Getting On Board: Promising Practices for Advancing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Governance of Community-Based Organizations

Kyle Yoder

Across the NeighborWorks America network, many housing organizations found that the year 2020 brought into sharp relief a number of technical and adaptive challenges facing their institutions. In particular, the national spotlight on systemic racism highlighted for many an urgent need to reexamine and improve their nonprofit governance structures in order to better promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of the organization. This project by 2020 Gramlich Fellow Kyle Yoder arose in response to this heightened sense of urgency and seeks to provide compass bearings for nonprofit boards looking to advance practices of race, equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) in their governance.

This paper reviews existing tools and frameworks for advancing organizational culture change, and then synthesizes the author's findings from more than forty interviews conducted with practitioners and policymakers working to advance REDI across the NeighborWorks America network. To identify actionable lessons, these findings are organized into five broad principles (No Single Size Fits All; Root in Data and Story; Focus on People; Form Determines Function; Iterate, Iterate, Iterate). Each principle is then illustrated with descriptive case studies drawn from my interviews with NeighborWorks Organizations.

These findings are shared in the hopes that they may inform the reader’s approach to advancing REDI within their own community. Because the work of REDI is necessary personal and rooted in a given community, the findings and recommendations contained herein emphasize the need to center one’s community and organizational culture in one’s strategizing. Doing so––or failing to do so––often means the difference between success and failure.