Introduction: It's Not Extra: Centering Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Your Organization


Introduction: It's Not Extra: Centering Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Your Organization

By: Alyson Weiss

Decades of research show that diverse organizations out-perform homogeneous ones. However, nonprofit staff tend not to reflect the diversity of the clients and communities we serve, and these numbers are not improving. According to a 2015 study, just 18% of nonprofit staff and 17% of boards are people of color, and many roles unnecessarily require formal education, such as bachelor’s degrees.

Since organizations must fight in the “Nonprofit Hunger Games” to get the resources they need to deliver their services, it can be difficult to find the time and money to act on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. However, it is essential that they do in order to fully realize their mission, vision, and goals.

While there are many ways to define Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and each organization should define it for themselves, YNPN Boston uses the following definitions, based on work by Independent Sector:

equity, equality, liberation.jpg


  • Equity is the act of developing fair systems, procedures, and resource distribution mechanisms to create equitable (not equal - see graphic) opportunity for all people, with a focus on eliminating barriers that have prevented the full participation of historically and currently oppressed groups. Equity is not a one-size-fits-all model, and is not about being difference-blind, but rather about actively engaging with difference and eliminating barriers to opportunity.

  • Diversity is the recognition that all of the ways in which people differ create crucial diversity of thought, ideas, perspectives, and values. These identity categories are both visible and invisible, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, and language. We also recognize that individuals are affiliated with multiple identities, both seen and unseen, and experience those identities differently.

  • Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people, allowing everyone to bring their full, authentic selves to their work.

This series of blog posts aims to serve as a toolkit to help organizations of all sizes incorporate Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into their everyday operations and decision-making processes. We’ll walk through the five steps that the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Boston took over the last year with no budget and an all-volunteer team to infuse Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into all that we do.


1.    Assemble a team of champions

2.    Create a shared Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion vision

3.    Assign key action steps

4.    Fill gaps in knowledge

5.    Measure, rinse, repeat


While we do not have all of the answers, we have figured a lot out along the way, and hope that some of these tips may be helpful to you and your organizations.

At the end of the day, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are not ‘extra’ – they’re essential to the work that we do, the decisions that we make, and the impact that we make on our clients, community, and staff.

Continue to Step 1

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