Why nonprofits should hire through a racial justice lens

Person shakes hands with someone holding a resume.

Person shakes hands with someone holding a resume. jakkaje879 / Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that the nonprofit sector has a diversity problem, especially when it comes to nonprofit leadership. Over 80% of all nonprofits have a white executive director, even though many of these nonprofits have committed themselves to ensuring equity. While these nonprofits showcase themselves serving black and brown communities all over their social media, their leadership is still a majority white. 

I remember my first time working at a majority white organization. I started dreaming about rising up the ranks and eventually becoming an executive director myself because I loved the work so much. But within only a few months, I saw a toxic work culture unfold. White folks who were only there for about a year were being promoted and receiving pay raises, while Black and Brown entry-level workers who had been there for over seven years stayed in the same position and were paid terribly. White supervisors wouldn’t listen to their Black and Brown colleagues and their voices would be drowned out. Most of all, white supervisors would have no one to be accountable to as their supervisors were also white and they often teamed up with each other and had each other’s backs, leaving Black and Brown staff members to fend for themselves. 

Specifically here in New York City, we pride ourselves on being a very progressive city. However, a majority of nonprofits in New York City are led by white folks. Only one-third of chief executives are people of color while 62% of all administrative staff are people of color. It’s interesting to see how people of color are trusted to provide direct services or handle important administrative work, but never qualified enough to lead an organization.

For people of color in the nonprofit sector, it only takes a few days of work to realize that diversity is an issue, in leadership and departmentally. But what do we think is the solution to a very white nonprofit sector? I’ll tell you: It starts with the hiring process. Making hiring decisions through a racial justice lens is essential as a racial justice lens acknowledges the benefits of racial diversity and acknowledges the historical barriers marginalized groups have faced in obtaining opportunities.

A good example of hiring through a racial justice lens is the process of hiring interns. I remember when my supervisor was looking for interns, she rejected a lot of resumes that did not have specific experience in our department, which was advocacy and organizing. Many of the resumes presented experiences from McDonald’s or sneaker stores. I was shocked to see these resumes rejected, because the point of an internship was to gain experience, not get rejected because of your lack of it! Personally, my first job was at Popeyes. Not the best experience, but it taught me the valuable lesson of responsibility and learning quickly on the job. What people don’t realize is that professional development opportunities are limited for young people because it is oftentimes underinvested. In the 2020 New York City budget, Communities United for Police Reform reported that for every dollar spent on the NYPD, only 12 cents went to the Department of Youth and Community Development. Youth development is not seen as a priority in the scheme of things, so it is only logical that youth are forced to work opportunities that are accessible to them. In segregated Black and Brown communities like in New York City, most of these opportunities will present themselves as fast food jobs or similar retail opportunities. I advocated for a better vetting process. 

We first typed out in our recruiting emails and posts what we looked for in a resume and cover letter. The process was then changed to ensuring that all candidates, regardless of experience, were at least granted a quick phone screening. This would allow us to fathom the interest of the candidate. They would then be moved to an interview with us (the supervisors), and based on that, we would decide whether they are a great fit. We found great candidates who didn’t necessarily have work experience, but the lived experience and knowledge we were looking for. It was great giving young people the experience they needed to grow in the field, and throughout the years, I stayed in touch with them and saw how well they ended up doing! 

Nonprofits tend to be performative to receive an influx of funding from donors and foundations, all the while constantly lacking a racial justice lens to their hiring process. Where is the mentorship and pipeline for growth? What happens when submitting a cover letter is not accessible to certain candidates? 

When it comes to hiring part-time or full-time staff members, the process is a little more thorough. Recruiting should go beyond posting on job boards. It means recruiting personally at HBCUs, CUNY, SUNY and community colleges. It means sharing the job posting through emails with colleagues from different fields and walks of life. It means making the application process accessible by accepting video and audio submissions. It means requiring a certain number of people of color in a pool of potential candidates. It means coming up with interview questions that have intention behind it, for example, a reproductive justice organization should ask questions about the importance of the reproductive justice movement and why women of color should be leading the way. It means thoughtfully coming up with a scale that grades each candidate based on their answers and seeing who not only has the experience for the job, but the skills and passion. 

After the recruiting process, it is essential to create a pipeline to success. Every entry level staff member should be matched with a mentor. There should be monthly brown bags where high-level POC staff members talk about their road to success and give advice. There should be a community built amongst people of color to nourish their capabilities and encourage growth.

This will take a lot of effort and time, but if an organization is truly dedicated to equity, it is important to make this commitment. Lastly, what will make a difference is accountability. Creating a committee, board, or even hiring a high level staff member that holds the organization accountable to its diversity and racial justice vow will ensure that the work gets done. 

While it may take a while for a nonprofit to transition their way of hiring, make no mistake: a hiring process done without a racial justice lens to it is not equitable at all.

NEXT STORY: A call for contract justice

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.