The Advantages of Understanding Your Staff Amid a Tight Labor Market

by Melissa Irish, PRG Managing Associate

I recently read a staggering statistic citing that losing an employee costs 90 to 200 percent of their salary, benefits and expenses, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and the Center for American Progress. They went on to say that for top fundraisers, such as major gifts officer, the cost is likely much higher. 

An article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy tried to quantify this further and introduced the concept of the “Net Fundraiser Value.” To find this value, tally the amount raised during a fundraiser’s tenure, deduct their total compensation for one year, then divide by that same number — the total compensation for one year. This gives each fundraiser a score.

For example, a gift officer who raised an average of $780,000 — based on fundraising results over several years — with an estimated cost (including salary, benefits and budgetary expenses) of $120,000 will receive a score of 5.5. In other words, they are worth at least 5.5 times their overall cost.

I appreciate these attempts to make the economic argument for investing the time and money to attract – and more importantly retain – quality employees in fundraising. I believe there are still uncalculated costs of losing staff due to the loss of relationships with key supporters, as well. All of this points to the fact that it is very much worth time for nonprofit management to create a rewarding and attractive place for their fundraising staff

So, in this post-pandemic world from which we are slowly emerging, how do we do this? Like high gas prices, a tight labor market in fundraising is nothing new, but it’s reached crisis proportions. PRG suggests a few strategies: 

  • Know what is important to the people you are trying to hire and retain. Take the time to understand their currency. Is it opportunity, diversity, money, flexibility, recognition, growth? How do you find this out? Talk to them and ask! If you do lose an employee, take the exit interview seriously and learn from your mistakes. 
  • DEIB is #1 (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging). Nonprofits by their nature attract folks with strong ideals who want to work in a diverse and inclusive environment. Is your organization living these values? If not, people will walk. 
  • Right now, the name of the game is flexibility. Find a way to be flexible about work hours and locations. Employees everywhere now see this as the norm. 
  • Work – life balance is more important than ever to employees now that the pandemic has shown them how fleeting life can be. (We see the same motivation leading donors to become much more receptive and eager to make planned gifts and leave their legacy.) Consider what you can outsource to lighten the load of often over-burdened development staff and, in the long run, actually save costs. Firms like PRG can offer grant writing, prospect research, campaign management and new staff mentoring. 
  • Research affirms that salary is still a leading criteria for taking or staying on the job. Other important factors in employees’ decisions are promotion and growth opportunities, supportive, competent management and workplace flexibility. Create a “whole” package that is appealing.
  • Sweeten the deal with great benefits (this could especially appeal to younger families), a signing bonus, shorter work weeks and cross-collaboration with other departments to create more learning opportunities – which has the added perk of breaking down the silo of fundraising. 

This is a big menu. Find out what is important to each individual. Gone are the days when employees need to pretend “everything is okay” at work and that their feelings are irrelevant. Today’s world presents too many stressors that affect us all, and it’s only natural that this will affect people at work. Create a safe place for your employees to talk about it. It will make them more productive and satisfied.

Brene Brown put it well in her must-read book Dare to Lead, Daring leaders must care for and be connected to the people they lead.”

In this tumultuous labor market, PRG has found that, as consultants, we can help our longtime clients by holding the institutional memory that leaves with each turnover. We can provide interim support during critical times and offer mentoring and advice to help relieve stressed-out staff and executives. 

As always, we are honored to work with and be by your side as you advance the critical and inspiring missions you serve. Thank you. 

Want more ways to help with employee retention? Victoria Silverman, Managing Founder and CEO of Cook Silverman Search shared her tips for retaining staff

Woman wearing a pale pink coat, tailored jeans and ballet flats, and holding a black handbag, enters a revolving door. We are only able to see up to her shoulders.

Expert Tips for Retaining Your Fundraising Staff

We asked Victoria Silverman, Managing Founder and CEO of Cook Silverman Search what advice she has for retaining staff. 

