Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap is the first report in the Building Movement Project’s Race to Lead series.
The nonprofit sector is experiencing a racial leadership gap. Studies show the percentage of people of color in the executive director/CEO role has remained under 20% for the last 15 years even as the country becomes
To find out more, the Building Movement Project conducted the Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race survey. Over 4,000 respondents answered questions about their current nonprofit job, interest in leading a nonprofit, training/supports, views of leadership, and personal background. They were also asked about their views on race and the nonprofit sector. This report compares people of color and white respondents’ backgrounds, aspirations to be leaders, training, and attitudes towards leadership.
The findings from the survey challenge the way the nonprofit sector has been approaching the racial leadership gap. The prevailing theory of change has been that there needs to be more attention on finding or convincing people of color to consider leadership positions, keeping those who are qualified from leaving the sector, and offering training to the others to prepare them for taking on the top job. Underlying this logic are the assumptions that people of color are less interested in nonprofit leadership than their white counterparts, that qualified leaders of color will leave the nonprofit sector, and that those who stay do not have the skills to be competitive (without help) for top leadership jobs.
The results tell a different story. They show more similarities than differences in the background and preparation between white and POC respondents. In addition, people of color are more likely to aspire to be leaders than white respondents. This new narrative transfers the responsibility for the racial leadership gap from those who are targeted (people of color) to those who oversee organizations as well as the sector overall, which needs to embrace systems change work to ensure that its policies, practices and culture are aligned with the values of diversity, inclusion and equity.