Last summer, the United Way of Central Ohio made headlines for a new policy on board diversity that will require United Way funded partners to align their board compositions, starting with race and ethnicity, with Franklin County demographics by 2025.
The current state of board diversity in Central Ohio is far from ideal. Through a comprehensive survey conducted by United Way of Central Ohio, it was found that:
- 82% of nonprofit board members are White yet only 64% of the population is White.
- 65% of nonprofit board members earn more than $150,000 per year while only 10% of residents do.
- 77% of nonprofit board members are 35-64 years old but only 37% of the population is that age.
While these may not be surprising statistics, they are reason for pause because we know that organizations with diverse boards are more effective.
Under the leadership of Lisa Courtice, United Way of Central Ohio has not only created the new policy — they launched a pilot program to be part of the solution. The Board Diversity Pilot Program, chaired by Marlon Moore and led by Shayne Downton and Rachel Skwerer, is at the forefront of transformational change. The goal is to create a diverse talent pipeline that builds greater nonprofit board diversity in Central Ohio.
The program has five corporate partners, including Cardinal Health Foundation, Grange Insurance, Huntington Bank, and L Brands, that have committed to nominating up to five diverse employees as board candidates.
Rather than just generating a list of the names of diverse candidates, the pilot will create a model of matchmaking that aligns the corporate social responsibility platforms of the corporations and the unique skills of corporate leaders with the missions of nonprofit partners. The intent is to move from a transactional, check the box mindset to a relational process that changes how the community thinks about board recruitment.
To make the best placement, we must think about the board culture, the needs of the organizations to be served, and how they align with the right talent.
Board culture is certainly about inclusivity but also about board dynamics, which can be determined by factors such as how board meetings are conducted, if a power-center exists with the Executive Committee, if new voices are welcomed, level of board member engagement, number of term limits, and size of the board.
There are other factors, too, such as special projects and circumstances that will dramatically affect board experience. For instance, if an organization is about to launch a capital campaign or is engaged in an executive search process.
The committee will look at a comprehensive list of factors to ensure the right matches are made. The 20-25 board candidates will be supported with training and continued touchpoints throughout the first year of placement. United Way of Central Ohio will document what is learned along the way to share with the community.
We must be better about diverse board recruitment, nomination, and support. This work is imperative and the community is counting on United Way to lead the way.