Christal M. Cherry will show how boards can learn how to work with the CEO and staff to ground organizational values and practices so that they are inclusive.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Christal, we’re ready to go. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially?

Christal: Absolutely. Let’s do it.

Steven: Nice. Welcome, everybody. Happy Wednesday. If you’re listening live, if you’re watching the recording, hope you’re having a good day, no matter where you are, what time it is. We are here to talk about silence is not golden. That’s right. We’re not going to be silent. We’re going to be talking about how to train that board to pay attention to racial inequity, because that’s important. I love this topic and we’ve got a fun hour planned for you here. I’m Steven. I’m over at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items real quick, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and I’ll be sending out the slides as well as the recording later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early, if you get interrupted, don’t worry. I’ll send everything out to you this afternoon. You won’t miss a thing, I promise. But most importantly, please feel free to use that chat box on your webinar screen. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. Send in your questions because we’re going to save time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. We’d love to answer your questions along the way and at the end. I’ll also keep an eye on a Twitter feed for questions. But don’t sit on those hands. We’d love to hear from you. We love the interactiveness of this group.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to stay an extra special welcome. To all you newcomers, if this is your first one, welcome. We love doing these webinars. We love having you here. If you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, maybe you’re wondering what the heck is. Bloomerang, we are a provider of donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, maybe you’re shopping for software soon, check us out, check out our website. Pretty easy to find online if you are interested. So I just say that for context, in case you’re wondering what we are. But don’t do that right now, because like I said, you’re all in for a real treat over the next hour. Joining us from beautiful Atlanta, Christal Cherry. Christal, how’s it going? You doing okay?

Christal: It’s going wonderful. Thank you, Steven.

Steven: I’m so excited. It was awesome to see your face after talking to you over email the last few weeks planning this. Wow. It’s so awesome that you’re doing this for us, by the way. Thank you. Thank you. You know, you’re giving up your time. Really gracious. If you don’t know Christal, check her out. She’s The Board Pro. She’s the CEO of The Board Pro and she is The Board Pro. This is her thing, right? She’s been doing this for a long time, over 20 years. Super involved in the nonprofit community down in Atlanta. She was director of development at a shop a couple of years back. And she was telling me she’s an alumni of the Lilly School of Philanthropy up here in Indy, taught some courses for them also. So that was a cool connection. And also does a lot of consulting for board development. That’s kind of her thing.

So she’s got a really cool presentation for you. There’s going to be some live role-playing. That’s why there’s three very brave souls. They have their video cameras on. Don’t worry. The rest of you don’t have to turn your camera on. Don’t feel that you are missing out on something. So Christal, I’m going to pipe down because I’ve already taken up too much time away from you. I’m going to let you bring up your slides, my friend.

Christal: Yeah. Let me try to bring up my screen here, Steven.

Steven: Here we go.

Christal: Okay. So let’s see. All right.

Steven: Looks like it’s working.

Christal: There we go. All right. First, I want to thank Steven and Bloomerang for inviting me to present today. I’m so excited to be here and I’m glad to be in this space at this time. I’m finally finding joy in being a fundraiser of color, and I’m glad that I can use my voice and my experience and skills to train boards on how to embrace their power to change the world. We have 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. That means we have 1.5 million boards. Can you imagine? That’s a lot of power. So we’re going to talk today a little bit about that and how we can try to train our boards to be a little bit more sensitive to what’s going on, particularly now. So let’s just go ahead and get started. Let’s see. Okay. Back. Hold on. This is that technology piece that you’re always wondering if it’s going to work out. All right. Okay. Has my screen sharing stopped, guys?

Steven: Yeah. We were seeing your slides, but then they went away. You want to try to share again.

Christal: Let me see if we can get it back. Hold tight, folks. Okay. Is that better?

Steven: There they go.

Christal: Okay. All right. Here we go. My Enter button is not moving that’s why I’m having issues. There it is. Okay. All right. So here I am. I’m Christal Cherry. As Steve mentioned, I’m a fundraiser. I’m a board consultant. I’m a board member. I’m a volunteer. I’m in Toastmasters, and so I’m constantly trying to refine my speaking skills. I want to make sure that I’m smiling, that . . . well, usually good eye contact, but you guys can’t see, so I’m just going to look at the screen. I’m very animated. I use my hands. I’m to minimize my oohs and ahs. So if anyone hears it, check me in the chat. And I’m a supermom of a 10-year-old, very active boy. I’m a lover of anything purple. So you’re always going to see me in a lot of purple. I’m a Snickers groupie. I will fight you for my Snickers, okay?

And then as Steve mentioned, I’m The Board Pro. And, you know, I’ve mentioned those personal things because I think it’s really important that when you introduce yourself that you share a little something personal. You know, this is about building relationships and you have to be a little vulnerable and willing to share something personal about yourself that make people feel connected to you. So if I have any purple lovers or a Snicker groupie out there, put it in the chat, let’s do a high five on purple and Snickers.

All right. So we have a full agenda today and we’re going to talk about a lot of things. We’re going to be talking about shifting the balance of power, applying a racial equity lens, building a pipeline for people of color, some sources that you can use to try to find them for your board, questions that you should be asking before you join a board, ways to be sensitive, you know, how to do the work inside the organization, some diversity factors that impact fundraising, and how are we going to embrace our collective networks and then a recap.

Okay. So here’s my first question. And Steven, I need to monitor the chat on this. What are some actual ways to change our thinking about board culture? And this is kind of framing how this presentation is going to go today. And I’m going to provide answers to this question, but I wanted to see what you guys said right out the gate. So Steve, you got any good responses to this one?

Steven: Well, I can see people are typing, but I wanted to let you know, there’s a lot of purple fans and a lot of Snickers fans, so. Okay. Some people are saying that the board needs to model the correct way of doing things. We’re seeing that wealth exists in all communities. Rushing it won’t work. I love that, Stephanie. Nicole is saying making smart goals, not just regular goals. Make it an agenda item, give it attention, all caps. I love that from Sarah. Making sure there’s good representation on the board. Challenging the status quo. Oh, I like that one. Learning about . . .

