Questions to ask as you build an inclusive board

Bronlynn Thurman \
June 18, 2021

Board diversity has been a hot talking point for the last few years; unfortunately, the reality doesn’t match the aspirational words. Many nonprofit boards have little to no diversity. The 2017 Leading with Intent study found that 84% of board members were white and 27% of boards had not a single person of color.

Organizations often comment that it is too hard to find quality candidates. Others admit that they just don’t see the value in recruiting diverse candidates. But the data belie this view. Boards that reflect their community and include all races, genders, sexual orientations, and disabilities are able to make better, more informed decisions.  

If your board is one that seeks greater diversity, know that this is not a change that you can make overnight. Before you jump in, here are some questions that you may want to work through as a board so that you are intentional and provide a positive, affirming environment for those you seek to recruit:

  • Has your organization engaged in candid conversations about equity and inclusion? Why do you seek to diversify your board? Do you want to “check a box” or do you want to invite different voices into your decision-making process?
  • How are you currently incorporating diverse perspectives into your work and in strategic discussions?
  • What is your board’s current culture? How welcoming is the group to new or less established voices? In what ways can you structure your meetings to invite input, listen actively, and welcome new perspectives?
  • What are your board’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is your current orientation process? Have you looked at it through an equitable lens?
  • How are you supporting board members over time?
  • What goals do you have with respect to the profile of your board?

These are just a few of the questions to get you started. This work is not easy but creating an inclusive, thoughtfully engaging environment that welcomes diverse voices can have a potentially transformative impact for both the board and organization overall. Below are a few additional resources that may be helpful as you begin this journey. 


2017 Leading with Intent Study:

Council of Nonprofits:

Maryland Nonprofits:

Wild Apricot: