performance and organizational outcomes.

About the Authors




Excuse #1: Our board is diverse, we have lawyers, bankers, and tech people.  

We even have an accountant to make sure our bases are covered 

Excuse #2: We’re not like those other boards, we’ve tackled our diversity  

problem. We have a female board member and a member from a racialized  


Excuse #3: I would never suggest to my board that we diversify, everyone  

knows that would just increase tension and possibly lead to dysfunction.  

Why would we want to rock the boat? 

Excuse #4: Talk about diversity sounds great, but the research shows that  

increasing diversity often negatively impacts performance, so why  

should we bother? 

Excuse #5: Even if we bring in diverse board members, it is impossible  

to make these new members from underrepresented community groups  

feel included 

Excuse #6: We are meeting our performance and financial goals, so why would we change anything? 

Excuse #7: Our organization has a very specific purpose and doesn’t appeal to everybody, that’s why “they” (i.e., people of color, women, Indigenous peoples, 2SLGBTQ+ community members, physically or cognitively impaired members) do not like or are not relevant to our mission, services, or organization.  

Excuse #8: There are no diverse individuals in my community interested in serving. And, I have no idea how to recruit people of color and no one on my board even knows even someone of color they could ask to serve. And, when we have had a person of color they left or were not a good “fit.” A corollary to this excuse is, “We have so much trouble getting anyone to join our board, we cannot be picky.” 


Putting It All Together

References  and Resource Materials

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