Christal: Yeah. Steven, I’m going to have to get the script on this one because these are good responses, man.

Steven: Yeah. These are good ones.

Christal: All right. Well, let me tell you what I have. I think we need to start off by having honest dialogue, right? It means creating safe spaces for us to be honest and encourage board members to talk about truth and uncomfortable topics, right? And so black lives matter for a lot of folks is weird. They don’t get it. They don’t understand why we’re making such a big deal about it. And so, you know, maybe having this slide up at the start of your board meeting and asking folks to respond to it or what it means to them, or if they have any questions that they don’t understand, you know, why we’re asserting this black lives matter thing going on right now and just getting people to be open about how they feel about it. You know, it has to be a safe space where people are not going to be attacked because some people just don’t know, you know? And so we can’t go in assuming that everyone knows. And so, having a space where people can be free to talk about that, I think is the start.

And so shifting the balance of power, right? So we know that imbalances in power have created opportunities for people who are in charge to abuse their power, right? Whether it means they exclude people on boards or they just invite one person just to satisfy that one statistic to say, “We have a token, we have one.” Or then once we get them on the board, we get that one person on the board and then we don’t really give them an opportunity to participate or we don’t really take their contributions or their ideas seriously. And so I think the onus is on us to start shifting the balance of power so that folks on the board, black folks and brown folks on the board feel like that they have some power on the board. We need some folks in leadership positions on the board as well. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that.

So applying a race equity lens, you know, we’re learning about the structural and institutional barriers to equity on boards and within organizations. And confronting those personal and professional biases. I mean, most people would probably tell you, “Oh no, I’m not racist. You know, I have a black friend.” Or, “I went to school. My college roommate was Indian,” or, you know, “My son’s basketball team is led by, you know, a Hispanic person.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not racist. You know, we all have built-in personal biases that were probably instilled in us as children. We’ve all been in family situations where someone who says something kind of out of place about another race or a population.

And so we have those unconscious personally biases that weigh into how we operate in our personal and professional lives, right? Of course, we know that we have developed systems of accountability that address inequities with real consequences. That means if someone violates a policy, that there has to be a consequence for that. And that’s what our role play is going to be about a little bit later, right? And then, of course, just undoing all the racism that we know takes place in nonprofits and in board work, which means recruiting diverse members, making leadership roles attainable, and just hearing the voices of the other, which is what I just shared with you all.

So despite the fact that board demographics are still lily white and, in many cases, and they know they are, they’re still not are prioritizing recruitment in terms of diversifying the board. And so there’s something that has to be done about that. And I’m not sure why they don’t prioritize. It’s just they know it’s there and it’s important. But the fact is, is that despite high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics, boards are not prioritizing this as important.

So let’s talk about that. Why is it important that people of color be at the table? So any 84% of nonprofit board members are white, 90% of nonprofit board chairs are white, and women of color are the most underrepresented of all groups to serve on corporate boards, holding about 4% of the seats and diverse board models create a diverse talent pool. So at the end of this presentation, I have a slide that has all of the resources for which I got these statistics and information so that if you have any questions about anything that I’m presenting, you’ll see the sources for which I got the information.

Okay. So to make room on building a pipeline for people of color, we have to be intentional, right? And deliberate. We have to have a calculated targets for gender, race, and ethnicity to drive results within a given time period, right? We have to track promising professionals of color early in their career. That means that whoever is responsible for recruitment on your board should be scouring the rags to find out who’s doing what in the community so that you can start building a pipeline. “Oh, Andrea Simmons is over at so and so. She just got promoted to the executive director. She might be someone that we want to have on our board. Let’s put her in the pipeline.” Right? And so, if a board seat opens up, we know that there’s someone we can call immediately, someone who’s qualified, who’s doing good work, who would be an asset to our board so that when the board seat opens up, we’re not all running around trying to find individuals begging people to be on our board so we don’t have to keep looking, right?

Channel professionals of color into positions where, as I mentioned, they are high profile, right? Appointing of people of color to advisory board. So there might be some folks who are not ready necessarily to be on the board, maybe they did not achieve certain accomplishments in their career yet. Maybe they don’t have the ability to pay your board dues, but they have good, you know, connections. They’re an ambassador. And this is where you put your advisory council members, right? Taskforce members, you have committees on boards that don’t require board membership for them to participate. So this is a place where you can start bringing in folks to be on your board, be a part of your board work, but not necessarily having to be on the board. But it’s a pipeline to the board, right?

And then, of course, casting a wider net. And so what happens on boards is when we’re looking for new members, we go within our little sphere of influence, right? And so, if you don’t know a lot of folks of color in your little sphere of influence, you’re not going to know where to go. You’re calling your friends, your colleagues. And so just kind of casting a wider net. And we’re going to talk a little bit about what that might mean in a little bit, right?

Consider black women. By 2050, women of color will be the majority of women in the United States. I don’t know if anyone knows that. But we’re growing leaps and bounds. In 2018, there were 2.4 million black women-owned businesses, ages 34 to 54. Black women are the only racial or ethnic group with more businesses than their male peers. And women board directors bring diversity of thought, competitive advantage, skills, and better stakeholder representation. Putting women of color on the board and sponsoring them and advocating for them for board service is something that we should all do.

Okay. Some sources to recruit people of color. You’re wondering, “Where do I go? I’m interested in diversifying the board. I don’t even know where to go. I don’t know anyone in my sphere of influence. I live in a town where there’s not a lot of African Americans or Indians or Mexicans. Where do I go?” And so these are some sources, right? You can reach out to some publications that you know this is the population for which they’re targeting, right?

There are local groups. Here in Atlanta we have a group called the African American Development Officers Network, AADO. There’s a new group called Women of Color in Philanthropy out of New York. My group, F3, Fabulous Female Fundraisers is a group of 50 African American females who are executives in nonprofits, right? So if you called me and said you were looking for an African American female board member and as long as she can pipe in remotely, I have 50 women here in Atlanta who I can suggest, right?

So you got to find the groups that have access to the pipeline that you’re looking for, right? Target individuals who are active in your community. And then there are certain websites you can go to like BoardNet USA, right? Where you can actually match board members to assignments that are actually open. There are civic organizations like 100 Black Men, Jack and Jill, lots of fraternities and sororities groups, right? Where you can call or tap into those groups locally in your community.

