Having a board with diverse perspectives is critically important. Each person will bring his or her own personal and professional contacts and life experiences to their service on a nonprofit board. With a diversity of experience, expertise, and perspectives a nonprofit is in a stronger position to face opportunities and challenges.
Diversity should be thought of as a basic indicator of a nonprofit’s capacity to sustain itself in the long term. Cultivate new board members who can expand the board’s collective cultural awareness. Look for the types of professional expertise, personal experiences, and geographic reach that can help the nonprofit respond to the community's future needs.
Successfully achieving diversity can be a challenge. When building a board, assess the current board to identify individual board members’ skills, professional expertise, and life experiences so that you can analyze what strengths you have today and what you will need in the future. Then consider what kind of people should be around the board table to make that happen. For certain nonprofits, specialized financial, or programmatic, expertise might be needed. What kind of inspiring leaders can help bring your board from “good to great?” Here are some questions you should ask yourself when attempting to achieve and maintain diversity on the board:
Visit the Leadership section of the National Council of Nonprofits' website for more information on this topic.
Also think about what a new board member's impression of your organization will be. Onboarding board members properly should be a priority. A formal orientation can help manage expectations and also be a good time to introduce veteran board members to the newcomers and establish mentoring relationships that can help knit together a diverse group.
Age of board members is a type of diversity that has received much attention recently in the examination of “next generation” leadership. Review BoardSource's report, Next Generation and Governance, to learn how younger generations can add value to boards and read this post from the Nonprofit Law Blog on the issue of minors serving on nonprofit boards. The organization Youth on Board offers a self-assessment checklist on its website to help a nonprofit determine whether it is ready to involve youth in organizational decision-making. Innovation Center for Community & Youth Development is a source for discussion guides, toolkits, and publications on many topics involving youth/leadership/community building. And check out Youth Infusion if your organization is interested in consulting to help successfully engage youth.
Also visit the section on Boards and Governance in the Council of Nonprofits' online bookstore.
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