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A survey of more than 500 North American nonprofit organizations found that the sector may be lacking in maintaining diversity practices. (Photo credit: sabthai/Shutterstock.com)

Study Finds Many Nonprofits Conscious of Staff Diversity, But Still Struggling with Implementation

Nonprofit HR released its 2019 diversity report Tuesday, which included the results from surveys of 566 nonprofit organizations throughout North America. These organizations were surveyed on their diversity practices, and the results revealed that though many organizations have diversity statements and leaders who tout diversity, the sentiments aren’t always backed up by effective practice.

In a statement, Nonprofit HR said it chose to conduct this survey — the first of its kind — because it had seen organizations make unsuccessful attempts at implementing diversity strategies.

“Results from the survey counter some of the narrative of diversity success, and present benchmarking data for decision-makers to incorporate into their future diversity objectives,” Lisa Brown Alexander, the founder and CEO of Nonprofit HR, said in the report.

The survey found that 52% of respondents had a formal diversity statement within their organization, but only 31% had a diversity strategy. Based on mission type, 100% of animal rights/welfare said they did not have a diversity strategy. Seventy-eight percent of arts and culture, 86% of association, 65% of education, 76% of environmental, 75% of health/healthcare, 70% of human/civil rights and 64% of social/human services organizations also reported not having diversity strategies.

Twenty percent of those organizations that did have diversity strategies said they did so because of a lack of diversity at senior levels. Thirty percent said they had another reason, which ranged from, “alignment with [our] mission” to “we experienced a corrosive incident.”

Organizations said their biggest diversity challenges included realizing racial/ethnic diversity (42%). Forty-three percent of organizations said they were not impacted by a lack of diversity.

A majority — 78% — of respondents said their organization did not have a staff member solely responsible for diversity efforts, but 28% said they had consulted an external diversity expert.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents maintained that their staff’s demographics were representative of the communities they served.

The survey’s results suggest many organizations are trying to adapt. Half said they changed their human resources/talent management practices last year in an effort to realize greater organizational diversity. The majority either changed their interviewing practices or hiring practices.

When it came to the diversity training, just over half of respondents who used diversity training covered general topics. Forty percent delved into implicit bias, 20% covered sensitivity training and 14% focused on hiring diverse talent. Twenty-two percent included cross-cultural communication training.

Leadership and staff (41% and 43%, respectively) received the training, while only 9% of the board did. Twenty-three percent of companies offered the training to leadership, staff and the board.

Nonprofit HR also stressed the importance of metrics in helping to drive diversity success. Thirty-six percent of respondents implemented metrics for race, gender and age to track diversity progress. Thirteen percent measured minority retention rates, 16% recorded pay gaps and 7% measured other areas. However, 55% had not implemented the measurement of any diversity metrics.

The report also offers advice on best practices for organizations in achieving more success in diversity.

“Ongoing commitment from the top for diversity training is a must,” Mishka Parkins, marketing and communications manager at Nonprofit HR, said in the report. “The CEO and all levels of management must have buy in. Leaders should be role models and set the expectations for an inclusive culture through continuous learning. Also, leadership-centered diversity training offered exclusively to senior management and the board, will help to reinforce an employer’s commitment to diversity. Finally remember that training needs to be ongoing because while diversity can be ‘attained,’ inclusion is a journey of learning, course correcting, and growing.”

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