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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Nonprofits

I have been fortunate to participate in DEI efforts with various nonprofits in my work with LTHJ Global.

What this has revealed is that some of the most important conversations we can have at work arise when team members are provided a space to begin to unpack the trauma they experience in their current position. This leads to healing and building a foundation for the equitable and inclusive nature that many organizations continue to endorse.

Providing an internal space for team members and leadership to have their voices heard and begin to feel as if they are a part of internal change is an asset for the individual workers. This asset ultimately creates a level of empowerment that is often extended to the beneficiaries of the service as well as the communities in which the services take place.

Nonprofit organizations have a unique history filled with a “calling” to provide aid to those suffering. While this is commendable work, there is usually strife within these agencies due to top-heavy leadership, inconsistent pay scales and a lack of upward mobility. While the premise for providing help has not changed, today’s nonprofits are seeking to become change agents and learn to navigate the barriers that create challenges for them internally aligning with their core values.

When nonprofits were created, they were put in place to help more vulnerable populations. The history of individuals in the helping profession started with a group of White-identifying women whose sole mission was to “help” those that were less fortunate. One of the major consternations of this mindset is still present. Well-meaning people can and do cause harm, not only to their beneficiaries but also to the teams that are doing the work. LTHJ Global helps these nonprofits to strategize ways to become more diverse and equitable as they seek to become change agents inside and outside of their organizations.

Many nonprofits are looking to stand up and denounce injustices, but they often face difficulties finding the space and resources to make meaningful change from the inside. There are numerous benefits for any organization to seek DEI services, but due to their core premise, it is particularly vital for nonprofits to offer more diverse, equitable and inclusive places to work and benefit the community. DEI initiatives can help nonprofits move forward in creating systems that will not only help their team thrive, but also help their organizations strategize ways to make changes in the communities they serve. This also provides a meaningful way for them to internalize their values.

LTHJ utilizes several unique methodologies in working with nonprofits. One of these is helping them upgrade their thinking from being saviors to becoming a beneficiary-first organization. This means treating the beneficiaries of a nonprofit’s services as the guiding source of the nonprofit’s missions and methodologies. One premise that is often foreign to leaders of nonprofits is dealing with their beneficiaries in a way that will empower them to have ownership over their futures without the need for help. Another challenge is navigating around the nonprofit industrial complex.

The Approach: I – We –Us

Utilizing the I –We –Us methodology, LTHJ Global helps nonprofits focus on ways that they manifest in different spaces. There are different levels of commitment for each of the components of this premise.

The “I” work includes training, caucus groups and other exercises designed to help employees unpack the personal trauma resulting from being a part of an organization in which their unique needs have been ignored.

The “I” work is based on a commitment from the leadership/board that they will make the space for their organization to move towards a diverse, equitable and inclusive place where all aspects of their team is celebrated and acknowledged. It is based on individuals learning about themselves, how they show up, and ways that they can confront biases to become more authentic actors.

The “We” work involves a commitment to developing equity between the leadership/board and the frontline team which tend to be marginalized, overworked, and underpaid. It is often focused on how these nonprofits can become more inclusive and equitable in providing a safe place for the individuals that have been identified to work with the beneficiaries.

The “Us” work involves creating systems that will help the organization to reach out differently to the communities that they serve. It is created to not only build continuously operating internal systems but also for the communities they serve to be able to recognize and feel the effects of the change.

Some of the other challenges nonprofits face in moving forward in this important work are the funding sources. Nonprofits rely on community-based funding which creates a barrier if their funders are resistant to a diverse, equitable and inclusive approach. The process of unpacking this tension for nonprofits depends on the ability to ensure that the organization can work with their board.

The Board has to understand the importance of providing the leadership with the support and funding that comes with moving into new ventures. Nonprofits can work to develop a strategic plan, and engage in trainings and other support needed to align internal systems and external offerings with a beneficiary-first approach. One key opportunity to explore here is a more diverse funding model, including funding sources specifically for nonprofit DEI initiatives.

If you are part of a nonprofit organization and it is your desire to participate in this important work, please do not feel as if this is beyond your scope or ability. Contact an agency that specializes in organization design, that has the experience to help nonprofits in any phase on their journey toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. Please do not hesitate to contact us to schedule an information gathering session to see how we can be of service in helping your nonprofit be on the right side of change.

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