“The first step is for the organization to do the hard work to provide an environment that is commensurate with what it is asking of its employees,” Silverman explains. “I find that asking hard questions can help provide a groundwork for the ability to attract and maintain staff.”

She recommends that organizations ask themselves:

  • Is the board diverse and representative of the community it serves?
  • Is there diversity in the organization in senior leadership positions?
  • Is the organizational environment inclusive, warm, and welcoming?
  • Does the organization take time to onboard its staff and board members properly?
  • Are there consistent and well-thought-out reviews?
  • Do you offer bonuses for development staff based on activities like number of monthly donor visits or working with board members on their prospect pools?

Silverman points out that work hour flexibility, a hybrid work schedule and health and wellness opportunities are increasingly important to employees  in addition to standard concerns like  pay (and bonuses), benefits and personal growth opportunities.

“Your talented staff are being tempted by other opportunities from recruiters and other organizations,” Silverman says. “If you don’t take the time and make the effort to retain your employees,  you will likely find yourself in the market for new staff.”


Victoria Silverman is the Managing Founder of Cook Silverman Search. Victoria has served the nonprofit sector for more than thirty years. Throughout her career, Victoria has worked in senior fundraising, advancement and management positions in higher education, arts, biotech, engineering and environment sectors at Stanford University, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of California, the American Film Institute, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Marine Mammal Center, and the Buck Institute for Age Research, among others. She has worked with heads of state, CEOs of major corporations, scientists, Hollywood celebrities, and leaders of industry. Victoria is an AIRS© Certified Diversity and Inclusion Recruiter.

Times of Major Transition Equals Fundraising Opportunity – Don’t Miss It!

by Elliot Levin, PRG President & Founder

Tran-si-tion: the process or a period of changing from one state to another. 

We’ve all been through mega-transitions in the last two years: the pandemic, wildfire, drought, power shut offs, a newly remote workforce, and a wave of nonprofit professional retirements. And yet, charitable giving in the US and especially in the Bay Area has never been greater. This phenomenon debunks traditional notions that donors gravitate to stability and certainty. Rather, donors are newly motivated by a sense of urgency, well-articulated needs, and new possibilities. 

At PRG we’ve seen 5 key strategies adopted by clients hit by immense transition that have resulted in high-performing fundraising.

  1. Steady communications about people. Donors want to hear real stories, frequently told about how your organization’s transition response has impacted lives. It’s not about your agency woes. It is about who you serve.
  2. Listen. People and organizations in every corner of our communities have faced huge challenges. Things have not been easy nor pretty. Ask your supporters to share their challenges and concerns, and new priorities that may have arisen from great change. 
  3. Candor. Be honest about your organizational challenges and those you serve. Your willingness to be vulnerable will give your stakeholders permission to really open up to you. 
  4. Get out from behind the curtain. Transition is a time to tell your stories directly. Donors want to hear from you – and not (only) by mail, email, and social media. Pick up the phone and talk. Better still, go visit now that we can come together safely.
  5. By all means, it is time to retool. With all the change we have faced over the last two years, now is a great time to revisit fundraising strategies and systems that support them. Successful organizations are creating a new, post-pandemic fundraising strategic framework. What better time is there than one of great external change and internal transition to pause, assess, identify new opportunities, and then retool. Fundraising counsel like PRG can help and be a reliable sounding board and change agent. 

Look no further than our clients at Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, who were in the middle of a $27 million capital campaign when everything shut down. But by showcasing how the pandemic impacted the lives of adults and families living on the streets, they sustained fundraising momentum and blew way past their campaign goal, ensuring that the Caritas Center would be built on its original schedule! 

Consider the efforts of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond. In the last 24 months they were forced to shut down programs serving nearly 4,000 young people in schools and at their center. Their founding executive director of 30+ years retired. They sang and danced via Zoom for months. And their fundraising soared.

The PRG team possesses backgrounds in executive leadership, social work, board development, strategic and business planning, and – of course – fundraising. We can help your organization recognize and then leverage all the opportunities that transition actually offers. You can’t stop transition. You can come out the other side even stronger. Email us or give us a call!

