The Building Movement Project has released Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs: A Race to Lead Report on Nonprofit Executives of Color. This new report focuses on the experiences and challenges of nonprofit leaders of color. It explores the added burdens facing leaders of identity-based organizations, the challenges that BIPOC leaders encounter when taking over leadership from white predecessors, as well as the common realities of being a leader of color in the nonprofit sector.
The topic of leadership transitions is particularly relevant right now. BMP’s Co-Executive Directors wrote an op-ed for The Chronicle of Philanthropy exploring the potential for the growing number of ED/CEO departures to usher in more diversity in the sector, but challenging philanthropy to support incoming leaders of color to succeed, rather than pushing them over the proverbial “glass cliff.” Another article by one of the Chronicle’s senior reporters provides additional stories of added hurdles for leaders of color who ascend to top positions following white leaders who had struggled to take up the effort to end racism and ensure that employees of all backgrounds could thrive. These articles highlight a key takeaway from this report: ascending to an executive position does not end a leader’s struggles with racism, but can sometimes exacerbate those challenges.
Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs builds upon the findings of the 2019 Race to Lead Revisited report, as well as a previous report on nonprofit executives based on the 2016 Race to Lead survey. It is also bolstered by recent research conducted by both BMP and others in the field. In particular, our Making (Or Taking) Space report, a collaboration with the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, delved into the challenges of nonprofit leadership transitions from white to BIPOC leaders. Also, our 2020 On The Frontlines report revealed how leaders of color were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they created bold solutions to meet the needs of their staff and communities. These sources laid the groundwork for the five key findings identified in Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs, as well as the opportunities for grantmakers and foundations to support and sustain leaders of color.
- Leaders of color need supports, not more training.
- Leaders of color take on added burdens, without additional compensation.
- Leaders of identity-based organizations face distinct demands.
- Unique challenges come with taking over leadership from white predecessors.
- Too few white leaders factor race equity into their succession plans.
- Support on-ramps & off-ramps for nonprofit leaders.
- Fund peer supports for leaders of color.
- Double-down—don’t wait and see.
- Factor race into executive transitions.
- Invest in organizations that already center identity.