Of course, you can publish vacancies on websites like If you ever been to Bridgespan. I’ve been on there. They have board seats posted for organizations. AFP, the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I know here in Atlanta we do. Here in Atlanta, we have the United Way VIP program for which I’m a I graduate of. And it’s a 10-week program that teaches you how to sit on the boards and then once you graduate from the program, then they match you with a board seat, right? And so I don’t know if United Way in your area has a program like that, but that’s a wonderful source for you to find board members.

And then the Atlanta Women’s Foundation here in Atlanta also has a board training program. And then they match folks. I don’t know if there’s a foundation in your area, but they’re just there. My point is, is that there are lots of different sources for you to find people of color to serve on your boards. And then, of course, you can mobilize your board members to recruit from their networks if they have them.

So, you know, it’s for us to really be objectionable and find people to fill the needs that we have on our boards. You know, a board matrix is a good idea, right? And so they all look differently. You got to find the one that works for you, but certainly, when you’re doing matrix and you’re doing some kind of overlapping, you want to be able to see where your gaps are. So you might want to fill this out for every board member to see, “Oh, my goodness. I didn’t even realize we had eight men and only two women.” Or, you know, “We have all, you know, Hispanics and no white folks.” Or whatever, you know. This is a good way for you to kind of do an assessment of who’s on your board and then once you see what that is, then you know what gaps you have to fill.

And this is something that I, when I’m working with my clients, my board clients, I immediately do that when they start talking about recruiting new board members, and we’ve had some aha moments. You know, they didn’t even realize that their board was not diverse. We’ve talked about, you know, if you’re serving . . . I had a question the other day from our nonprofit that serves the homeless, you know, should we have a homeless person on our board? And I’m thinking, why not? Why not get that perspective? Right? And so those are kinds of things you build into your bylaws, but nonetheless, you want to have representation from the population that you serve on your board as well. We’ll talk a little bit more about that.

All right. So here’s the question you should be asking before you decide whether or not you’re even going to join a board, right? Particularly these days, you know, the typical questions are your budget size, and your mission, and all those kinds of good things. But here are some good questions for you to ask now. Who is the board chair? Who is leading this organization? How long have they been in this role, right? What is the racial and gender composition of the board?

How will I be onboarded? You know, I recently joined the board and had to fuss at them because I’m thinking, you know, “No one’s kind of welcomed me to the board. I’ve not received a call from the board chair and no one’s inviting me to coffee. No one’s asking me to do a board contract.” And they were surprised when I said, “No one’s calling me and asking me for my board dues.” And they were like, “Oh, my God. No one’s ever done that before.” But because of the work I do, I know that’s what they should be doing. So I had to train them on how to treat me as a board member, right? It’s okay.

Is the board culture welcoming of different cultures, opinions, and ideas? You know, that’s really a great question to ask. How is confrontation handled? And we’re going to talk about confrontation when we do our role play a little bit later, right? Who is the executive director of the organization? What is the racial composition of the staff? And do they represent the clients that are being served in that in that community? Is there a culture of philanthropy inside that organization? And if so, how are donors of colors engaged? Or do you have donors of color in your database? You’d be surprised how many do not, right?

Are there opportunities to actually engage with the clients who we’re serving? I mean, sometimes if you work for a, you know, a homeless shelter or, you know, work for school, you might want to go to the school to actually see the clients because often board members, their lived experiences are very different than those who are in the organizations that we’re working for. So having some connection to them is really important.

Here’s a big one. Has your board issued a public statement addressing the inequities in the community they serve? I’d like to know, of those who serve on boards, has your board done that? Steve, let’s stop and do a check. Has your board actually issued a public statement about what’s going on? I’m not talking about the organization. I’m talking about the board of the organization, anybody?

Steven: Couple of yeses. No yet. Lots of yeses. Oh, someone said they actually did it for the poor. Looks like the yeses are outweighing the nos, Christal. That’s good. Yeah.

Christal: Wow. That is so amazing. I guess a couple of the clients that I talked to, they kind of looked at me sideways, like, “We thought that that was a CEO’s responsibility.” No, you can do it with the CEO. You want to show partnership, right? You want to show that you all are our leaders of this organization working in tandem. So I’m so happy to hear that. That is great news, you guys. All right. That is encouraging.

Okay. So ways to include people of color in board culture. So you want to have an environment where black and brown folks feel included, right? They have materials that have images that look like them, right? The worst thing to do is to go to a website and you see that they’re serving, you know, all African-American lower income children in the Bronx, New York and then you go to the website and their staff and board are all white and you think, “What? How could that be?” Right? Their brochures, everything has white children in it. I mean, that’s just bizarre. But you’d be surprised how many actually, that’s the case. Right? And so your values, goals, and strategies are developed that address the assets and needs of people of color at the operational and programmatic levels, right?

And then just a core belief values that are instilled that people of color bring something different and powerful to the board that makes it wonderful, you know, embracing difference.

All right. So you’re thinking, “Okay. So how can we be sensitive to cultural differences and how do we change the culture on the board?” Right? And so, you know, every board usually has a board retreat. So this is your opportunity now to bring in someone from the outside. It’s good to have someone who can be objective, who could do some sensitivity training, right? I remember years ago I worked for a nonprofit and they brought in someone to do some trauma sensitivity training around what it feels like to be homeless. You know? And so many of us had not thought about that before.

How about attending cultural dance where board members might go to a concert together, listening to music that they might not normally listen to, or go to an exhibits where there’s Indian art or African American art, or Asian art from another culture where they can learn together about a different culture. Right? Of course, having, you know, social time, happy hours, birthdays, or holiday gatherings. I think most boards probably do that.

But how about a board day of service in the community where you’re either doing community service at your organization or at another organization’s event? So I remember one year on the board that I was serving on, we all did a walk, right? We had t-shirts made with our organization’s name and it said board member on the back and we participated as a board in a walk for another organization, right? So it was our day to kind of bond and do some community service together where we’re doing good and we’re doing it together.