Photo Cred: Dan Meyers/Unsplash

So, You’re Almost at Year’s End and Your Appeal is Out. Now What?

by Melissa Irish, PRG Managing Associate

A few tips on making your year-end appeal even more successful!

  • Make sure you inform your donors that they can make gifts of appreciated stock. (And make sure you have a broker that can receive such gifts!). With so much growth in the markets, there are huge advantages to the donor. Bottom line- you can save on taxes! When you donate your appreciated assets, you avoid paying capital gains tax. If you itemize deductions, you can also take a charitable deduction for the entire donation amount.
  • Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s) from IRAs are great ways to give. Donors 70 ½ and over are required to take an RMD. Using one’s RMD as the source of the gift has a triple advantage – it reduces the donor’s taxable income, the donor reaps the full charitable deduction, and for some not taking their RMD reduces their Medicare income. Make sure your donors know that this tax provision is back in 2021!
  • The Subject Line in email appeals and reminders is critical. Research shows the open rate of emails is tied directly to what appears in the subject line. “Help Us” isn’t nearly as effective and “You Can Make a Difference.” Put “you” in every subject line!
  • With fewer donors itemizing their tax returns, giving AFTER December 31 is alive and well. Don’t assume that everyone will rush to give before 2022. January & February giving is up so keep going into early 2022. Plus, January and February are ideal times to gather your Board and volunteers to personally acknowledge your donors. Thank you phone calls still work magic!
Photo Cred: Hasan Albari from Pexels

Important Lessons from the Front Lines of a Capital Campaign

by Elliot Levin, PRG President & Founder

PRG recently served as capital campaign counsel to the largest, successful campaign in recent Sonoma County history – the $48 million Caritas Center, developed by Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa – that brings hope and a new start to homeless families and individuals through a comprehensive mix of services that all lead to stable, permanent housing.

What is to be learned from this successful initiative that found itself in full campaign mode during a pandemic? There are many lessons, some new, others tried and true.

Here are 4 lessons for your campaign:

  1. Focus on great community leadership. While professional expertise is invaluable, nothing replaces the power of respected community leaders who fearlessly give and ask. Identifying, cultivating, recruiting, training, and deploying leaders remains the single key ingredient to campaign success. Yes, the mission must be important and relevant, but someone has to carry that message into action. The professional’s main job is to help get the right leaders to come on board, give them the tools to succeed, and support their efforts every step of the way. The Caritas Center followed these principles and became blessed with a cadre of respected leaders, many of whom had never been part of campaign leadership before.
  2. Be frank about the challenges, especially in turbulent times. Leaders and donor prospects expect transparency and honesty about what’s working or not. Candor reinforces your integrity. Costs rising beyond original estimates? Speak truth and explain where you may have to make cuts. Suffer disappointing responses from donors you hoped for? Report that to leadership and then move on. Are your clients experiencing tough times because of a service gap your project will remedy? That’s hugely relevant to donors too! The Caritas Center always took the high road whether it was neighborhood opposition, gift requests that fell short, or severe cost escalation of building materials.
  3. All systems go. Accurate, up-to-date data is the backbone of any successful campaign. Each individual or institutional donor is truly its own “mini-campaign.” Multiply that by scores of prospects and there is a mountain of information to manage and track. A successful campaign must have a reliable information management system. There are plenty of good CRM systems available, but the key is to invest in staffing and support that knows what to put in and how to get it out. Catholic Charities made that investment and it paid off.
  4. Build and Publicize Your “A-Team.” Any capital project, large or small, requires diverse expertise to be successful. Investors want to know not only who the public-faces like your CEO and campaign chair are but who else is behind the scenes. Your architect, project manager, contractor, campaign consultant, financial advisor, and attorney represent a team of experts that tell donors you’re serious and capable. Catholic Charities made these folks available to interact with donors when the time was right and so should you.

Reach out to PRG if you would like to speak with us about a capital campaign, feasibility assessments and getting started.

