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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Five tactics that enable inclusion strategies in nonprofits


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies are being implemented in all sectors of society, including nonprofits. Trust in nonprofit organizations is vital to their success and very future since the foundational belief is that the nonprofit sector is here to do good. How can good be done when certain groups of people are ignored and overlooked? The communities served, the stakeholders, and employees must trust that their voices are being heard and valued. Senior leadership and directing boards should accurately reflect the communities served. Organizations that do not make the effort to invest in DEI are demonstrating a disconnect between their stated mission and their actions taken.

With some additional preparation and determination, organizations can overcome those barriers and be successful in integrating DEI deep within their core values, mission, and culture. The many benefits that come from an organization that is more diverse and genuinely inclusive, are well worth the effort and perseverance through difficulties. Increased creativity, diversified contributing perspectives, innovation, and higher productivity are difficult to argue against, but there may be employees that resist the implementation. With appropriate preparation, the agency can address those issues and continue on forward to success.

1. Start at the top

Leadership and the board of directors need to be adamantly on board with the inclusivity plan. They must comprehend the importance and aid others in seeing its value. These efforts must be sincere and genuine. No one is expected to be perfect. Verbally confirming a value is vividly different than actually demonstrating it, and both the community and the employees will be watching closely. If there is resistance in leadership then it must be addressed. The work can be uncomfortable for some at times but that desired personal comfort is simply not more important than the work.

2. Make honest status checks

Do not roll out a plan and sit back and hope for the best. The DEI implementation plans must be adapted to each agency and leadership must stay engaged. It is important to identify timeframes but to also remain open to adjusting as needed. There should be consistent status checks of the measurements in place, in order to see the progress made or the barriers that are arising. Without regular analysis, small issues won’t be addressed in a timely manner and can grow and increase difficulty. Do celebrate the small successes throughout and continue to demonstrate that the organization does value inclusion strategies.

3. Model humility

Great leaders should be working to serve in a humble manner. No one is instantly perfect but with humility and determination, greatness is possible. Be transparent with both the successes and the difficulties encountered in implementation, so that it is better understood that perfection is not the expectation. Model humility with acknowledging missteps and demonstrating how they can be overcome. Give grace to all those actively trying to make necessary changes.

4. Partner with like-minded organizations

As implementation is solidified internally, look eternally to connect as well. There can be a wealth of knowledge gathered from other organizations’ successes and failures. Connect more deeply with other organizations who also demonstrate DEI as a value.  Information should be shared as to make a bigger impact on the community.

5. Accountability is essential

Acknowledge when someone is not the right fit for the organization. As training plans are enacted, there may be individuals who refuse or resist the shift. Ignoring the truth will cause issues just as any deviation from the mission would. Offer additional intervention and training genuinely but if the resistance remains, do not fold, or ignore. Make a conscious decision to pursue greatness as an organization and part ways with individuals who do not align with the agency values and mission.


Striving for diversity, equity, and inclusivity

Addressing inequalities and shifting perspectives can be difficult and uncomfortable for some but that is not a valid reason to give up. Do not accept that your organization is good enough without the integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Make the choice to be a great organization and successfully demonstrate the discipline needed to reach greatness.


Evangelina Sesma is a Spring 2023 graduate in the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University and is a member of Nu Lambda Mu Honor Society. Evangelina is currently working locally to address the housing challenges for some of the most vulnerable, as a program manager with A New Leaf in Arizona. She has worked for the local nonprofit organization for almost 15 years in both direct service and management and is passionate about helping to empower, engage, and serve her community.

Image by Lillian Finley

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The Optimizing Human Resources Strategies in Nonprofits certificate is for individuals seeking knowledge and skills in nonprofit human resources, volunteer management, change management and conflict resolution.

Course content includes:

  • Complying with federal and state employment laws and compensation systems
  • Recruiting, managing, motivating and rewarding both staff and volunteers in order to effectively utilize their strengths
  • Effectively lead and champion change within an organization
  • Developing strategies to overcome internal and external conflict




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