According to the National Council of Nonprofits, capacity building is a continuous improvement strategy with the purpose of elevating a nonprofit to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, and the goal to more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future.

Many nonprofits today are building capacity through an increased focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I). Organizations are updating their core values to include D&I, revising their talent attraction and hiring strategies to champion D&I, and exploring how to better incorporate D&I within their operations and activities.

Defining diversity and inclusion

What is the true meaning of diversity and inclusion? The two words often are inseparable when referring to workplace practices. Diversity is about the representation of differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical abilities, religious beliefs, and political convictions. Inclusion is the equal empowerment of diverse people.

No longer is diversity and inclusion considered a compliance issue; it is now hailed as a critical part of an organization’s global business strategy. D&I is embraced by many leaders as a moral imperative, a vehicle for more informed decision making, an enabler of creativity and innovation, and a means to reach a broader market of stakeholders.

Expanding your worldview

Perhaps the simplest way to understand the value of D&I is to compare it to leaving one’s hometown.

Many people grow up in one limited geographical region with a certain family structure that dictates a set of ethics regarding religion, politics, sexual orientation, and identity. In other words, they develop a worldview that is often narrow and limiting based on a lack of exposure to other ways of thinking and seeing the world. Some people do not have or take the opportunity to leave their place of origin, meet different people, explore new destinations, or question their inherent biases. Others travel early and often throughout their lives, prioritize learning new ideas and skills, and are naturally more comfortable questioning their own basic belief systems. When comparing these two generalized categories of people: Which would be better able to think critically, consider innovative solutions to a problem, and show empathy in difficult interpersonal situations?

Creating an inclusive culture

It’s not enough to develop diversity in your nonprofit with employee representation alone. Organizations must take their commitment a step further and involve all people in critical roles, systems, and strategies. Harvard Business Review lists six practices modeled by inclusive leaders: ensuring that team members speak up and are heard; making it safe to propose novel ideas; empowering team members to make decisions; taking advice and implementing feedback; giving actionable feedback; and sharing credit for team success.

You can begin to champion inclusion in your organization with these first steps:

  • Ensure D&I has a place in your agency’s core values
  • Make D&I the priority of the entire organization – not just HR
  • Identify gaps in your agency’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace, and address those gaps
  • Track progress toward D&I goals with tangible metrics
  • Celebrate the successes of diverse and inclusive teams
  • Provide tools for all employees to increase their D&I competencies, including assessments, coaching, and training.

How are you faring when it comes to D&I? How can you improve your organization’s values, hiring, and practices to ensure diversity and inclusion are an integral part of capacity building? We work with a diverse group of nonprofit clients aiming to champion D&I in their organizations, and we’d love to help you, too. Contact us today to learn more.