Research & Reports

Diversity Strategies Lacking at Many Organizations

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Sixty-nine percent (69%) of organizations lack a true diversity strategy, according to a new report by Nonprofit HR, a leading talent management firm in the social impact sector.

Through their work, Nonprofit HR has seen countless examples of unsuccessful attempts to tackle the basic foundation of diversity.  This, combined with the incongruence of the national dialogue, the current state of diversity revealed by the firm’s applied research, and increased efforts to advance equity and inclusion in the sector, prompted Nonprofit HR to conduct this first-time, diversity (only)-focused survey.

Results from the survey, outlined in the 2019 Nonprofit Diversity Practices Report, counter some of the narrative of diversity success and present benchmarking data for decision-makers to incorporate into their future diversity objectives. More than 560 organizations of all budget sizes and mission types from the U.S. and Canada participated in the study, which includes tips and guidance to strengthen workforce diversity.

Key takeaways include:

  • More than half of respondents, 52%, reported that their organization has a formal diversity statement.

The survey data tells a story that the larger the organization’s budget and staff, the higher percentage of formal diversity statements adopted. Organizations with smaller staff and budgets reported less activity, some suggesting via write-in responses that they “don’t need to or can’t afford to” adopt a formal diversity statement.

  • Less than a third (31%) of the organizations surveyed have a formal diversity strategy, and 42% of respondents cited “realizing racial and ethnic diversity” as their greatest diversity challenge.

Becoming race-literate is essential to creating equity, inclusion, and belonging in an organization. For organizations to thrive in this century of social responsibility and social justice, they will need to be intentional about understanding race, racism and ethnicity and their impact on work/life. Race and ethnicity training need to be treated as separate subjects under an organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, allowing topic-specific curricula to be addressed.

  • Fifty-one percent (51%) of the organizations surveyed offer general diversity training, while 31% offer no diversity training.

Building and maintaining a diverse workforce requires training to educate employees and uncover unconscious biases that may exist within, and adversely impact, an organization. Ultimately, diversity training raises awareness of different races, cultures, belief systems, and perspectives. Increased awareness then strengthens cultural competency, uncovers unconscious bias, and cultivates sensitivity in the workplace.

  • Forty-one percent (41%) reported that their organizations have provided diversity training to leadership and 43% have provided training to staff. Only 9% reported as having provided diversity training to board members.

Ongoing commitment from the top for diversity training is a must. 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. In addition, leadership-centered diversity training offered exclusively to senior management and the board will help to reinforce an employer’s commitment to diversity. Failure to demonstrate commitment to diversity erodes a mission’s ability to attract and retain best talent.

  • Only 22% of organizations have a staff person who is solely responsible for the organization’s diversity efforts, and 28% of survey respondents have retained an external diversity coach or consultant.

Based on the diversity survey, organizations with the largest budgets and highest number of employees either have dedicated internal diversity staff or have utilized an external diversity coach. This is significant because if diversity is, in fact, a transformative imperative for an organization, and having someone “own” the work and be responsible for tracking progress can add critical value. Likewise, progress must be monitored to determine the need for strategic shifts and the timing for celebration of measured success.

  • Fifty-five percent (55%) of organizations surveyed have not implemented any diversity metrics and of those that have metrics in place, only 25% share the data with their board, senior management and staff.

Keeping track of diversity metrics helps organizations assess if they are achieving the cultural and engagement goals across the various demographic segments within their organizations. Similar to monitoring general staff key performance indicators and overall organizational impact, diversity metrics help assess a nonprofit organization’s HR efficiency, effectiveness and impact across different groups.

It has been proven that organizations with more diverse workforces perform better financially. Therefore, tracking diversity metrics also helps ensure overall sustainability in the long run as diversity leads to more successful organizations.

Metrics should be reviewed regularly to see improvements and sometimes to see where they may need to be adapted or to incorporate stretch goals as efforts improve, constituents change and as business goals change.

Various diversity strategies are covered in the report and shared through narratives, tips and resources. Inclusive of strategy, organizations can leverage the survey data to strengthen workforce diversity in four core areas; organizational structure, talent management, community, and suppliers/partners.

The full report may be downloaded at

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