The return of the Board Summit puts diversity first

board summit

Mission Capital, in partnership with The New Philanthropists, is bringing back its Board Summit. The goal: to help Central Texas nonprofits develop diverse boards for more effective and representative leadership.

The event is June 6, 2019, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Mission Capital is a membership-based organization helping nonprofits solve complex community problems through training, consulting and partnerships. The New Philanthropists is an Austin-based group creating a pipeline of diverse leaders.

The 2019 Board Summit is undeniable evidence of Mission Capital’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion that began with the hiring of Madge Vásquez as CEO 15 months ago.

“We’ve gone through lots of positive changes,” said Ann Starr, Mission Capital’s director of learning and leadership. “Now that we’ve settled into a new strategic direction and renewed commitment to serving the community’s most pressing needs, we’re bringing back the Board Summit to connect leaders, organizations and networks advancing equity and opportunity through their work.”

The summit is a fast-paced networking event designed to connect nonprofits with a cross section of people ready to serve. This lines up perfectly with The New Philanthropists’ mission, said team member Armando Rayo.

“We’re addressing the gap between people of color – especially Latinos, African Americans and Asians – and predominately white nonprofit boards,” Rayo said. “We’ve also been very careful and strategic about the organizations we’ve selected to participate in the summit to ensure they have a strong interest in changing their board dynamics.”

Rayo and Starr believe the summit promotes the creation and availability of opportunities for people of color to strengthen nonprofits.

“Racial inequities affect all of us in every part of our lives. Boards make a lot of important decisions that impact the direction, strategy and programming nonprofits are doing,” Starr said. “Many of those nonprofits are serving communities of color, and we want boards and nonprofit organization staff to reflect the people they’re serving and the greater community.”

Nonprofits still struggling to diversify leadership

Diversity and inclusivity are ongoing challenges for nonprofits nationwide. In Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, BoardSource found that less than 20 percent of nonprofit board members were people of color. Moreover, “despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics,” boards were not intentionally focusing on diversity in their recruitment efforts.

Two years later, The Governance Gap: Examining Diversity and Equity in Nonprofit Boards of Directors found only a 4-percent increase (to 24 percent) in board members of color. Rick Moyers, a BoardSource board member, wrote that not much had changed in those two years even though a significant number of nonprofit leaders said they “would like to do better.”

Both reports agreed on the source of the problem: Nonprofits lack knowledge, skills, resources and authentic commitment to developing diverse boards.

Starr believes the Board Summit is a positive step toward correcting this disparity. Mission Capital intentionally sought to involve a diverse group of individuals in the summit, she said, by strategically partnering with The New Philanthropists and other organizations well-poised to connect nonprofits to new voices and perspectives for board recruiting.

The audience will get an “information-packed program about the 45 nonprofits involved” and plenty of time to meet each other. An optional panel discussion on what it’s like to be on a nonprofit board will feature Starr and staff from The New Philanthropists.  

The time is now

The National Council of Nonprofits gives four major reasons to pursue board diversity. All are directly connected to functionality and sustainability:

  • better access to resources in the community
  • improved ability to respond to external influences that can identify special opportunities and risks
  • reduced risk of becoming stagnant by increasing donor/board member pools

Starr said the Board Summit will equip people to break down racial barriers and genuinely pursue diversity. She believes the time is right.

“We’ve raised the issue throughout all our years in the social sector. Most people agree that the lack of diversity within the sector hinders our ability to support deep social change. I’m encouraged that the conversations we’re having today are more courageous and authentic,” said Vásquez. “Mission Capital looks forward to working alongside other nonprofit leaders, organizations and networks as we collectively seek to advance equity and inclusion through our work in Central Texas.”  

Registration for the Mission Capital Board Summit is open; tickets range from $35 to $500. This year’s Board Summit is presented by Texas Capital Bank in partnership with The New Philanthropists.

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