And during the walk we’re talking, we’re talking about each other’s kids, people are handing us out water. A long the way, there were bands playing and we got to stop and talk. It was just a wonderful way to kind of get to know people in an unstressed, unforced setting where we were doing something good, the weather was beautiful that day. It was just a feel good day, right?

And then, of course, how about buddy systems? Anybody have buddy systems where board members are matched with another board member, particularly when they come on new? Match with another board member who is either seasoned or maybe of a different culture so that it makes the onboarding process for this new person smoother and they feel welcomed. So I wonder any buddy systems out there, guys? Steve, what you got on this one?

Steven: Have you got a buddy system? Yes. Stephanie says, “Yes. During the orientation.” Love that. Cassandra says yes. Oh, now the lots of yeses are coming in.

Christal: Well, good. All right. That’s great. And then, of course, the board can on their own attend sensitivity workshops. How about board meetings, guys? Right. How about having what meetings that foster inclusivity, right? Hold board meetings are that times that are convenient for board members so you might have somebody who’s on your board who’s a single mom, right? And so doing something after school hours might be tough for her if she doesn’t have a sitter, right? And so you want to be sensitive to that, right?

How about holding meetings in locations that are accessible for those who might be handicapped or who use public transportation? You know, sometimes, particularly in larger cities, people take Marta or they take Metro or the train into work or maybe they don’t have a car. Maybe they live in the city, they don’t have a carpet. But if you have a board meeting out in the suburbs then there’s no way to get out there, right? Or vice versa. So you want to make sure that you’re being sensitive to other people’s issues, right?

Plan cultural events that include music or artwork, books, and the other interests of people of color. So when we’re planning event and we’re deciding or meeting, we decided we’re going to bring in some music, is this music appealing to all of us or is it like this rock band and the rest of us are sitting there like, “What in the world?” Or this country music or whatever. But you try to find music that’s, you know, maybe some kind of soft pop that would be appeal to everyone. So I just want us to just be more cognizant of these small things that happen that might make people feel uncomfortable and like, “Man, this is not really, for me. This is a white thing, or this is a black thing.” You know, we want all people to feel included.

And then how about the food that you serve, right? So I have learned since being in the nonprofit world about hummus. That was not something I grew up on as a kid. I’m a New Yorker in New York City. I didn’t know what the hell hummus was. And when I first got into it. And so when everybody was like, “Well, let’s have some hummus.” I’m like, “What is that?” Well, I love hummus now, right? But I was introduced to that. So I’m just saying having foods that are different, but also that you’re being sensitive to folks who are from different cultures who may or may not eat those kinds of things. So I was open enough to try something new and different. But I just think little things like that, that people don’t think about that make people feel excluded, you know?

So board meetings. How about diversity policies in your bylaws? So, for instance, here’s a good one here. So our organization, ABC organization, here’s what you can put in your bylaw. We strive to build a board that reflects the community that we serve per the census. You know, our community is comprised of 79% Black folks, 10% Latinos, 10% Whites, and 1% other, we also have 64% of our clients are female and 36% of our clients are male.

So therefore you want to have your board to mock, to be similar to the makeup of the community that you’re serving. And so you want to put in your bylaws that that we’re going to strive to do that. We’re going to strive to have similar representation in the makeup of our board as the community that we serve, right? And then as the demographics of that community changes, then we will also adjust our board composition. So if it was once all whites and now your community is now mixed with other races, it’s time for you to start changing the composition of what your board looks like. Right?

You ask, “What can I do to start changing board culture?” How about step into the shoes of someone who might be different on your board and finding out what . . . Just think about it. What must it feel like to be black or brown on an all-white board? What does that feel like? We don’t think about that. I think those of us who are black and brown, we’ve been in this position so much. We’ve been in the room where we’re the only black person or the only woman for so long, we’re just used to it now, right? And then if a black person comes in, we usually make eye contact like, “Hey, I see you over there.” Right?

But white folks get real nervous when they see groups of black folks sitting together, you know? And so I have a colleague who mentioned one time at a retreat for her job, you know, they brought in staff from all around the country, so they had this big retreat. And so some of the black staffers all sat together and a white staffer came over and said something like, you know, “Is this table just for the black people or can we come over and sit?” You know, whereas there were other areas in the room where they were all white people sitting. And that was okay, but she felt compelled to come over and make a comment about the all black folks sitting together.

So I just kind of implore you to think about what it feels like. And so these are some of the comments that folks who are sitting on boards, whether they’re the only black have shared, right? So being ignored or being the lone minority voice that is constantly outvoted and not taken seriously. However, I look good in the photo op. Got to be right up front, smiling, see? We’re not racist, we’re diverse. Huh?

How about being treated as the diversity member instead of a simply a board member, right? Being treated like the token. Or having decisions made by the insiders, right? We might all talk about it but at the end of the day, there’s just a small group of people who are really going to make the final decision, and that’s not you.

Being treated with condensation or as though I’m invisible. Now, I’ve been in that position before, and that’s not a good feeling. And early in my career, I probably was a little bit more reluctant to speak up, you know, so I may have walked away with my head down. But now I’m at the point in my career where I feel more comfortable speaking up, right? And I think that’s just having lived for, you know, 50 years, you just kind of feel more comfortable in your own skin kind of thing, but we shouldn’t have to have to deal with that, right?

Remaining the only one on the board, only woman, the only black person, only Indian person on the board and feeling isolated and alone, or the greatest negative influence is serving on a board by yourself for a long time, as the only. It just sucks. You just feel isolated. And then you’re going to wonder why people are not doing anything, why they’re not engaged or why they’re not coming to board meetings, or they’re not feeling included.

All right. I love this statement. I read an article called “Black Women in Nonprofits Matter.” And there’s a line in that article and it says, “Something is wrong. It’s probably you.” And that line resonated with me because I actually had someone say that to me one time, years ago when I was sharing something that was going on at my nonprofit. And it was a family member who was well-meaning, who said, you know, “You’ve had this experience before. Maybe the problem is you.” So, you know, of course that, you know, made me feel all kinds of crazy. I went running off to see my therapist, like, “Oh my God, it’s me. She’s right. It’s me.” And I have now learned that it wasn’t just me. I’m talking to a lot of other African Americans and people of color who were in the fundraising world, who are saying, “I had that same exact thing happened to me.” So now I know it wasn’t just me, but maybe it was the other that was the problem.

