I am guessing you are familiar with International Women’s Day. Maybe you are even part of a campaign celebrating this day? But have you ever given much thought to the concept of International Women’s Day inside your own nonprofit? Have you looked at women and girls in your team, your board, your target group, your donor base? Maybe International Women’s Day can be a good moment to start doing that more!
Have you ever counted how many women and men you have in your team? Has it always been as it is now, or did it used to be different? How? And have you looked at what kind of positions men and women hold? Are women and men represented equally in management positions, for instance? If you find that this is not the case, do you know why that is? Have you asked the women concerned?
Look at your board in the same way. How many women and men are serving on your board now? And in the past? Has your president ever been a woman? Has your treasurer ever been a woman? Is the composition of your board similar to that of your team or not? How? Do you think this impacts your work? How?
Your target group(s)
Again, look at your target group(s) now, the community you serve. What does it look like in terms of diversity? Are you targeting mainly women or mainly men? Does that make sense to you? Is it helpful toward your mission? Is the composition of your team similar to that of your target group?
Your donor base
How about your private individual donors? Are they mainly men or mainly women? Does that seem logical to you, in light of the topic you work on? Is your messaging impacting on the composition of your individual donor base? Do you see similarities between your donor base and your team, your board or your target group? Or are they all very different? What information do you have about your donor base?
Why would you look into this, you may ask? It is of course always clever to look at your data and analyze them as a basis for thinking of and planning for next steps. And looking at the composition of the different groups you work with and for makes a lot of sense.
Intuitively you know that it is useful to know if, for instance, women between the age of 45 and 60 are interested in supporting you, because then you can go look for more of these women and get more support. The more you know about your donors, the easier you can find similar individuals that are likely to share your dream. So understanding your donor base is something that probably already has your attention.
But why would you look at your team? What makes that of interest? Well, it is good to know precisely what level of diversity you have in your team. A more diverse team is better able to respond to all sorts of challenges, coming up with a bigger variety of ideas and perspectives for more effective answers to these challenges. So if you find out that your team is maybe not as diverse as is possible, you can focus your future recruitment of volunteers and staff on expanding that diversity. Knowing what is needed, starts with knowing what is. (And with knowing where you want to go.)
So why look at your board? Basically, for the same reasons as it makes sense to look at your team. Do you have a diverse array of knowledge, expertise, skills and networks, relevant to your mission, in your board? And yes, that includes a diversity in background and perspective. And that does include male and female perspectives and experiences. I don’t think a female board can ‘repair’ a male team or vice versa. I think both should have a good balance of women and men on their own.
In general, I do believe that the expertise you need in your board should be complementary to that of your team. So in that sense, it is perfectly possible in my view that your board looks and feels very different from your team.
Why? (target group)
So why look at your target group? Does it matter if your target group is not balanced between women and men? Well, that depends on your mission. And on what you need to have in place to achieve your dreams. This is up to you to analyze and consider. One thing that is important, is to understand how your team matches your target group, also in its balance between women and men. Do you have sufficient team members with whom your target group can self-identify? Do you have enough members in your team who can inspire trust with the target group? Can your team members truly understand your target group?
My 3 Tips
Here are my 3 tips for you to make International Women’s Day inside your own nonprofit meaningful.
- Start collecting and analyzing your data as of today.
- Develop an idea of your ideal situation in terms of diversity (and yes this is broader than just women and men). Do this as a team.
- When you think of ways to bridge the gap between the current situation and your ideal situation, keep in mind that you have peers near you, physically or in regard of the topic you work on, that you might collaborate with if you feel you yourself are too small as nonprofit to implement a certain intervention. You might also make this intervention part of one of your next project proposals!
Want to know more and ask questions?
If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!
Here is how you can join my free Facebook group
You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.