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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

What is the importance of a diverse nonprofit, and how can leadership create one?

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What is workplace diversity and where did it come from?

Diversity has become a central topic in every environment over the last couple of years. This is due to the injustices coming to light within our society; it is no different in the workplace. Since the 1960s, people of color and women have fought for equality at work, leading to laws being passed prohibiting discrimination (1964), increasing advancement opportunities for the underrepresented (1965), and allowing those who have been discriminated against to prosecute (1972).

To have a truly diverse environment, an organization must develop an intentional focus to hire people from groups that have been systematically discriminated against and oppressed at work. This includes, but is not limited to, people of color, women, various religious groups, non-heterosexuals and people with disabilities.

Why is workplace diversity important?

Creating diverse workplaces has played a large role in the rise of African Americans in the U.S. middle class, and has created benefits for women of all races. As high as 80% of people now entering the workforce are non-white, women, or immigrants. Developing a diverse work environment has been shown to decrease turnover rates, increase job performance, help organizations exceed their financial goals, and promote creativity, which leads to greater innovation. Employees often relate their satisfaction and quality of care to how inclusive and diverse the organization is. The more diverse an organization, the more resources will be available and the more ties it will have to influential people and institutions.

What challenges are faced creating a diverse organization?

  • Several Rochester, NY, nonprofit leaders admitted one of their biggest challenges was attracting qualified diverse candidates. The nonprofit workforce is comprised of 82% of people identifying white, and mostly women.
  • The undesired and unwelcoming atmosphere for community members outside of this category is partly due to unintentional microaggressions found in the workplace.
  • Without an intentional marketing strategy to attract a diverse staff, employers may find it difficult to reach outside of basic search engines.
  • This can influence an organization even further as almost 75% of job seekers disclose a diverse organization as being important when accepting an offer; 89% of Black participants declared it was essential.
  • With diversity training programs being customary at workplaces, an organization also faces the challenge of executing them correctly. If not, the employer runs the risk of appearing insensitive or offensive.

Leadership and management recommendations

  • Providing internships to high school students, especially those from more diverse areas, would create a positive experience for participants and attract more interest in the nonprofit field for college. Organizations can do this by working directly with schools that often require community service for graduation.
  • The contribution of scholarships and tuition reimbursement to new and existing employees would generate interest for future applicants and attract a more diverse staff or those who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend college.
  • Offering paid training for new hires or current employees wishing to further their careers. An organization may wish to have a trainer on staff to save money.
  • In addition to diversity programs, an organization should have inclusion initiatives to help create a welcoming atmosphere and to be sure all employees feel valued.
  • Diversity and inclusion programs should be headed by someone who has personally experienced discrimination and oppression in the workplace to avoid uneasiness.
  • When in the hiring process, utilize the organizations network: reach out to other local diverse organizations, inner-city job placement agencies, and current diverse staff.


To further succeed in the nonprofit sector, it is important for an organization to have a diverse staff representing the population they are serving and also focus on inclusion. Through a series of education initiatives, an organization can provide resources to members of their community who otherwise may not receive the training, opening up the potential for a more diverse candidate pool. Organizations should also utilize their current diverse staff for diversity seminars, as well as networking for upcoming positions. With an intentional effort to create a diverse workplace, the organization will be able to effectively represent its community.

Apryl Calaci is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Apryl received her undergraduate degree from The College at Brockport SUNY in communication studies and is based in Rochester, New York. She is currently consulting while searching for a full-time role. She has a vast background in the nonprofit world: the topics she is most passionate about are substance abuse, mental health, homelessness, sex trafficking and the environment. Ideally her future organization will allow her to serve and support one or more of those subsectors.

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