And so I just think now is time to start holding people accountable. We hold board members accountable for questionable statements that they make and behaviors that can cause harm. Right? If there’s tension in the room, it’s okay to name it. And that’s again about creating those safe spaces that I talked about earlier, right? Letting others know when they’ve been offensive or insensitive to something, right? And learn to speak up, even though it might be uncomfortable.

So here’s our role play. Y’all ready? You guys. Alan, Kameka, and Martha?

Martha: Yup. Getting ready.

Christal: It’s your hour. Okay. So Alan, you are John and Martha, you are Beth. And Kameka, you are Leslie. Okay. Here’s our role play, right? John, you’ve been on the board for four years. You’re retired. You’re well liked. You’re charismatic. You’re a great ambassador for the organization. You’ve raised some money. Okay. And, of course, you know, Alan, you’re John, you’re white. Okay.

Then Beth, you’ve been on the board for seven years. You’re rich, Beth. You’re very wealthy. In fact, you make the largest board contribution there is. You give about $150,000 per year. You work at Merrill Lynch and Merrill Lynch matches your contribution. You’re extremely connected. You bring lots of new donors and friends to the annual gala and you are also white.

And Leslie, Kameka, you’re the one of the newest board members. You’ve only been on the board for 11 months. You’re a partner in a local law firm. Your law firm made a $10,000 donation to the organization recently, you also volunteered, but you’ve just submitted your letter of resignation to John. You’re upset. You’re not happy with some of the behavior on the board, and particularly Beth. Beth, you’ve been offending Leslie. You’ve been asking her questions about her hair, you want to know why it one style one board meeting, the next board meeting it’s a different style. You’ve even asked her if you can touch her hair.

Martha: I’m so sorry.

Kameka: Oh God.

Christal: Okay, guys, like this happens in real life.

Kameka: This is real.

Christal: Yes. This happens in real life. It happened to me.

Kameka: Yeah. Me too.

Christal: So now we’re at a point now where Leslie is ready to resign from the board. She’s not feeling it. She’s feeling like they’re being insensitive. She’s submitted her letter of resignation to John and John is like, “Okay. Oh, my God, this is horrifying.” So we’re in a meeting now with John, Beth, and Leslie and John, your job is to talk to Beth about Leslie’s concerns. And so I’d like for you guys to play this out and I want to hear how it goes. All right, John, you’re on. We’re in the meeting. You’re starting the meeting.

Alan: Okay. Am I unmuted? Can you hear me? Yes. Okay. So I’ve called you both in today because we have a very difficult situation in front here. Leslie has submitted a letter of resignation and she feels that she has received some very offensive comments. And Beth, I’m sorry to have to say that Leslie feels that these have originated with you and I’d like to talk this out if we can. I think . . .

Martha: Oh my goodness.

Alan: Yeah. I’d like to just start by asking if Leslie feels comfortable enough to explain what she’s been dealing with and the situation how this has made her feel and if we can’t talk this out and we value Leslie so much, we hope that we can figure this out. So, Leslie, can you expand a little bit on what you’ve been dealing with?

Kameka: Yeah. And I, I want to start by saying it’s interesting, even in the wording, like I feel like I’ve experienced comments and incidents from Beth. And even not just Beth, other members of the board. I don’t feel like I’ve experienced them. I have experienced them. I’ve, you know, come into meetings where, you know, my voice isn’t heard and, you know, if I’ve made a comment or said anything, people are like, “But I have black friends too.” And, you know, just because it’s not overt doesn’t mean that it not happening to me and it doesn’t mean that I’m not experiencing it. You know, most of the time I wear my hair curly. We live in a humid climate. If one of the other board members came in with her hair curly, there’s not . . .

Martha: I have something on the stove, I’m so sorry, but I’m listening.

Kameka: You know, if another board member comes in with curly hair, that person just has curly hair. If I come in with my curly hair, which is how it happens to typically grow out of my head, it’s not that I just came in with my hair how it grows out of my head. It becomes a whole thing and we have to spend 10 or 15 minutes talking about it before we can even get to board business. But we don’t spend . . .

Alan: I was just going to say since . . .

Martha: Oh my gosh.

Alan: Beth is back. Okay.

Martha: In fact, I was always here listening.

Alan: I’m sorry. Can I ask Beth to respond to some of these comments that Leslie is making?

Martha: First of all, I do apologize for my ignorant actions. I’m so sorry. And wow. Somebody just gave me this book called “White Fragility” that I have been reading and it’s kind of opening my eyes a little bit. And all I can say is that Leslie, I hear you. I believe you. I respect you and I will endeavor to change my behaviors. And I think I can help be an advocate on the board with John’s help. Well, I don’t want to propose solutions. I’m sorry is the main message. And I’ll do something.

Alan: One of the things I picked up from Leslie is that this is not isolated, that this seems to be coming from several different board members. And I would like to ask Leslie if she would reconsider because this board obviously has some issues and these issues, this is the first time I’m hearing of this. I feel incredibly responsible for not picking up on this. And I would like to know whether or not you would be interested in speaking up at a general board meeting to let people know how your feelings have been affected by some of these comments that I’m hoping were more out of ignorance, but at least having you help us all to be a better board and a stronger board and to stay with us.

Kameka: I think before I would even feel comfortable with that, I feel like we probably would need a third party because I know that this is something that people feel defensive about. And so, just based on my experiences over the last 11 months, like it’s great that Beth had the reaction that she had in the way that she had it, but I can completely see this going very different. Just based on my experiences. And like I’d love to say that we can tie it all up in a bow and everybody in the last few months have been reading “White Fragility.” Every time you go on Amazon and everything and any other channel, it’s there. But I think that our board of directors need some training to even be able to have . . . Like, it doesn’t feel like a safe space, which is the whole reason that I, you know, even submitted my letter. And I’ve been in places before and, you know, shared experiences and it turns into a place of me having to be the one to teach or me having to be the one to comfort other people and make them feel comfortable.