A Planned Giving Program is More Relevant Than Ever

by Andy Eber, PRG Senior Associate

Many nonprofits are just beginning a new fiscal year. Agency leaders are navigating the ever-changing COVID landscape and having survived the worst (we hope) of the pandemic, everyone is acutely aware of the need for financial reserves and revenue stability.

It may seem counterintuitive that, in the midst of such change, we at PRG believe that August 2021 may be the BEST time to reactivate or launch your Planned Gifts program. In fact, we suggest that there have been few other moments in the past fifty years when a Planned Giving program had a greater chance of success than now. Here’s why:

  • Donor conversations

When it became apparent in March 2020 that sheltering in place would not be a passing phenomenon, PRG urged our clients to double-down on contacts with their donors. Folks were stuck at home, contemplative, lonely and wondering how the charities they supported were coping and continuing to serve through those dark months. It proved to be a perfect time to talk to key supporters and those conversations, according to our post-COVID survey (insert link), yielded a significant increase in Major Gifts among 66 of the 88 respondents. Your donor relationships may have never been as strong or as personal as they are today and a deep relationship is the basis of sound gift planning.

  • Getting one’s affairs in order

Anxiety, spurred by the pandemic caused many to confront one’s mortality and take stock of estate arrangements. Estate Planning attorneys report that since March of 2020, calls from their clients to create or revise wills have increased by 50-80% over previous periods. Your donors may be more focused on changing their wills or creating new estate plans now than in any time in the past. Since 90+% of Planned Gifts you’ll receive will be bequests, having your organization front-of-mind when your donor is creating or amending their estate plan is key to being included in those plans.

  • Inflated net worth

While many suffered financial hardships during the past 18 months, other have experienced a phenomenal increase in their portfolios. From July 2018 to July 2021, the Dow Jones average grew by nearly 43%. This growth in assets has spurred some to explore gift planning strategies as a means of decreasing their tax obligations. A Planned Giving program with provisions for deferred (“Legacy”) gifts, provides your donors with attractive ways to contribute now AND in the future.

  • Massive wealth transfer

Each year an increasing number of the baby boomers are passing away, resulting in what a recent study by Boston College described as a record $59 trillion dollar wealth transfer to their heirs. At the nexus of this wealth transition is Planned Giving that enables donors to give much more than they ever could during their lifetime, now with added tax advantages. Because most wealth transfer occurs at the time of death, a robust Planned Giving program is the smartest way to put your organization in position to benefit from this phenomenon.

The best time to have begun a Planned Giving program was 25 years ago but the second-best time is now. Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply reactivating a stalled or informal Planned Gifts effort, PRG’s handy 7 Step Guide to Successful Planned Giving can allow you to take advantage of these trends and begin to build a substantial and predictable revenue stream from these often-overlooked gifts.

Contact PRG at for the Guide and Consultation on getting started with Planned Giving. We look forward to connecting with you.

Photo Cred by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

When “Because I Said So” Just Isn’t Enough

Contributed by Melissa Irish, PRG Managing Associate

I can’t count how many times colleagues and clients have come to us with the presenting problem of needing to raise more money – often lots more – but can’t articulate why. To call us to ask for help makes sense, we ARE fundraising counsel but before we say, “yes,” a deeper exploration must begin because at its core fundraising is only a means to an end. The presenting problem cannot be the money you need to raise but rather the impact and value you can bring to your clients and communities that answers a pressing need.

So, our first question back to any prospective client is, “WHY do you need the money?” And we listen for the story that tells of greater, urgent needs in their communities, the creative, unique solutions that will answer those needs and/or the historic opportunity that fell into their laps that can catapult their mission to greater heights. If this part of the tale can be spun, our next question is, “HOW do you plan to do this?” This is where most organizations will start to falter (if not sooner), the answers become a bit opaque and the mumbling begins.

Being able to answer the WHY and the HOW is the nexus where strategy and fundraising meet.

