Communicate on the Same Wavelength



#   #   #   #

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in nonprofit organizations

The nonprofit sector faces unique diversity and inclusion (D&I) challenges and opportunities that are central to their social missions and goals. These organizations operate in an environment where community engagement, equality and equity are often at the center of their activities. In this context, D&I is not just a matter of internal personnel policy, but a key element that affects how these organizations serve communities, engage volunteers and communicate with donors.

The current state of D&I in nonprofit organizations

In the nonprofit sector, diversity and inclusion statistics are as follows:

  • Nonprofit boards are 78.6% White, with African Americans at 7.5%, Latino Americans 4.2%, and Asian Americans 2.6%. / Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy 2018.
  • 83.1% of nonprofit board members are aged 40 and older. / The Nonprofit Times
  • Women CEOs at nonprofits receive 75% of the salary that their male counterparts do. / 2020 Nonprofit Compensation Report.
  • 70% of nonprofit employees are women, yet their representation in leadership roles does not match that of men. / 2020 Nonprofit Compensation Report.
  • In U.S. nonprofits with budgets over $50 million, only 18% had female CEOs. / GuideStar 2015
  • Among over 5,000 nonprofit workers surveyed, 49% of people of color felt their race negatively impacted their career. / Race to Lead, DEI Efforts Within Nonprofits Lag in Progress.
  • In 2019, 88% of people of color felt they needed additional skills and training compared to their white counterparts for top positions. / Race to Lead, DEI Efforts Within Nonprofits Lag in Progress.
  • In 2017, 87% of the workforce in nonprofits and foundations were white. / Nonprofit Pro


This data sheds light on existing challenges to diversity and inclusion in nonprofits, while underscoring the need to continue efforts to increase diversity across the sector.

Challenges and barriers to D&I in the nonprofits sector

Challenges and barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion (D&I) in the nonprofit sector can be complex and varied, often resulting from limited resources, lack of awareness and support, and cultural and institutional resistance. Non-profits operate with limited budgets, which can make it difficult to hire D&I specialists or implement training programs. Lack of awareness or understanding of the importance of D&I can lead to unconscious discrimination or overlooking of diversity issues in organizational strategies, and cultural resistance can further complicate the implementation of effective D&I practices.

Stereotypes and Prejudice as Barriers to Inclusion

Non-profits can face barriers in the form of stereotypes and prejudices that make it difficult to build diverse teams and create inclusion in the workplace. Organizations may unknowingly favor candidates from a demographic background similar to existing team members, making it difficult to diversify employees and volunteers. In addition, nonprofits serving specific communities may find it difficult to engage people from diverse backgrounds due to a lack of trust or understanding of the specific challenges they face.

Breaking Down D&I Barriers by Nonprofits

Despite these challenges, however, nonprofits play a key role in promoting diversity, equality and inclusion through their missions and activities. By adopting strategies focused on raising awareness, building partnerships with organizations specializing in D&I, and implementing practices that promote D&I at all levels of the organization, nonprofits can break down barriers and create more equitable and inclusive societies.

How D&I Contributes to Sector Development 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D&I) are crucial to the development of the nonprofit sector, bringing innovation and creativity through diverse perspectives in problem solving. These organizations benefit from better understanding and engagement in the community, which increases their effectiveness and impact. D&I also improves an organization’s reputation, facilitating access to resources and funding, increasing employee engagement and loyalty. As a result, engaging in D&I not only strengthens nonprofit organizations internally, but also enables them to better serve their communities, promoting equality and inclusion as the foundation for stronger communities.

A Global Perspective on D&I in the Nonprofit Sector

A global perspective on D&I in the nonprofit sector reveals both challenges and opportunities. Organizations operating around the world face the need to adapt to culturally diverse communities, which requires them to understand and respect local customs, values and needs. Global nonprofits also face differences in access to resources, economic inequality and social barriers that can affect their work and mission.

Opportunities and Innovation Through Global D&I

At the same time, engaging in D&I on a global scale offers nonprofit organizations the opportunity to benefit from a wealth of diverse perspectives, cross-cultural collaboration and innovative solutions that can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world. By promoting D&I, the nonprofit sector can better respond to global challenges such as poverty, inequality and climate change, creating stronger and more resilient communities around the world.

Cultural and Regional Prejudice

Cultural and regional biases in the nonprofit sector are a significant barrier to achieving full diversity and inclusion. These organizations often face challenges related to unconscious biases that can affect hiring decisions, promotion, project funding, and interactions with local communities. These biases can also hinder effective engagement and representation of people from different cultural and regional backgrounds.

Strategies for Overcoming Prejudice in Nonprofits

Overcoming these barriers requires that nonprofits not only raise awareness and education about D&I among their staff and volunteers, but also actively seek to eliminate these biases through integrated D&I strategies that promote cross-cultural understanding and respect.

The importance of D&I in the sector 

The importance of D&I in the nonprofit sector is fundamental to the successful execution of their social missions. These organizations operate in areas where the need to understand and empathize with diverse populations is crucial to solving social, educational, health or environmental problems. Implementing a D&I strategy enables nonprofit organizations to better understand the needs and challenges facing the communities they represent, resulting in more effective programs and initiatives.

Innovation and Employee Engagement through D&I

Diversity in teams can lead to innovative solutions, improved decision-making and increased trust and legitimacy in the eyes of beneficiaries and donors. D&I also fosters an open and inclusive work environment, which can increase employee engagement. This is particularly important in a sector that often relies on volunteer labor and low budgets, highlighting the role of diversity and inclusion in creating strong, effective nonprofit organizations capable of driving meaningful social change.

Empatyzer. sp. z o.o.
Warszawska 6 / 32, 
15-063 Białystok, Polska
NIP: 9662180081
e-mail: em@empatyzer.com
tel.: +48 668 898 711
© 2023 - Empatyzer
The first professional system to teach good communication in teams and entire organizations when and where they need it