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.
To understand what is blocking progress in diversifying nonprofit leadership, the Building Movement Project surveyed more than 4,000 staff of organizations in the U.S. The report on the survey data – Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap – provides both evidence of the structural barriers that perpetuate the racial leadership gap and recommendations for the nonprofit sector to address them.
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 Building Movement Project will be releasing on the survey data from the Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race Survey.
We’ll also provide updates in the LeaderStories blog.