Throughout history, Americans have come together through nonprofits to improve their lives and those of others. As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s recognize the special role of nonprofits serving, led, and founded by Black Americans. Indeed, Black History Month itself came about through a nonprofit, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded in 1915 and led by Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
Nonprofits have been the backbone of civic engagement in our country. For example, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (then the National Association of Colored Women) fought for women’s right to vote, even as other suffragist groups excluded Black women. As voting barriers remain – and roadblocks get erected – new nonprofits, such as the New Georgia Project, have emerged to join the fight to ensure everyone is able to exercise their right to vote.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, was organized by Black leaders of several charitable nonprofits, including the Congress of Racial Equality (James Farmer), the NAACP (Roy Wilkins), the National Urban League (Whitney Young, Jr.), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Dr. King), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (future Congressman John Lewis).
We know the sampling of nonprofits above is only a miniscule measure of the countless Black-led nonprofits that have changed, are changing, and will change the world. We also know that running a nonprofit these days is especially challenging - and even more so for Black-led organizations that too frequently struggle for resources. That's why we’ve been heartened to hear that some Black-led organizations have seen increased financial support in recent months. But a few months of crisis funding is not enough. We as a society and we as a sector cannot afford for the recent change to be just a momentary blip of improvement. More is needed for a long-overdue shift that empowers more groups to make the lasting change our communities and country needs.
Centering Equity Throughout Nonprofit Operations
Centuries of injustice and inequality can be neither erased nor turned around with a few meetings, public statements, or hashtag campaigns. It takes building racial equity into every facet of our organizations. Resources are available from a wide range of expert sources on how your nonprofit can do its part in centering diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout its work.
BoardSource offers a wide range of resources to help with diversity on boards of directors, supporting leaders of color, and how to have conversations about a nonprofit’s commitment to equity.
NTEN created an Equity Guide for Nonprofit Technology to help nonprofit staff use technology strategically in racially equitable ways to meet their missions and community needs. You can learn more about the guide from our recent conversation with Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN.
And there are a number of ways each of our organizations communicates, internally and externally. The Communications Network offers a comprehensive toolkit to help nonprofits center equity in various types of communications, from branding to research to internal communications.
Our page on Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter for Nonprofits has myriad additional resources for your nonprofit’s learning journey.
Finally, if you haven’t already checked out the Tools to Engage from Building Movement Project, we encourage you to do so. This collection of tools can help your nonprofit center the leadership of those with lived experiences, engaging them as partners in building solutions for communities.
What other tools is your nonprofit relying on to help center equity in your work? Please let us know, so we can continue to share new resources with the field.
News Your Nonprofit Can Use
Share Insights on the Pandemic’s Effects on Your Nonprofit’s Work
Federal agencies and departments – particularly the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department – are in the process of answering questions and implementing the COVID relief laws enacted in late December 2020. You can help nonprofit advocacy efforts to secure legislative solutions and helpful guidance by completing this brief form: Let us know how COVID-19 is affecting your nonprofit.
In addition, the Urban Institute is preparing to launch a National Survey of Nonprofit Trends and Impacts in partnership with American University and George Mason University. Participation in the survey is by invitation only. If your nonprofit receives the survey invitation, we urge you to complete it to help us all understand how changes in giving and volunteering during the COVID pandemic are affecting nonprofit organizations and the people and communities they serve.
Congress continues to debate what will be included in another COVID relief package. If your nonprofit hasn’t already signed onto the letter to President Biden and Congressional leaders, we encourage you to join the 3,100+ nonprofits that are calling for further #Relief4Charities.
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