Workplace diversity is indeed a diverse concept, encompassing a wide array of people in terms of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, age, ability, economic status, and more. Most nonprofits tout diversity in their staff and their actions as though achieving full-fledged diversity were a high honor. But how many prioritize diversity, making it a reality for most nonprofits?


According to the Level Playing Field Institute’s April 2011 study of over 1,600 nonprofit employees, “Nearly 90% of employees believe that their organization values diversity. However, more than 70% believe that their employer does not do enough to create a diverse and inclusive work environment.”


How can nonprofit leaders renew employees’ faith in workplace diversity?


Diversity Journal states diversity in staffing is a crucial element in allowing nonprofits to speak to a plethora of audiences. However, potential employees should not feel as if they are being considered for a position because of one feature, such as race or age. Instead, open communication between the employer and interviewee about the many skills and perspectives the candidate can offer should take place.


Diversity is vital for both the staff as well as the audiences that the nonprofits serve.


For the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the “Race: Are We So Different?” exhibit brings forth racial diversity in tangible, exploratory form for the public. A marketing professional for the organization says that museums across the country must listen to their visitors and “imaginatively recreate programs for diversity.”


Sometimes, it only takes one visitor to suggest a plausible idea. When I planned events for a community center, I connected with a member who was actively involved in the artistic traditions of her Indian ethnicity. Along with other volunteers and staff, we created an educational and fun Bollywood extravaganza for the entire community.


Third Sector New England details specific steps nonprofits can take to achieve diversity:


  • Make sure the staff and board of directors are involved and dedicated to diversity issues.
  • Obtain viewpoints from experienced professionals outside the organization.
  • Schedule regular planning meetings with clear agenda items.
  • Select a diversity coordinator.
  • Determine a realistic budget for diversity efforts.


Steps towards diversity can be slow but progressive and ongoing. For one theatre organization that is fairly homogenous, an apprentice notes that the staff members’ ideology is diversity-oriented, as they try not to cast productions until they have reached an extensive pool of talent.


Creating the next generation of diversity thinkers prepares future CEOs and leaders to instinctively include diversity initiatives in their plans and activities. Various independent schools throughout Pittsburgh, for example, allow students to participate in diversity panel discussions and freely share information with their peers and their teachers about the issues that matter most to them.


Diverse thinking requires a team of diverse thinkers so that diversity in the nonprofit sector can become a permanent reality.


About the Author: Jennifer Schaupp likes diversity in her nonprofit work – diversity of tasks, perspectives, and people!