Working Toward Equity: 8 Action Steps for your Board & Staff

Using the Accountability Standards® as a Framework

On June 1st, Charities Review Council (the Council) closed for the day to give our staff, board, and constituents a moment to reflect on the loss of George Floyd. Since then, our conversations at the Council have centered around what we can do — both now and in the future to recenter our mission around equity and inclusion

We know many of you have been doing the same — asking big questions, having tough conversations, and thinking about what comes next.

If you’re looking for a place to start, Charities Review Council’s Accountability Standards® can provide a framework for taking the next step. The Accountability Standards® are at the heart of our mission. With them, we’re building donor and nonprofit relationships for strong, vibrant, and just communities. So, whether you’ve been through our nonprofit review process or not, you can use these Standards as a starting point for action. 


Action Steps for your Board & Staff

Annual Report and Communication

You can find this Standard on page 3 of the Accountability Standards® 

An annual report is a great tool for highlighting your goals and progress towards those goals. Often, we focus on the programmatic numbers, stats, and impact, but what would it look like to speak directly to your goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion?

>> Action Step: In your next annual report, consider reporting out on your diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and accomplishments. Not only will this require you to have goals that you’re tracking and reporting out on, but you’ll also continue to build trust with your important stakeholders.

Board Length of Service

You can find this Standard on page 4 of the Accountability Standards® 

Well-governed organizations know the importance of welcoming new voices with varying expertise, experience, and backgrounds into leadership roles. BoardSource’s upcoming 2020 Leading with Intent Study found that while 77% of board members are White, only 10% are Black. Having set terms and term limits provides your organization the opportunity to continually engage new board members in your work and mission. 

>> Action Step: Do your bylaws set a limit on the number of years a board member can serve before needing to step down? If not, consider adding terms and term limits to your bylaws. Not only will this action step set you up to meet this Standard, but you’ll also have a policy and practice in place to support board diversity and inclusion efforts. 

Governing Document Review

You can find this Standard on page 4 of the Accountability Standards® 

 The governing documents of a nonprofit formalize many of the policies and practices of your organization. Have you reviewed your governing documents recently? When we make policies that are equitable and accessible, we take action to ensure that everyone is included in the organizational community. 

>> Action Step: Schedule a review of your bylaws and other governing documents with an equity lens. Here are a few things you might look for according to the Nonprofit Association of Oregon’s Equity & Inclusion Lens Guide 

  • Are there policies, procedures, and/or practices, and attitudes that unintentionally prevent some people from fully engaging in our work? (e.g., schedule conflicts with religious holidays or family responsibilities; workload distribution) What alternatives are possible? 
  • Do we utilize support systems for employees who have been harassed, treated in a disrespectful manner, or discriminated against by co-workers, supervisors, or stakeholders? 
  • Are equity and inclusion incorporated into our staff performance review process? 

Monitoring Mission & Strategy

You can find this Standard on page 4 of the Accountability Standards® 

 We ask our nonprofit partners to review their mission statement and supporting strategies once a year. What we find is that often mission statements stay the same but the strategies change. Why? Well, because when we know better, we do better. Has your board and staff conducted a mission and strategy review latelyMaybe it’s time.  

>> Action Step: Conduct a mission and strategy review with your board and key staff. Here are a couple of questions to help you get started:

  • Does our mission still reflect the work we’re doing?  
  • Do the strategies we’re using exclude certain communities?  

Board Orientation & Assessment

You can find this Standard on page 4 of the Accountability Standards® 

Board Orientation: Orientation is important for any new role, but especially the board of directors’ role. When you bring new board members in, do you host an orientation to review key policies, practices, procedures, and board member roles and responsibilities? Do you highlight your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in that orientation?  

>> Action Step: If you haven’t already, make sure all new board members receive an orientation within one year of their election. During the orientation, highlight the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, focusing on any current goals the organization is working towards. 

Annual Board Self-Assessment: How is your board measuring its effectiveness? Once a year, we ask our nonprofit partners to conduct a board self-assessment, which evaluates the board’s effectiveness and capacity to govern. Although we don’t have any requirements on what should be included in that assessment, you might consider adding a question (or series of questions) around diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.  

>> Action Step: Conduct an annual board self-assessment if you haven’t already. Add a question or series of questions focused on the board’s effectiveness around diversity, equity, and inclusion goals/efforts.  

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

You can find this Standard on page 4 of the Accountability Standards® 

 Last but certainly not least, our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Standard and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Toolkit, are great resources for you and your organization. The Standard asks that nonprofits have an intentional conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts once every three years, and set 2-3 goals for the organization to be working on going forward. Seems reasonable, right? Well, we found that almost 90% of organizations need help in order to meet this Standard, which is why we created the DEI Toolkit.  

>> Action Step: If you haven’t already created organizational goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion, now is the time to do so. 

>> **BONUS** Action Step: If you’re looking for an affordable, data-driven tool that can help foster conversation and goal-setting efforts with board and staff, check out the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Toolkit.

To come alongside nonprofits in their journey towards equity, Charities Review Council is offering a discounted rate on the DEI Toolkit through August 31st. So, when you’re ready to take the next step, go to our website and use the code:

  • SUMMER250 for a 1-year subscription to the DEI Toolkit,
  • SUMMER250-2 for a 2-year subscription to the DEI Toolkit, or
  • SUMMER250-3 for a 3-year subscription to the DEI Toolkit.

Our work lives at the center of donor-nonprofit relationships, so we’d like to invite you — no matter what side(s) of this network you work on — to take a step in your journey towards equity. It will take every organization and every individual committed to equity to create the real and lasting change we all hope for.

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