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Diversity equity and inclusion in your nonprofit: How to get started

These DEI initiatives will help you take diversity, equity, and inclusion from an abstract concept to a centerstone of your organization's culture.

Kylie Davis
February 22, 2022
Nerd Mr Butter

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Often, diversity, equity, and inclusion are treated as buzzwords—a line item to check off at this month's HR meeting. However, when implemented correctly, DEI initiatives can transform your organizational culture and the communities in which we live. 

At Givebutter, we value diversity, equity, and inclusion, and have outlined steps we've taken to transform these concepts into an action plan at our company. We are actively working to build, maintain, and support a community that looks different, thinks different, and has different life experiences. Additionally, we pledge to always encourage and celebrate the diverse voices and backgrounds of our team members.

Below, we discuss the importance of developing DEI initiatives at your organization—from internal staff and volunteers to new and recurring supporters to corporate partners. We also share several DEI initiative ideas to help you get started, and we explain what steps we're taking here at Givebutter.

What are DEI initiatives, anyway? 

DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Therefore, DEI initiatives are steps an organization takes to encourage and develop a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse workforce. 

Within the workplace, these three letters mean: 

  • Diversity: Diversity refers to recruiting qualified candidates and hiring a team from diverse backgrounds, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. 
  • Equity: Equity means ensuring justice and unbiased impartiality in company policies, procedures, processes, and access to resources. An understanding of equity necessitates an understanding and acceptance of social disparities with society. 
  • Inclusion: Inclusion ensures all people feel welcome, heard, and respected within your workplace. Specifically, this sense of belonging refers to how people feel they are treated within a larger group setting.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are meant to work in tandem with one another.

It's not enough to recruit and hire a diverse workforce if, for instance, groups of color aren't given the same opportunity for advancement as their white counterparts (equity).

Or, if an individual is given a promotion, it doesn't do much good if they aren't welcomed or respected by senior business leaders (inclusion). 

While this all makes sense in theory, it's important to take these concepts and transform them into actionable steps at your organization. It's not enough to simply talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (or host a mandatory DEI training). Instead, your organization must DO.THE.WORK. to create lasting change. 

6 DEI initiatives to consider implementing at your organization 

DEI initiatives: Chadwick Boseman nodding GIF

From 2020 to 2021, the hiring of DEI practitioners increased by 90% as organizations increased their efforts to build a more inclusive, supportive workplace. This has been a long-overdue reckoning across industry lines, particularly in the nonprofit sector—where roughly 79% of board chairs and executive directors are white.

When developing DEI programs at your organization, be willing to listen to staff, volunteers, and supporters of all backgrounds and ask for their candid input. Ensure your DEI efforts play a central role in your overall strategic plan, and get executive buy-in from organizational leadership. Never stop challenging long-held beliefs and microaggressions, and look for new ways to implement more equitable and inclusive policies.

To help you get started, consider these objectives: 

1. Strive to build a leadership representative of the communities you serve đź‘Ż

Building a diverse, inclusive workforce starts with your recruiting and hiring practices—particularly for senior leadership positions. Recent reports that 58% of nonprofit survey respondents say their organization's top leadership is less than 25% people of color.

Broaden your recruiting pool—looking for referrals from your immediate network can lead to a recycled group of candidates. At Givebutter, we advertise positions on job boards that specifically target those from different demographics, such as Diversity Jobs and InHerSight. In addition, we track EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) data within our ATS (applicant tracking system) to ensure we are recruiting a diverse candidate pool.

2. Work with a third-party vendor when determining compensation đź’°

By now, you are well-aware of the significant pay gap impacting women and people of color. Research shows that Black women will make nearly $1 million less in their lifetime than a white man, due to a lack of equity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace.

To help rectify the pay gap, consider working with a third-party vendor—rather than your own human resources department—to ensure equal pay across all groups. At Givebutter, we work with a third-party vendor to determine compensation packages, thereby eliminating biases and ensuring equal pay. We also offer standardized benefits for all employees, such as comprehensive health care plans and parental leave for primary and secondary caregivers.

3. Invite candid feedback from all groups đź—Ł

As organizations have launched DEI training programs across the U.S., many grassroot organizations spoke out against performative allyship. With performative allyship, an individual or organization makes broad, sweeping claims against racism or gender bias, yet fails to take actionable steps against harmful policies. This held especially true when all decision making surrounding DEI initiatives were left to senior leadership—which were made up primarily of white males.

Create a safe space where all people within your organization can weigh-in on your overall DEI strategy.

At Givebutter, we host a Slack channel called "People and Culture" to allow colleagues to discuss current events, celebrations, and different life experiences. These open discussions lead us to recognize varying holidays on our company calendar (including offering two floating holidays to fit personal beliefs). We also started sharing employee appreciation gifts from Black-owned businesses.

Another idea your team could implement is to form an employee resource group (ERG), a voluntary group whose key goal is to develop a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. 

4. Welcome all voices, across all channels đź“Ł

Diversity initiatives aren't just about the work you do and conversations you have in-house. They're also about how you share diverse voices externally.

Take a hard look at your marketing and communications channels, and see where there are opportunities to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. At Givebutter, we strive to share a number of diverse voices in our blog, newsletter, and social media content. In addition, we try to promote inclusive leadership by inviting speakers from all genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds to speak at industry events, and we highlight campaigns during Pride and various heritage months that are led by people from the celebrated communities.

5. Make it non-negotiable đź™…

Lastly, to ensure DEI initiatives always play an integral role in your overall business strategy, make DEI training non-negotiable.

At Givebutter, we require all employees to take annual harassment and discrimination training through our PEO (professional employer organization) platform. We also provide a mandatory diversity course and training on managing biases. 

6. Share your DEI initiatives with your people

Kamala Harris - It's a big deal GIF

DEI initiatives are actionable steps taken to promote a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. While DEI initiatives vary by organization, some popular programs include offering mandatory diversity training, creating an employee resource group, launching equitable hiring practices, and combating pay gaps across all groups. 

Your DEI initiatives should be shared internally—with leadership and staff—and externally, with volunteers, potential supporters, and other stakeholders.

Be prepared (and willing!) to accept feedback from employees of all backgrounds, thereby building a more inclusive workplace.

At Givebutter, we view diversity as an asset, and have set a goal to always value people above profits. Hopefully, this post gave you a few ideas to help launch DEI initiatives at your organization, helping to change your organization for the better.

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