Nonprofit boards that include a higher percentage of women tend to have board members who participate more in fundraising and advocacy. Members of these boards also tend to be more involved in the board’s work, new research released today shows.
The finding is just one of a number of results from the study, The Impact of Diversity: Understanding How Nonprofit Board Diversity Affects Philanthropy, Leadership and Board Engagement, which can help board members and nonprofits strengthen their boards through diversity. The research was conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI in partnership with Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates and BoardSource.
“As the U.S. population grows more diverse, nonprofit boards have an opportunity to engage members that reflect this diversity in their work,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the school. “Diverse board members have the capacity to improve the organization’s philanthropic engagement through increased board member participation, fundraising and advocacy.”
The study examines the ways in which diversity is associated with board members’ engagement with the board. It also explores the relationship between a nonprofit’s characteristics—such as the age of the organization, level of revenue, and focus area (nonprofit subsector)—and the diversity of its board members, including their race, ethnicity, age and gender. The report finds that both organizational characteristics and the diversity of the board affect levels of board engagement.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Nonprofit boards with more women members are more involved, engage more in fundraising, and participate more in public policy advocacy. Their CEOs also rate these boards’ fundraising performance higher.
- Boards with higher percentages of young members (age 39 or younger) have greater commitment and involvement and engage more in oversight and governance. This is also true of boards with higher percentages of women members.
- Nonprofits founded before 1900 have less diverse boards than newer, smaller organizations. Nonprofits with higher revenues also tend to have less diverse boards.
- Older organizations have significantly higher percentages of board members who meet with potential donors, ask others for money and contribute financial gifts. These boards also are more likely to be rated by their CEOs as being highly involved.
- There is a relationship between a nonprofit’s subsector and board diversity. For example, nonprofits that focus on education tend to have higher percentages of African-American board members.
- Boards of nonprofits with revenues of $5 million or greater are more likely to participate in advocacy. Their members are more likely to engage with policy makers, to provide them with information on policy activities and to monitor the impact of government policy.
“It is important to align your board composition with your organization’s mission, values and priorities,” says Angela E. White, senior consultant and CEO of Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates. “Nonprofits should be careful to avoid seeking diversity just for the sake of diversity as this can lead to tokenism. However, if boards clearly define their priorities and foster a culture of continuous learning, greater diversity will lead to a more engaged board.”
“The nonprofit sector has a great opportunity to lead by example on diversity and inclusion,” said Vernetta Walker, chief governance officer of BoardSource. “As a sector that focuses on the public good, inclusion of diverse individuals can deepen understanding of issues communities are facing and create the right environment for problem solving, in an authentic manner. Ultimately, this is about mission impact, which is the reason nonprofits exist.”
The research comprised two phases. In the first, researchers conducted an empirical analysis of the data from BoardSource’s Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practice, including nonprofit CEOs’ responses to the survey, combined with information from IRS Forms 990 and the school’s Million Dollar List of large gifts. The second phase employed case studies to delve more deeply into findings from the first phase. In addition to the results above, the study includes analyses about the linkages between additional organizational characteristics, measures of diversity and overall engagement.
For the school: Adriene Davis Kalugyer, (317) 278.8972, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates: Deanna Lepsky, (317) 215.2413, email@example.com
For BoardSource: Erin Berry, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy or “Like” us on Facebook.
About Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates
Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA) has been providing authentic strategic and philanthropic consulting services to nonprofit clients since 1994. JGA’s team of senior consultants offers client-focused, highly customized philanthropic consulting services to education, healthcare, arts and culture, faith-based, and community organizations. JGA specializes in capital campaign counsel, feasibility studies, strategic planning, and development audits. JGA believes in strengthening the field of philanthropy through research and empowering nonprofits to make the world a better place. We know the field of philanthropy continues to evolve and we are part of that evolution. Our consultants are teachers, students, authors, and frequent speakers on the latest techniques and philosophies in the field. We invite you to learn more about our services on our website at www.jgacounsel.com.
With nearly 30 years of hands-on experience working with nonprofit boards, BoardSource has become the go-to resource for nonprofit organizations. We engage and support a global network of nonprofit leaders and organizations, and offer a wide range of resources to strengthen and support board performance.