The violence against and dehumanization of Black lives in our society is an ongoing evil that must be stopped. The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery — along with countless others — underscores the terrible effects of both interpersonal and systemic racism that exists in our society. Black lives matter. When we see injustices that reinforce any other message, it is incumbent on all of us to speak out and to act. Racism is pervasive and many times discrete. We know that not all racism results in the unjustified loss of life, or public protest, or 24 hour news coverage. Day-in and day-out, Black community members face the unjust and unacceptable impact of a society that stacks the deck against them. We must all act in concert to change this reality, in every way we can.
Cause Strategy Partners is committed to doing everything we can to make the biggest impact possible.
Our team has been working on an action-oriented agenda that leverages our core knowledge, assets and resources to be a part of the solution. One of the areas we believe we can make the most impact is through our nonprofit board placement, training and support work with BoardLead.
First, we will refine our approach to BoardLead candidate recruitment in order to double down on extending our board placement, training and support work to people of color who stand ready to serve as nonprofit board members. We know firsthand that the biggest barrier to nonprofit board service is not lack of interest: there are so many who stand ready, willing and able to serve. Rather, the primary barrier is simply lack of access driven by board development processes that too often lack any real sense of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
In our governance training work, we discuss the power dynamic inherent in nonprofit board service that is born of the fact that those who serve in the boardroom are making decisions that may affect the lives of a group of people of which the directors themselves, often, are not a part. The risk is that because of this disconnect, the board could make decisions with ineffective results, or worse, have a harmful net impact. A commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion can create an environment in which the board is responsive to the realities of the people and the community it serves by including the community in the decision-making processes.
Second, we will measure our progress and report it publicly in an effort to hold ourselves accountable. Today, just 16% of nonprofit board members are people of color — an outrageously inappropriate lack of access to the leadership ranks of nonprofit organizations serving our communities across the country. While 40% of our BoardLeaders elected to nonprofit boards identify as people of color, we know that we can continue to do better. We will re-engineer our work in order to achieve a 45% POC election rate by this time next year and a 50% POC election rate in two years. What matters is measured. What is measured gets done. We are going to hold ourselves accountable to this advancement on behalf of the nonprofit sector and society-at-large.
Third, we will build on our library of resources and training materials to better equip our BoardLeaders to serve as effective champions of anti-racism work and equity-centered board leadership as they step on to nonprofit boards.
Fourth, we will continue our direct financial support of nonprofit organizations working to strengthen and support Black lives. We have been honored to support organizations like Cabrini Green Legal Aid, The Anti-Violence Project, New Moms, Legal Outreach, and Covenant House, to name just a few — all working to create a more just, safe and equitable future. If you are looking for places to donate, we would encourage you to support these organizations and their vital missions.
Finally, we will maintain a learning posture every step of the way in order to better serve our communities. Six months ago, we began an internal experience as a team, meeting monthly to deepen our individual and collective understanding, learning and practices around diversity, equity and inclusion. We need to learn from our partners and friends, as well. If you have any suggestions around how we can fight the injustice of racism in our society more effectively through our work, please reach out to me directly to share your ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a journey. Every member of our team is eager and committed to do what we can to create a society that tangibly demonstrates the inherent worth of every Black life.
Thank you for being on this journey with us,
Robert Acton, Principal and Founder, Cause Strategy Partners
Robert Acton, JD is Principal and Founder of Cause Strategy Partners, a firm that provides strategic counsel and high-impact programming to foundations, companies and social good organizations with a specialized focus on building both board and executive leadership.