Race and Nonprofit Leadership

A new take on why people of color are under­represented among nonprofit leaders

In Race to Lead report, the Building Movement Project calls on the social sector to remove stubborn structural barriers that keep people of color from rising to leadership positions.

It’s no secret that there is a lack of racial diversity in nonprofit leadership positions. Up to now, however, conversations about how to address this yawning leadership gap have focused largely on how to get more people of color to consider moving into leadership or to find training so they can be ready to step up. A new survey, Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, suggests it’s time for a different approach.

Race to Lead found that people of color working in the nonprofit sector already want to be CEOs—in fact, while 40 percent of white respondents want to move into these positions, the proportion among people of color was 50 percent. The survey also found that people of color and white respondents have similar backgrounds when it comes to their education, their positions and salaries, and the years they have spent working in the sector.

Based on these and other findings, the authors of Race to Lead suggest there are structural barriers within organizations and the sector that prevent aspiring leaders of color from moving up the ladder. The report calls on the sector to “rewrite the story” about why there are not more leaders of color in nonprofits, and to remove barriers to advancement for people of color.

The authors write, “There needs to be a swift and deep commitment—from funders to trade associations, from large organizations to grassroots groups—to address and correct the racialized organizational and systemic barriers facing people of color as leaders and in the sector overall.”

Race to Lead is an initiative of Building Movements Project.