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Despite DEI progress, most nonprofit staffs don’t look like their communities

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Nonprofits have made “significant strides” in prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, yet challenges remain that require key shifts in strategy, according to the results of Nonprofit HR’s 2023 Nonprofit DEIJ Survey.

For instance, 89% of survey respondents said their company is making progress toward their DEIJ goals. At the same time, only 38% of organizations have a staff that reflects the diversity of the communities they serve.

“What I find really, really interesting is, in our 2021 and 2022 data, objectives were more centered in just diversity,” Antonio Cortes, managing director of EDIJ at Nonprofit HR, said in a statement.

“And as we look forward, organizations are looking more broadly at diversity, equity, inclusion and potentially justice as well,” he said. “So, I think the scope of how we assess an organization’s functioning or commitment to the DEIJ is really expanding and has expanded over the last four-plus years. That’s a great thing.”

In the survey of 352 people, 79% said their organization has prioritized diversity, with similar numbers reporting that inclusion and equity were priorities, too. Less than half said the same for justice.

When it comes to demonstrating DEIJ commitments, though, the numbers drop. About 63% said they have conducted formal DEIJ training, 59% have a DEIJ committee and 53% have a formal DEIJ statement. Beyond that, under 40% said they have a formal DEIJ strategy, a formal budget for DEIJ initiatives or plan to increase that budget. A third said their designated staff members responsible for DEIJ initiatives have access to the necessary resources to support organizational change.

Talent attraction, retention and engagement could suffer if DEIJ isn’t prioritized, according to the report. The most significant challenges noted in the survey were attracting talent and fostering diversity within senior leadership. Most respondents expressed difficulty in attracting a diverse pool of candidates and maintaining a diverse staff across the organizational hierarchy, including leadership.

“One of the critical takeaways from the survey is the urgent need for a well-defined strategy, sufficient resources and a dedicated budget to achieve DEIJ objectives,” the report authors wrote.

In general, the majority of U.S. workers agree that increasing DEI efforts in the workplace would be a positive development, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. However, specific opinions about those DEI initiatives tend to vary based on demographic and political lines, including how those efforts should be reflected in one’s own workplace.

At some companies, that means DEI efforts are decreasing, especially if there’s a lack of C-suite support. For some employees, especially women and those from minority backgrounds, a drop in support could lead to lower engagement, productivity and retention, researchers have cautioned.

Employers and employees alike may be wary of how recent legal changes could affect DEI initiatives, particularly the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling. Although the case doesn’t directly affect employment, leaders may pause to consider their DEI efforts, which could create a “chilling effect on corporation action on DEI,” sources told HR Dive.

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