Launching into a fundraising initiative without a clear strategic plan often results in time and money squandered instead of leveraged. Any savvy donor will want to know the answers to WHY and HOW before taking the leap – rightfully so. And the more money you want to raise, the better those answers must be to compete in a challenging fundraising market.

The thought of “strategic planning” can put sweat on the brow of any leader, however, FEAR NOT – there is new art and science to effective planning that avoids the pit falls of analysis paralysis and aligns all stakeholders towards a common goal.

To help assess how deep and wide your strategic (re)alignment may need to go, here are 8 questions to consider:

1. Why do we need to raise this money?
2. Who will benefit? How?
3. What has changed that has made this need so great (both programmatic and financial)?
4. How aligned are we internally in defining the problem and solutions?
5. What are others doing out there to solve this problem and where do we fit in the continuum of service that is unique and vital?
6. How will new resources (financial and capital) be leveraged to answer this compelling need?
7. What does success look like?
8. What has COVID-era fundraising taught us that we think we want to carry over?

If the answers to these questions roll off the tongue of your Board Chair, Executive Director and Management Team, you are ready for a major fundraising campaign. If some can be answered but others a bit dodgy, a focused strategic realignment may be needed to get everyone on the same page.

If all this leaves you with a severe headache, you’re not alone. At PRG we stand ready to help with our expanded team of great strategic planners, who also understand transformative fundraising and are always honored and excited to set our clients on a successful journey.

Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Hungry, humble and hopeful – an ode to the fundraisers of 2020

Contributed by Melissa Irish, PRG Managing Associate

Most of us, especially those over 35, became fundraisers by accident. We may have worked for human rights causes in college marching in the streets with signs of protest, served abroad in third world countries administering basic health care, or led inner city youth on outdoor adventures to share our love of nature. By some strange and unplanned twist of fate, we realized that we could harness our passions for good and raise the necessary resources to help them thrive! Asking for money didn’t scare us, we loved working in teams and didn’t mind the pressure of an impossible goal. Rather we thrived on it. We got a dizzy thrill when hitting our targets, we liked networking and throwing parties. A fundraiser was born.

And what would we do without fundraisers? The fuel for our fires would wane, the resources needed to fight the good fight would go untapped and the abundance of wealth in the world would not be channeled for the greater good. In short, our collective dreams and vision for a better world would have no lift.

It is because of this, our final article of the year is an ode to development professionals, a special breed of smart, scrappy, lightening quick heroes. This year in particular, our courageous fundraising leaders faced unprecedented challenges and stood tirelessly to meet them. The world literally crashed around them, their organizations were thrown into disarray and the need for the missions became ever more essential or worse, put on the back burner while the attention of donors shifted to fight the pandemic.

Development teams and fundraisers had to figure out how to stay relevant, continue to be the consummate cheerleader, define and disseminate the ever-changing messages of their organizations as they responded to the awful realities of 2020. They had to reach out and listen to their donors, paying (virtual) pastoral visits again and again, absorbing supporters’ concerns and heart aches. They pivoted, pivoted and pivoted again, feeling like a twirling ballerina on steroids planning for virtual events, online major donor meetings, and ways to keep their staff motivated, productive and focused. This often while becoming full-time parents and teachers.

So THANK YOU to the hundreds of thousands of fundraising soldiers, the hungry, humble and hopeful warriors who kept our beloved institutions open for business- our homeless shelters, food banks, museums, schools, health care clinics, legal aid organizations and more – and provided the fuel to keep the fires of justice burning.

For this we applaud you, we are forever grateful to serve you at PRG and look forward to walking by your side in 2021 to make sense of this all, ruminate on lessons learned, and say good riddance to what we hope to never have to do again.

Fundraisers are amazing.

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

DEI – What is the Measure?

Contributed by Amira (Mira) Barger, MBA,CVA,CFRE, PRG Associate – Philanthropy & DEI 

“In the years I have been here, nice has not translated into upward mobility, pay equity, or new opportunities.”

