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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How can nonprofits partner with underserved minorities to build better communities?

Puzzle pieces coming together

The need for collaboration amongst a diverse array of community members has become a recognized focus within the nonprofit sector. For those involved with nonprofit resource development, there has been an obvious redirection of financial gifting to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) - especially BIPOC-run and BIPOC-serving agencies. This is a step toward equity, but what nonprofit agencies are already well-equipped with the necessary resources? What obligations do white-led nonprofits hold for working with minority community groups and nonprofits in their communities?

Because “relatively high poverty neighborhoods [have] fewer quantities of nonprofit social service providers and…individuals residing in these neighborhoods [have] limited access to the providers that [are] in their communities,” the importance of collaborating between nonprofits serving minorities becomes all the more imperative to building better community.

Working in a white-led nonprofit agency that serves seniors has led me to question what efforts can be taken to improve our outreach to diverse neighborhoods, and I have been connecting with others in my community to inquire what they are doing to intentionally engage with members of minority communities. Diversity is essential because it provides us with insights from multiple perspectives and helps to ensure that we do not ostracize essential, but less highlighted needs. On this, many can agree. Specifically lacking in research on community development are the practical steps towards diversity and equity. Bethan Harries found that “bigger, more established/well-resourced and White-led organizations tend to be more successful” than BIPOC-led nonprofits in resource cultivation. What are the tactics and structures one must incorporate into their nonprofit models to ensure they are doing their due diligence to collaborate and share resources with nonprofit agencies of all racial and ethnic make-ups?

Implications for the nonprofit sector

In engaging in interviews with nonprofit agencies, there is a common trend among practitioners who have clients, volunteers, and staff who are of a primarily homogenous make-up. What does it look like to work within human services alongside members of minority communities to build better community? This question does not come with a simple solution, and there are daily decisions made to work toward making contacts with community leaders, elders, agencies, and members who can collaborate and share resources. Armin Budimlic of the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA) in Rochester, Minnesota, spoke much truth into this question when he stated that “these efforts cannot just be a blanket statement or goal-that is good, but without having benchmarks, these efforts will not be sustained.”

Steps to be taken and put into practice

What does it look like to benchmark progress with intercultural and interracial outreach and collaboration? Here are some steps to take as a nonprofit professional and leader:

  1. Developing contacts within a community can be an essential first step.
  2. There is much need for spending time with community members, learning their culture, beliefs, and needs. This is how mutual respect is developed between individuals with differing values, but similar goals.
  3. In addition to investing time in meetings and gatherings, there needs to be time devoted to implementing proper tools for working with diverse populations, such as translation and interpretation services to reach clients whose second language is English. Associated costs need to be accounted for in planning.
  4. Developing a goal for social outreach only works if it is implemented and consistently acted upon. Leaders and managers need to keep this in mind.
  5. Conversations need to maintain open dialogue with the focus on the needs of both parties and a willingness to consider the inequity between the two agencies, groups, etc. There needs to be a balance of listening and offering suggestions.
  6. Building better community requires strategic planning to support nonprofit BIPOC leaders, with structures for recruiting and retaining BIPOC volunteers and clients.

If these strategies can be considered and implemented by nonprofit sector leaders, there is much potential for BIPOC community groups and agencies to partner with white-led agencies and other groups to achieve success in learning about shared problems, resource sharing, and improved power through collaboration. This process requires humility, patience, dedication, and intentionality, but is well worth the opportunity to include the knowledge and experiences of a more diverse array of individuals in solving problems through joint efforts.

Becca Herbstritt is a 2021 graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. She also earned a bachelor’s degree of human services with dual minors in biblical and ministries studies and psychology from Waynesburg University. She is currently a development manager at Elder Network, a small, human-services agency in Minnesota. She enjoys volunteering with refugees and immigrants at a local nonprofit (IMAA) as well as serving as a facilitator of a cancer support group at her church.

Becca Herbstritt


ASU Lodestar Center Blog