Martha: And that’s not your job.

Kameka: And that that’s right. I don’t think it’s my job. So . . .

Martha: Leslie and John, if you want, I would pay for this kind of activity for our organization. I wouldn’t want anybody to know that it was me, please.

Alan: Well, I’m listening to Leslie’s comments about having someone come in and I saw someone type in on the chat if I’m allowed to reference that, that it’s not Leslie’s job to teach. So that’s very interesting perspective for me. At the same time, I think that bringing someone, it would be an excellent idea. And Leslie, thank you for that suggestion. But I do think that having uncomfortable conversations, if we want to call it that in a board setting is something that we’re going to have to accept is a normal process of moving through this improvement and learning that we are going to have to engage in some uncomfortable conversations. And even though it’s not your job to teach, I would still love to have you continue to participate through that process.

Kameka: I guess I’ve been having as one of only two in the room, uncomfortable conversations for the last 11 months, which is why we’re to this point.

Martha: I’m sorry. On behalf of our board, that means educating and eye-opening. I apologize, Leslie.

Alan: And, again, in my role as chairman to hear this now and to hear this has been going on for 11 months and we have been so blinded or insensitive to even observe this, I would say this board definitely needs some professional direction to help us deal with this. But I agree with you, Leslie.

Kameka: And, again, I can appreciate that. I can appreciate the board’s willingness to be open to having this training. Beth, I would love to challenge you. And as opposed to being silent about this, because I think that people’s silence in this issue speaks very, very loud and clear, I would love to challenge you to be open about your support of this training as opposed to doing it behind the scenes so that people don’t know, like people don’t necessarily have to know that we’re having this conversation one-on-one, but you are very powerful in this community and on this board of directors. So to have your voice say that, “You know what? I don’t always get it right. And it’s okay to not always get it right, but I’m here and I’m willing to learn and I’m openly supporting that.” That would be far more powerful than having a behind the scenes, “I’m going to be quiet and support this issue.” Like . . .

Martha: All right. You’ve convinced me. Yup. I’ll put my name on it. Sure.

Christal: Okay. I’m going to stop you guys here. I want to thank all three of you. I think you all have done a tremendous job of in this role play, which is a prime example of uncomfortable conversations that need to be had. And Alan, I think you did a good job of mediating and trying to make Leslie feel better and trying not to alienate Martha. How did you guys feel about Beth’s offer to pay for the training? Do you think she should pay for it or do you think the board should pay for it? Love to hear your responses in the chat.

Kameka: I was to say, me, personally, I think the board should pay for it, not Leslie. But I would love to have . . . I mean, not Beth, but I would love to have Beth’s voice talk about it and maybe some of the stuff that she learned, but I think that it should be the organization saying that we stand . . .

Alan: I would have to agree.

Christal: Right. And so, Beth, that was a very kind offer to pay for, but I do think that it’s the board’s responsibility to pay for this. It’s not yours necessarily. I wondered why you mentioned the book, “White Fragility,” why you felt the need to mention that book.

Martha: Me, Martha, because I figured a lot of people have heard of it and it’s sort of a buzz word right now. So I just wanted to take everybody’s mind to that and then proceed.

Christal: Okay. Okay. Well, I thank you three for partaking in this roleplay. I hope you found that helpful. I hope the audience found it helpful because I think this is a realistic example of some issues that might really be going on boards that you were willing to have this conversation, John, that you just didn’t accept Leslie’s resignation and keep it moving, is applaudable. And I thank the three of you all for participating in the roleplay on this presentation. I think you did a tremendous job. So I’d be interested in the comments in the chat. Steve, you have anything you can share with us?

Steven: Yeah. There’s a lot of people saying that they’re amazed that this was unplanned and lot of really good comments. Thank you both. I’m going to do something for all three of you. So send me an email when you get done. I want to donate to your nonprofits as a thank you for doing this because that wasn’t easy, I’m sure. I thank you.

Christal: And particularly Martha, because we put you on the spot, Martha. I’m sorry to make you the bad guy, but I mean, this is this reality of what’s going on. I’m sure you’re very, very kind. So thank you so much for your willingness to do this.

Martha: You’re welcome.

Alan: Can I just also just thank Kameka because she was not backing down at all. I was trying to bring things back around and she roleplayed just beautifully.

Christal: She did. Yes.

Alan: And I have a feeling, it wasn’t completely something she hasn’t experienced. So . . .

Kameka: No. I’ve been having these conversations for the last three and a half years, and particularly for the last two months.

Alan: Interesting. You have a very real experience, which was wonderful. It got very tough there. I thought we could just smooth this out and you said, “No, I’m not having any of that.”

Christal: She was not going for it, Alan.

Alan: No.

Kameka: No. Thank you.

Christal: All right. Well, we’re going to keep moving forward with the presentation. Thank you all again. That was awesome. That was awesome. Okay. All right. How are we doing on time, Steve? We’re good?

Steven: Yeah. You got about 10 minutes. Yeah.

Christal: All right. All right. So we’re back to being the leader that you wish you had. Right? So what can you do? You’re thinking, “What can I do? I’m an ally. I want to do something. I don’t know how to make this shift happen. I want to make this change happen.” So you can start supporting people of color in leadership roles, right? And when you hear about colleagues who are being promoted all around you, all around people who are less qualified for the job but are getting the job or maybe being low-balled or refusing to accept direction from their non-white bosses, you know, it’s time for you to speak up.

And, you know, it’s kind of a weird place to be. I’ve been in a position like that where I asked a colleague one time to step up at a time where I felt like I was being wronged and he refused. He said he felt like he would lose his job. And so you got to figure out a way for you to do that. And maybe we can have some talk in the chat about how you can stand up for someone who you know is being wronged because of race or gender.

But I’ve been in that position and it’s a really lonely feeling because me and this other person were the only black folks on the executive team and I felt like the CEO was doing some things that was not cool, and so I asked him to stand by me on some things and he refused, and it was hurtful that he did. And I eventually left the organization because of it. And then he left afterwards, but he would not defend me while he was there. So that was really kind of eye-opening.