We are the “nice” sector. Nice nonprofits, made up of nice people, doing nice things and putting nice into the world. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but “nice” simply isn’t enough. It doesn’t move us towards the change we need. There is no accountability in nice. It is not the measure.

Incremental change is nice. It is gentle and slow. But incremental change by nice people, no matter how well-intentioned, will not overcome the deliberate harm and exclusion wrought on the communities that we as a sector exist to serve – and even the harm being done within our own organizations. I am saddened, though not surprised, by the number of conversations that I have had of late regarding experiences that people are having where nice is not getting the job done. A few examples from my network across the nonprofit sector:

  • My boss is nice and says nice things about me. But…In the years I have been here, nice has not translated into upward mobility, pay equity, or new opportunities.
  • My advocacy group has fought for the rights of Black residents in our city and encountered opposition from nice folks who deem our efforts to be futile and divisive. They did not shout or call names, because we are a nice city. But…nice has not translated into safety for Black residents, a seat on city council, or opportunity to be in “the room where it happens”.
  • I had a nice board member ask how I managed to make my way into my current role. They were nice in their tone and mannerisms, nice enough to not stir a reaction from others in the room who heard it. But…nice has not translated into action from our board on crafted DEI programs, intentional understanding of the communities we serve, or any ounce of belief that someone young, gifted and Black could have actually earned their way.

Here are some steps we can each take to work towards our organizations being more than nice – and truly accountable. I’ve borrowed some phases commonly used in design-thinking to help create a framework for us to think through and serve as guide posts:

5 Tips on How to Create Accountability

  1. Start with preparation As a leadership team, utilize experts in the field of DEI and Anti-racism (they are not the same!) to chart a path that reflects the goals and priorities of your organization. Put together measurable steps that address DEI as you move toward your goals.
  2. Discover In collaboration with your employees, your board, your partners – and with those you serve! – look at your organization from different perspectives to gather insights and seek out opportunity areas for growth.
  3. Define – Agree to a problem statement as a collective of stakeholders, and then work to organize your priorities. Which matters most? Which should we act on first? What is feasible short-term vs long-term? The goal here is to develop a clear direction that frames the fundamental challenges and opportunities and highlights intersections.
  4. Develop – Now that you’ve identified your priorities, conceptualize a solution, develop a prototype of that solution, and then test and retest continuously. DEI and Anti-racism are practices – things you do daily, over-and-over. Accept that trial and error is a necessary part of the process. It helps us to improve and refine ideas to make sure we are actually addressing the issues at hand and are moving forward to create the radical change we need.
  5. Deliver — As you move through this process we are working towards a resulting plan that will be finalized, produced, and launched. The plan should have clear milestones, objectives and checkpoints that keep stakeholders aware of consequences, accountable to progress and radical change.

It’s true, our sector is a nice place to work, with nice people, and we want to take steps to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy what it has to offer. Through being intentional in action and held accountable by one another, we can build a sector that ensures an equity-centric approach to our work and reflects the priority of our sector – to move and act in service to those communities most impacted by the systemic inequities in our nation.

We have the opportunity to be an example of what a sector that takes anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously can look like, and can be a leader in saying and showing that “nice” is not good enough.

Read our previous two blog posts (So What?) (4 Key Questions to Ask) in this three-part series on anti-racism and DEI in the nonprofit sector.

Your homework:

Photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash

Action Changes Things (ACT) written on set stickers with clip hanging on a rope on black background.

DEI – So what?

Contributed by Amira (Mira) Barger, MBA,CVA,CFRE,  PRG Associate Consultant – Philanthropy & DEI 

Making nonprofit commitments and crafting ongoing actions towards diversity, equity and inclusion.

