Aspiring Nonprofit Leaders of Color Face Fewer Barriers in California

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Aspiring Nonprofit Leaders of Color Face Fewer Barriers in California

Nonprofit leaders of color in California report facing fewer barriers than those in other states, a report from the Building Movement Project finds.

The report, California’s Race to Lead: The Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap in the Golden State (30 pages, PDF), compared survey responses from more than eight hundred nonprofit staff in California, 57 percent of whom were people of color, with responses from more than thirty-two hundred nonprofit staff in other states, 39 percent of whom were people of color. According to the survey, while 76 percent of people of color in both samples expressed interest in pursuing a leadership position, those in California reported fewer barriers to advancement and less frustration in their work than those in other states. People of color in the Golden State also were more likely than their peers in other states to report having professional development support (41 percent vs. 36 percent), coaching or executive coaching (41 percent vs. 27 percent), and mentors inside (50 percent vs. 40 percent) and outside (65 percent vs. 61 percent) their organization.

Funded by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the report also found that, with one exception (compensation levels), Californians of color were less likely to report challenges and frustrations such as limited opportunities for advancement (40 percent vs. 47 percent), lack of relationships with funding sources (38 percent vs. 43 percent), lack of role models (33 percent vs. 41 percent), lack of social capital or access to networks (28 percent vs. 33 percent), and having to represent their community (27 percent vs. 40 percent). Staff of color in California also were more likely than those in other states to agree that their organization paid adequate attention to racial/ethnic diversity in their communications, programmatic work, recruitment of staff and board members, and development and promotion of staff.

At the same time, the survey found that 30 percent of respondents of color in California — lower than the 36 percent in other states — reported that their race had a negative impact on their career advancement. And large majorities of nonprofit staff of color both in California and elsewhere said the leadership of nonprofits doesn’t represent the racial/ethnic diversity of the nation (81 percent in California and 86 percent in other states), that executive recruiters don’t do enough to identify a diverse pool of candidates for top-level positions (78 percent and 81 percent), and that predominantly white boards often don’t support the leadership potential of staff of color (68 percent and 72 percent). White respondents in California were slightly more likely than those in other states to agree that aspiring leaders of color faced such structural barriers; they also reported earning higher salaries than people of color in the state as well as respondents — both whites and people of color — in other states.

"BMP’s closer look at the California data showed that the Golden State has made progress on increasing nonprofit leadership diversity, with findings clearly pointing to gains for people of color when compared to other states," said BMP co-director Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, "but inequities remain."

“The Golden State Difference: New Report Says CA Leads When It Comes to Diversity in Nonprofit Leadership, But Barriers Persist.” Building Movement Project Press Release 02/12/2018. “California’s Race to Lead: The Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap in the Golden State.” Building Movement Project Report 02/12/2018.
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