But I think if we could figure out a way to support one another, that is something that we should consider. Sponsoring a black or brown person to serve as a mentor or offer support and financial resources and then honoring black and brown leadership. And when you do that, other people will follow suit.

So doing the work inside the organization, right? What does that look like? How can the board work with the CEO to address internal biases, right? And so that means implementing robust and equitable policies and systems that ensure that racism and sexism are not tolerated and enforced with real consequences when they do.

Hiring people of color in leadership roles, you know, a lot of nonprofits, we have folks in the accounting office or folks in the . . . right? Even on the program level, you got a lot of minority representation, but then when it comes to the CEO and the executive vice president and the CFO, not so much, right? And then of course paying people of color fairly.

So in the same exact situation that I was just sharing with you, this other person and I had the same exact title and I found out that he was making $8,000 more than I. And I had more experience. But he was an African American male, so it wasn’t necessarily a race thing, but I felt like a gender thing in that particular situation, and that’s something that’s real as well. And so those are the kinds of things that we can do to help our CEO address some of the internal biases that go on inside the organization, right?

Lean into the plight of those of color inside your organization, right? So recognize overlapping discriminations on the basis of race and how they place burdens on people of color. Understanding how biases create barriers to advancement, right? Know just that education and advancement are not enough to help people of color. We need advocacy. We need people advocating for us and pushing for us, which is why I said sponsoring someone to be on the board or really advocating for someone to be on a board is really important, more so that they’re educated and they have the training because they don’t have someone pushing for them from behind often they’re still ignored, right? Changing the social landscape within the nonprofit.

And then how about this one? This is a big one. I’ve been in board meetings when I was on staff. And, you know, the CEO who always comes in and paints this rosy picture to the board about what’s going on inside the organization kind of scuffed over the fact that we had like eight people leave and he said something like, “Oh, you know, we had to make some personal changes. And we’ve had some losses and it was eight people that left in one month.” And no one questioned that. And I’m sitting as a staff member, like, “Really? No one’s going to ask him, you know, why we’re having this.” A couple months earlier, we had five or six other folks, most of whom were people of color who were let go or downsize and no one’s asking why. They just kind of said, “Oh, okay.” And they just kept moving. So I think there has to be some accountability and the boards need to lean into what might be going on inside the organization.

And I don’t mean that you should get into the daily details because we know that’s not what boards are supposed to do. Boards govern from the top. The only employee that they have is the CEO or the executive director. I get all that. But if there’s some things that are being reported out in board meetings by the CEO, it’s incumbent on the board to question some of those things, particularly if they see it’s happening over and over again, right? Maybe there is some bias going on inside the organization. And if the board is not holding the CEO accountable, he’s running amok or she’s running amok making decisions that impact people of color and the board is not noticing and there’s no checks and balances, right?

So here’s some diversity factors that I thought were interesting that I thought I’d share with you that impact fundraising in nonprofits, right? So boards with higher percentages of women more actively participate in fundraising and are graded higher by their CEOs for their fundraising performance. And I don’t think any women on this call would be surprised by that. You know, when we go about doing something, when we put our heads together and we make that thing happen, that’s just kind of who we are as women. But there’s something to be said about then all-white male boards, right? Who don’t have women and who don’t have women of color on their boards. Why not include them if it’s going to help you to raise more money, right?

Boards with a higher percentage of members age 39 or younger or more likely to have board members who ask others for donations. Now, that was an interesting fact that I didn’t know. I don’t know if anybody else knew of that, but younger folks will more likely to go out and ask. I don’t know if the baby boomers, I don’t know if we’re just more conservative or we don’t want to ask, but young folks are doing peer-to-peer fundraising. You know, they’re using social media to spread the word about what’s going on and they seem to be more eager and open to asking others for donations.

And then this was an interesting one. While there are no significant findings about people of color in boards in terms of fundraising, that boards who have a higher percentage of Asians are rated higher by their CEOs for their fundraising performance. And I’m not sure what that’s all about, but that was stated in this report that I read, and so I thought I would share that if anyone has any, you know, feedback or information to kind of back that up, I’d be curious to know what your experience has been like. But I just thought these diversity factors were really interesting as we talked about fundraising in our nonprofits. Any comments about that? Steve, you see anything in the chat box?

Steven: We’re getting a lot of really interesting stories of folks that have run into some of the things. I’ll definitely send you the chat transcript, Christal, because there’s some really cool stuff in here.

Christal: Okay. Cool. Cool. Cool. All right. The value of collective networks, right? So whites who serve on boards have numerous opportunities to mentor other nonwhite professionals or to be mentored by them, right? So we can punch above our weight class and use our influence and networks to support people of color. There are a lot of us who have lots of connections. Well, you know, from Facebook and LinkedIn how many connections you have, right? And so how about actually going into LinkedIn and going into some of these folks because I, all the time, if I want to know something about a company and I don’t have any connection, I go to LinkedIn and find out who’s there, whether I have a personal relationship with them or not. If you’re in my link, then I’m going to question you and ask you what you know, I’ll see if I can get whatever I need from you so that I can get my job done. But we have to punch above our weight class and use our influence and networks to support people of color. And then, of course, supporting organizations that are led by people of color.

So here’s a recap, right? Of all that we talked about today, implementing a formal process to assess our culture and identify barriers, creating communications that reflect the needs of communities of color, beefing up our recruitment efforts to make sure that we’re reaching out to those in those communities who are qualified to serve on boards, developing a process to identify and address discriminatory policies that have non-inclusive behaviors, drafting a detailed action plan to be inclusive like we talked about, you know, making people feel more comfortable, you know, at board meetings or maybe having folks attend social events together, including a commitment to diversity and inclusion as an ongoing initiative, not short-term.

So what we’re concerned about is that this is all this interest in what’s going on with this now because of all the social unrest that’s happening, right? So this is the new hot topic, but what happens a year from now? Does that just kind of wane and now we’re off to something else? So not short-term, but long term, right? And then institutionalizing policies and procedures that address diversity and inclusion and get to know people of color with exposure to their culture and customs.