“When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it’s easy to start believing bigotry is rare, and that the label racist should be applied only to mean-spirited, intentional acts of discrimination. The problem with this framework—besides being a gross misunderstanding of how racism operates in systems and structures enabled by nice people—is that it obligates me to be nice in return, rather than truthful. I am expected to come closer to the racists. Be nicer to them. Coddle them.”
Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness


It feels too quiet and back to normal (whatever “normal” is supposed to mean right now). It’s been exactly 88 days since May 25th, 2020. On that day, the world received a wake-up call to racial injustice as many watched the murder of George Floyd. The video circulated in the midst of conversations already being had regarding the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and suddenly America became acutely aware of the pain and outrage that many of us (Black people, Indigenous people, People of Color = BIPOC) have shouldered for lifetimes – our lived experience. Because the sad realization is, George Floyd is one of many. The question becomes – so what?

  • So what? You posted the words “Black Lives Matter” and other heartfelt messages.
  • So what? Your board members matched employees’ donations to orgs fighting racism.
  • So what? You held a town hall to discuss racial injustice.
  • So what? You even hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant and/or staff role.


With all due respect: So what?


Not with an indifferent or dismissive tone, but, rather, so, what NOW? One might argue that it is even more vital for us (the nonprofit sector) to find the answers to this question. Many of our organizations exist by virtue of the failed systems, policies, practices, behaviors, and beliefs that disproportionately impact BIPOC. The nonprofit sector serves to fill the gap for communities left behind – for those marginalized, underrepresented, and vulnerable due to the racism and upheld inequities rampant in our culture.

The last time I had your attention (Part 1 in this series), I noted that performance art was not welcome in the fight against racial injustice. There are no Emmys, Oscars, or Tony awards handed out around here. I provided you with a series of questions that nonprofit organizations must be asking of themselves and the sector as a whole. Inquisition, of course, must then be coupled with active listening and followed by ongoing commitment to change. A long-held truth of individual and institutional behavior is – you change what you measure, and you measure what you incentivize.

African businesswoman manager give whiteboard presentation at office meeting, female business coach presenter point on flip chart explain corporate strategy training diverse team at company workshop

If you as a leader, a board member, staff member, donor, or volunteer are ready to take sustained action, a prudent starting place looks like this:

  • Listening Tour
    • Take this time to conduct structured individual or small group conversations with all staff. Use the concerns, needs, and information you gather to guide how you update or build your DEI strategy.
    • The history of racism in this country must inform our strategy. Commit to listening and learning from anti-racism educators. Then work with those educators to formalize anti-racism as part of your training. From top to bottom, in staff onboarding, volunteer orientation, and even board member recruitment, anti-racism must permeate the entire culture of the organization.
  • Specific Commitments
    • Share your data. What does the gender, race/ethnicity, seniority representation look like within your organization? Don’t be shy or hide it in a corner on a dusty old desk. Pull the data and share it with all stakeholders. Then communicate the ways you will immediately work to address the deficiencies.
    • Increase BIPOC representation on your Board of Directors, your Executive Leadership, and at ALL talent levels. Representation at every opportunity matters and focusing on your glaring gaps will help to gain momentum toward sustained efforts in service to equity.
  • Accountability Body
    • Sharing your data is one step towards accountability. It provides measurable proof of your commitment to impacting the equity challenges found across the nonprofit sector as a whole. It will take our collective action to dismantle the broken systems and reconstruct them in a way that reflects our promise to change moving forward.
    • Where we place our investments will tell the world what we value. Provide your DEI and ERG groups with people resources, financial resources, and access to every level of leadership and power. No table, seat, or decision is off limits to them – if you are serious.

The truth is that the path towards justice and equity for all is messy and requires consistent dedication. In due diligence you’ll set a plan, read a book, have a meeting, and vote(!). More than anything else, we need you to dig deep, stand tall, and stay ready for a fight – because we cannot simply hope for niceness to drive racism away. It is too deeply embedded. We have to demand it as if our own lives were at stake, calling out to our mothers as we gasp for our last breath.


So…what NOW?


Your homework until next time:

Read: Managing Unconscious Bias

Read: Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture

Watch: Verna Myer Ted Talk

Watch the New York Times 1619 Project:

Take this free test from Harvard University and learn more about your personal levels of unconscious bias: Implicit Association Test