One Year Later: An Update on Our Race Equity Commitment

Image of George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, MN
A place of healing, hope, and organizing, George Floyd Square is a memorial site and semi-autonomous zone at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Ave in Minneapolis. Aaron Nesheim/The New York Times

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, we sent a message to our community last summer to make clear our position at Cause Strategy Partners: that Black Lives Matter and that we will forcefully stand with our brothers and sisters in fighting for racial equality and eradicating racial injustice in society.

On June 5th, 2020, I wrote to our community sharing Cause Strategy Partners’ message of solidarity and commitment. We pledged ourselves to an “action-oriented agenda,” promising to leverage “our core knowledge, assets and resources to be a part of the solution.” We also committed to measure our progress and report back in one year. That is my reason for sharing this update today.

Our action-oriented agenda started with piloting a new model for BoardLead that builds new strategic partnerships in our core markets in order to offer our board placement, training and support services to professionals of color, outside of our corporate partnerships. Through this initiative – called “BoardAdvance” – we aim to drive greater racial diversity and inclusion into the leadership ranks of our nonprofit partners while simultaneously bridging the opportunity gap for professionals of color who stand ready, willing and able to serve. The data shows us that nonprofit boards in the United States are not representative of the population or of the communities served; our initiative looks to create greater opportunities not just for Black professionals but for all professionals of color looking to access a nonprofit board seat.

I shared one year ago that while just 16% of nonprofit board members identify as people of color across the country, 40% of our elected BoardLeaders do. I’m encouraged to report that our most recently completed round of BoardLead included an exceptional group of talented professionals, 46% of whom identify as people of color. We are making progress.

We also committed a year ago to build our library of resources in order to better equip our community of nonprofit partners and elected BoardLeaders. One such tool has been visited thousands of times since: our Racial Equity and Board Leadership resource page at causestrategypartners.com. In addition, Cause Strategy Partners’ Director of BoardLead and our Chief Program Officer – Erin Connell and Whitley Richards — built and are now delivering a series of training sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion in the boardroom to hundreds of nonprofit leaders and board members.

We have continued to direct financial support to nonprofit organizations working to strengthen Black lives, as well, contributing $38,000 to nonprofit organizations that serve youth from under-resourced communities, homeless teens, incarcerated individuals, and formerly justice system involved community members working towards a second chance at life.

To institutionalize our commitment to advance race equity for the long term, we changed Cause Strategy Partners’ Values Statement for the first time, adding to our list of six guiding principles: Advancement — Our commitment to diverse, inclusive and equitable leadership shapes every aspect of our work. We also added a new expectation to The BoardLeader Way, establishing the expectation that board members should use their power to advance equity and inclusion. Every BoardLeader must formally commit to The BoardLeader Way before being matched to one of our nonprofit partners.  

At Cause Strategy Partners, our shared vision is to elevate and transform governance in the social good sector. We don’t aspire to simply place professionals on boards. Rather, we aim for our BoardLeaders to serve in a way that – over time — changes the very nature of what board service must be: fully engaged, purpose-filled, equitable and impactful. Core to that vision is a deep commitment to pursue race equity in the nonprofit sector. While we are making progress, the journey is long. We are clear-eyed on how far we have to go. 

In service together,

Rob Acton
Founder & CEO 
Cause Strategy Partners

Headshot of Cause Strategy Partners CEO and Founder, Rob Acton

Robert Acton, Founder and CEO, Cause Strategy Partners

Robert Acton, JD is Founder and CEO 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.