Equipping nonprofits to advance social change

New Report and Website Highlight Lessons from Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race Survey

Written by Sean Thomas-Breitfeld

The Building Movement Project launched a new report -- Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap— and website – www.racetolead.org –  based on data from more than 4,000 survey respondents. The report provides both evidence of the structural barriers that perpetuate the racial leadership gap and recommendations for the nonprofit sector to address them.

The share of people of color in executive director and CEO roles in the nonprofit sector has remained under 20 percent for the last 15 years, despite a growing number of efforts to increase diversity in top leadership roles. The nonprofit sector needs a broad effort to address systemic racial bias to really address what’s behind the limited opportunities afforded to leaders of color.

Some key findings from Race to Lead:

  • Respondents squarely identify the lack of people of color in top leadership roles as a structural problem for the nonprofit sector. They agreed that nonprofit leadership doesn’t represent the racial and ethnic diversity of the country, that executive recruiters don’t do enough to find a diverse pool of qualified candidates for top level nonprofit positions, and that nonprofit boards fail to support the leadership of staff of color.
  • There are virtually no differences in background between staff of color and their white counterparts. Respondents were very similar in their level of education, type of nonprofit work, salary and years working in the nonprofit sector.
  • People of color aspire to take on leadership positions. In fact, 50 percent of people of color expressed interest in becoming a CEO or executive director of a nonprofit compared with 40 percent of white respondents.
  • Across race, most aspiring leaders feel prepared to take on an executive role.  When asked about the training they received, people of color and whites had few differences in the areas of financial skills, goal setting, articulating a vision, advocacy and how to collaborate.
  • Yet, people of color face unique challenges and are held to a different standard. All respondents are frustrated by high workloads, but people of color reported additional challenges, like being called upon to represent a community, lack of relationships with funding sources, and added scrutiny about their skills.

This is the first in series of reports that BMP will be releasing on the survey data from the Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race Survey. Check www.buildingmovement.org and www.racetolead.org for more updates and unique analysis on nonprofit leadership looking at intersections of gender, sexual orientation and race.

Leadership leadership leadership development leadership structures and practices race race to lead racial leadership gap