So know that you have the power to make change, right? You can speak change into existence just like Kameka did, right? And stop trusting others to solve the problems. You know, we often shake our head, you know, about what’s going on. We just shake our head and think that, “Man, this really sucks. I mean, this is really something that needs to change.” Stop trusting others to solve the problems.

So, for instance, I am your girl in the grocery store, when there is a line that is around the corner and down the block and there are two registers open, I’m your girl that’s going to go find the manager and I’m going to ask for another register to be opened, right? Because I’m going to advocate for something that I believe in and that I want and that I feel that I deserve because I’m a paying customer in that store and I should not have to wait 45 minutes to get a loaf of bread, right. And so I’m your girl that’s going to go check the management and ask them to do something about it. That is what we have to do. Stop trusting others to solve our problems. Pick up the mantle and move forward, right? And realize that failure to embrace difference is no longer acceptable. We’re not tolerating it anymore. A commitment to social justice is a commitment to support people of color on boards and who lead nonprofit organizations.

And so these are the resources that I mentioned that I use for some of the facts and statistics in this presentation. So feel free to read. They’re all wonderful articles that have some really good, juicy information that I think you all would love and enjoy. And then this is who I am. I am The Board Pro, please feel free to visit my website. If you have any questions, you can email me. You can even call me. If you have any suggestions or how to make this a better presentation, or if you really enjoyed something and you want to share it with me, I’m so happy to hear what you have to say.

So that’s pretty much it. I hope you guys found this wonderful and helpful. I so enjoy doing it. I think the best part is the interaction because just talking at people is no fun. You want to hear what people have to say, right, Steve? You want people to feel like they’re a part of what you’re doing. And so I’m so grateful for that.

Steven: Christal, I’ve been doing these webinars for eight years. This is my new favorite webinar. I’m not just saying that. This was so much fun and shout out to our three volunteers as well, totally off the cuff. Christal, you’re awesome. Thanks for doing this. This is such a service that you’re providing to the sector, have given your time to educate us on this. Thank you.

Christal: Do we have time for maybe two or three questions?

Steven: Yeah. Let’s do a couple of questions. Jeez, there’s a lot of good ones in here. I’ll definitely send you the questions, Christal, that we’re not going to get to. I’m kind of wondering personally, Christal, if you think we’re in a little bit of a unique time where maybe finally some people are, you know, starting to pay attention. You know, we’ve been talking about this topic for years and it seems like only recently since, you know, George Floyd, that people are really starting to pay . . . Is that kind of what you’re feeling too?

Christal: I think so. And I just think if it’s not part of your reality, you just don’t think about it, right? So those of us who live this every day, we know. Me and Kameka and some of the other ones on the call, we know. We live this every single day, but if you’re in a space where you’re not exposed to any of this, this is not your reality. You don’t have a lot of black and brown folks around you. You just don’t know, you just don’t think about it, right? And so I don’t think anybody is intentionally being exclusive. Well, there might be a few people, but I don’t think most people are. I think people are just not being cognizant. It has not been brought to their attention. And so this is the time and I’m excited. Yeah.

Steven: There’s a couple of folks in here that seem frustrated. They want to create change within their organizations, but the board, maybe the leadership just is not receptive. They don’t think it’s an issue. You know, the people on this webinar, I don’t worry about. It’s the people not on the webinar, right? So what would you say to those folks, white or black that want to make a change? Does it mean they need to leave the organization ultimately? How long . . .

Christal: Yeah. I was going to say, you know, I think it’s okay to speak up and do so in a way that’s conducive to whatever the environment is that you’re in. I don’t know if that . . . Like if you want to write a letter, or if you want to make a phone call, or you want to call a meeting, whatever it is that you feel like you need to do to get your voice heard, then do that. And then depending on how they respond, how receptive they are to making change, then if you’re serving on the board, then you have a decision to make, just like Kameka did. You know, if you don’t feel like that you’re going to make any headway, then now you need to leave and find a board where you are welcomed. And I say the same thing in your work, you know, if you’re working in an environment . . . I’m doing a presentation next Friday about matching your fundraising career with your personal values, right?

And so, if you’re in a situation where . . . you’re in a role where you know your personal values are constantly being compromised so that you can keep your job, you’re in the wrong job. You’re working for the wrong organization. And at some point you have to make a decision, you know, “Can I continue to work here? Or am I going to continue to be depressed and have sleepless nights?” So you have to make a decision. So I think you try to make change. And if you see that they’re not willing to, then it’s time to go.

Steven: Wow. This has been so awesome, Christal. I can’t thank you enough for doing this. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but can people reach out to you, connect with you, get some more of your trainings? Okay.

Christal: Absolutely. Thank you all again. This has been so awesome. I appreciate you, Martha, and Allen, and Kameka, and Steve. Thank you so much for making my day. I appreciate it.

Steven: I did easy part. You four, especially you, Christal, you made it happen. So thank you. And thanks to all of you for hanging out. It looks like we had, I think over 250 at the height of the webinar. So that was just awesome to see that so many people are interested in the topic. We’re not staying silent about it. You know, we’ve been keeping on the topic for sure. And we’ve had a couple webinars coming up also on the topic. We got one tomorrow though on grant seeking. If any of you are struggling to go after those grants during this weird time, Rachel’s awesome. She’s going to tell you . . . she’s got a couple of tips and tricks for you of how you can get in front of how those grant makers.

That’s tomorrow 2:00 p.m. Totally free. And we got three webinars next week. I think three. So check out our webinar page. Totally free. We’d love to see you again. We love having a full room. I know it’s a busy time of year, you know, it’s summer. A lot of you have kids at home. So do I, I understand, but that’s why we record everything. So if he can’t make it, just look on our blog for the recordings, for sure.

So we’ll call it a day there. Speaking of recordings, I’ll be sending this one out as well as the slides. You’ll get all that good stuff this afternoon. And do you reach out to Christal because obviously she’s a wealth of knowledge and she’s more than willing to help out. So thank you all. Have a good Wednesday.

Christal: Thank you, guys. Have a good afternoon.

Steven: Stay cool. Stay safe, stay healthy. We’re thinking about you, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Christal: Okay. Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.