Making the Nonprofit Sector More Inclusive

Last week, the Michigan Nonprofit Association announced that it’s leading an effort to collect demographic data related to nonprofit leadership across the state. This initiative will build on The Detroit Nonprofit Leadership Census survey, which was released in mid-December, highlighted a number of key issues. Among them:


  • 6 percent of BIPOC executive directors are the first leaders of color in their organizations
  • 9 percent of white-led organizations do not have BIPOC board members, and 1.6 percent of them have a 100 percent BIPOC board
  • 6 percent of surveyed, white-led organizations did not have any BIPOC staff members


While disheartening, in many ways this data points to what we in the philanthropic/nonprofit sector have long known - philanthropy is a very white space. We know this from the national data around who sits on boards, who leads nonprofits, who makes funding decisions, and who donates large-scale gifts. In my work, I see how this plays out every day. The issues range from the more overt, such as having an all (or nearly all) white board, to the slightly more subtle like a CEO afraid to take a stand on racial justice because they’re concerned it’ll be ‘off-putting’ to a donor and they’ll lose funds.


As yet another representative of white philanthropy, I know that I certainly don’t have all the answers to solving these issues. To be honest…I’m sure I even have half of the answers. But what I do know is that it is up to all of us in the sector to undo these scenarios and change the trajectory of the data. Whether you’re a CEO, fundraiser, board member, foundation leader, corporate giving representative or a donor – we all have a part to play!


In my work, I’m particularly concerned about access to the information and people that can help nonprofits raise more money and deepen their impact. Because of that, here’s what Detroit Philanthropy is doing to make our work and our sector more inclusive:


  • In February of 2021, I led a discussion with several community leaders around the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the nonprofit sector. If you missed it, be sure to check it out. We’ll be building on that conversation in our April webinar this year by diving deeper into the role that boards play. More information coming soon!


  • Throughout 2022, we’re continuing our dedication to inclusivity by keeping our educational and networking program, Community Connections, free of charge. This includes the webinar referenced above as well as many other virtual and in-person events throughout the year. I hope you’ll take advantage of these events that allow our entire nonprofit community to gather, learn and grow together. You can do so by registering here.


  • Additionally, we are building on our commitment to equitable access by offering a free, one-time consulting session for nonprofits with a budget under $500,000. Organizations of all sizes are affecting positive change in our community. Their ability to pay for professional advice and expertise shouldn’t inhibit their impact.


I know that my efforts aren’t going to undo generations of disparities, but it’s my hope that by offering connections and resources we can at least start to level the playing field. As the data tells us, there is still work to be done and I hope you’ll join me in finding your own way to work towards solutions.


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About Rachel M. Decker

Having spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector as an effective and strategic fundraising and foundation executive, Detroit Philanthropy Founder and President, Rachel Decker is passionate about helping others, making meaningful connections, solving problems and, most importantly, creating impact in our community. With the founding of Detroit Philanthropy, she turned that passion into a commitment to champion philanthropy throughout metro Detroit as a philanthropic advisor, fundraising consultant and speaker.

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