This blog was originally posted on a collaborative partner, Foundation Innovation’s e-newsletter, and is reposted here with permission.
Okay, spoiler alert, this blog is not about Star Wars; yet I am looking forward to the release of the Last Jedi this winter! I’m not alone, eh?
Relevant forces influencing our work as education foundations do include an evolving demographic face of America – shifting at every aspect of our daily life from television programming to geographic representation/identification to a multi-generational workforce. So how are we, as education foundation leaders, steadying and adapting to meet these evolving demographics?
Does your board composition reflect the needs of your diverse community?
What strategies and policies does your foundation have in place to elevate and welcome diverse voices and representation?
Is cultural awareness a priority to your foundation?
There is a lot of empirical data to show that diverse boards of directors make better decisions. They are more innovative, adaptive, connected, and develop more comprehensive, informed decisions. Diverse boards enhance and build a deeper and more operational understanding of the diverse people and communities it aims to serve.
So, what is it and why does it matter to foundations?
Diversity is about broadening the definition of what it means to be human. It confronts the old thinking of “us and them” and “same or other” and simply, it highlights the fact we are united in being different. We all have differences, and recognizing and respecting those differences is a strategy to harness as a force for good…and this leads to why it is important to education foundations!
Diversity is having a range of people at the table but inclusion means they are actually recognized as part of the group and can contribute meaningfully. Or as a colleague of mine frankly puts it – “diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Asked to dance can mean being active in the planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of foundation programming.
Below are practical ways your foundation can incorporate diversity as a uniting force:At your next board meeting, openly brainstorm, “What should our board look like in the future?” Consider where the organization is going and what skills, experiences, contacts, and professional/personal backgrounds will be most helpful to the organization in the near term – but also in the foreseeable future.
- Identify your foundation board’s current “culture”. Is it welcoming to individuals of diverse backgrounds? When you invite someone to join the board you will want them to feel comfortable and become engaged with the mission, their role, and their colleagues on the board. Cultural sensitivity helps make new board members immediately feel valued – and increases the chances that they will remain engaged.
- Set goals for expanding the profile of your board in certain areas. Start evaluating board candidates with those goals in mind, and make sure all the current board members know what to look for when they are considering and cultivating future board member prospects.
- Think about what a new board member’s impression of your organization will be. On-boarding board members with a thoughtful orientation can help manage expectations and presents an opportunity to introduce veteran board members to the newcomers, as well as establish mentoring relationships that can help knit together a diverse group.
Quoting Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” My hope is this blog post helps your board take a next step in elevating the great work you do in a manner that is mission-supportive, results-oriented and creates impact as immense as the universe itself.