March 03, 2020

pov: Intentional Inclusion

UNA has worked hard over the past couple years to be intentional about our board recruitment and we have worked to prioritize valuing inclusivity in our organization and in the services we provide. This work is hard. It is above what I thought I had the capacity to lead on and far more difficult than I imagined it would be. Part of the reason it’s been such a hurdle is that it is as much about managing emotions as it is about recognizing facts. For those of you who have followed my Point of View blogs, you know we have been doing work around race, equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) for a while. I often find myself in conversations where people expect immediate results, they want one-time training opportunities for staff and board, and/or they often assume that by adding someone to their board who is different their problems around inclusion and diversity will be solved.

Creating an inclusive organization is reached when solutions are rooted in policy and generated intentionally. As this organization’s CEO, I run UNA through a REDI lens and it has taken me and the team a while to get where we are at. Are we perfect? No. Have we reached the end point where we can check off all the ‘Inclusive Boxes’? No. Do we still have work to be done? Yes. Are we committed to making that happen? Absolutely.

In this work I have learned that moving two steps forward often also means that we will take a step back too. The key is twofold: do not give up regardless of the direction you are traveling and working through a REDI lens is not something that can be accomplished in a silo. It requires multiple levels including staff and board. There is no official template or easy check list, but I do what to share some of what UNA has been doing as a way to help bridge a gap and give some potential steps that can be duplicated in other organizations.

At UNA, our bylaws require that 50% of our board members come from the nonprofit sector. Historically board members at UNA have been Executive Directors/Chief Executives which lends itself to a board that is unintentionally not representative of who we serve. I say this with fact – the majority of nonprofit Executive Directors/Chief Executives in Utah are white, cisgender and don’t identify as having a disability. Rooted with that knowledge and the understanding that we make the best decisions when we have various perspectives we have been working on an intentional board recruitment strategy that has involved the following:

  • We utilize a comprehensive skills and attributes metrics for all board members. This metrics measures skill level in a variety of areas (technology, education, environment, finance, governance, etc.), it tracks if the person works in nonprofit and the corresponding budget size of their nonprofit, geography, and it also states if the person identifies as a person of color. This metrics has been useful in helping us identify where our gaps exist thus allowing us to recruit board members who fill those gaps. We have stopped asking the question, “Who do we know?” and started asking, “What are the gaps we need to fill?”
  • UNA works to avoid tokenism. Tokenizing looks and sounds like this: “Well Kate is a community resident and serves on our board so we have at least her”, or “Kate used to use our services so she knows and can relate”, or “Well Kate is Latina so we have our diversity met”. As mentioned, we are working to intentionally recruit board members who fill gaps in our organization both on an attribute and a skill level. This includes regional diversity (outside SL County), nonprofit versus public/provide, nonprofit budget size, and people of color. We recruit in pairs and for every potential board member of color that we are recruiting we are also recruiting someone who does not identify as a person of color.

I am going to be bold and say the following: tokenism is a form of racism and it’s not inclusive. I understand if that may cause some to cringe. It’s ok, this is hard work. Tokenizing is hard to get out of and is challenging to identify if an organization is not aware of what it is. It is also a demeaning experience for those who are being tokenized. I bring it up because tokenizing happens a lot in the nonprofit sector.

Here are the facts about UNA’s regional diversity on our board:

  • At the end of 2017 – 3 of 16 were outside SL County
  • At the end of 2018 – 2 of 15 were outside SL County
  • At the end of 2019 – 4 of 19 were outside SL County
  • At present in 2020 – 4 of 17 are outside SL County

Here are the facts about UNA’s racial diversity on our board:

  • At the end of 2017 – 1 of 16 identified as a person of color
  • At the end of 2018 – 3 of 15 identified as a person of color
  • At the end of 2019 – 6 of 19 identified as a person of color
  • At present in 2020 – 6 of 17 identify as a person of color

*None of these numbers include me. I serve as a nonvoting member on the board and identify as a person of color.

As the leader at UNA I employ the following inclusive lens:

  • When hiring we include all our benefits (including a flexible working schedule) as part of the job description.
  • When hiring we are clear about the wages we are offering.
  • We have removed college degrees as requirements for positions; instead we focus on experience and skills.
  • When reviewing candidates during the hiring process I am purposefully looking for candidates that have skills and experiences that are different from mine. As a leadership style I am open about my strengths and weaknesses and I intentionally look to hire people to fill those gaps.
  • During staff meetings we work through values statements and talk about biases.
  • Receiving feedback is the cornerstone of how we improve so I work to make sure my staff know that I am open to hearing how I can improve so that the organization can thrive. Additionally, one-on-one meetings occur between direct reports and their supervisors every other week. During these meetings goals are discussed, issues are addressed, and feedback is consistently provided.

As an organization, UNA offers the following inclusive supports for our members:

  • We have made disclosing wages a requirement on our job board. Not including this information deters some from applying, misleads some, and contributes to the growing wage gap among men, women, and people of color.
  • We conduct a Salary and Compensation Survey every two years with local data about how much we are all paid for the work we are doing. This data is useful when identifying raises and how much to pay new staff, reevaluating job descriptions, and as an evaluative tool to compare Utah nonprofits to one another. Organizations that participate in this survey will receive the report for free. The survey is open now until early April. Contact our office for information on how to participate.
  • We have built in American Sign Language interpreters into our budget for our training. We recognize that there is a specific need for this in our sector.
  • UNA Staff recognize that there are some members that experience barriers to viewing or navigating our website and online resources. As a result staff set up meetings or phone calls to discuss needs and resources.

As mentioned, UNA is not perfect. There is always room for improvement. At the board level we could begin tracking gender identification, sexual orientation, or those who have differing abilities. At the organizational level with hiring we could institute blind resume viewing (where a person’s name is not visible) and I can work to possibly record audio of me reading my blogs. In our support to members we could curate more resources for incorporating REDI at the organizational level.

The point is that creating inclusive spaces is not a linear process and it’s not something that can be done in a month or year. And having an inclusive space requires a supportive environment that understands the importance of intention, commitment, vulnerability, and acceptance. At its basic level, inclusive spaces are created when there are many people around the table who are making decisions that represent a wide variety of perspectives. And everyone around that ‘table’ feels valued and has the opportunity to have their perspective heard. It is both an art and a science.

I know it’s scary. I know it’s not easy. But I also know that it is worth it.

Kate Rubalcava
Chief Executive Officer
Utah Nonprofits Association