Attracting and Retaining Diverse Board Members
Author, journalist, professional speaker, social impact strategist, and lobbyist, Terri Broussard Williams will share how to attract diverse superstars and take a look at what to do to keep them engaged and at your board table.
Steven: Standby. All right. Terri, I’ve got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick off this party officially?
Terri: Let’s have a party, there are balloons.
Steven: Yeah. Exactly. You read my mind. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning. If you’re out on the West Coast. If you’re watching the recording, no matter where you are, what time it is, I hope you’re having a good day. All of you are in for a real treat over the next hour because we’re going to be talking about how to attract and retain diverse board members. Really important topic, and everyone should be interested. And I’m so happy that there were thousands of registrants from this webinar because, very important. We’re going to be talking about it. So I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, in my home office. I’m not at Bloomerang, but I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of real quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording the session. We’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides. Just a handout. You should already have those two things but if you don’t already, don’t worry. We’re going to send all that good stuff out to you later on today. So if you have to leave for a meeting, get interrupted, if your kid walks in and says something to you, don’t worry. We’ll get all that good stuff to you. But most importantly, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments along the way. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. There’s a chat box. There’s a Q&A box. You can use either. It’s cool. I’ll keep an eye on both.
But if you haven’t already introduced yourself, go ahead and do that now, but don’t sit on those hands. We’d love to answer your questions at the end. And if this is . . . if you’d rather do that on Twitter, I’ll also keep the Twitter feed up as well. So send in the questions and comments. We love it.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just for context, if you’re wondering what the heck is Bloomerang, well, we are a provider of donor management software. So in addition to doing these webinars all the time, which I love to do, we also have a donor database software. If you’re interested in that, if you’re want to switch software, check it out, you know, we have a website, pretty easy to find. Lots of videos on there. Don’t do that right now. At least wait an hour because I’m so excited about this session. Joining us from beautiful Austin, Texas, my new friend, Terri Broussard Williams. How’s it going, Terri? Are you doing okay?
Terri: I am. And I see like a neighbor down the street in Cedar Park and people from all over.
Steven: Yeah. That’s good. You’re already getting a lot of warm welcomes, which I’m happy about. And I’m really happy to have you. We got introduced by a mutual friend, our buddy, Rachel Muir. Actually before that intro happened, I kind of wanted to say that a few months ago I was being real intentional about kind of diversifying my LinkedIn network and I was doing that, and all these people I was connecting with, there was one name whose content kept popping up. People were engaging with this content. I kept seeing Terri Broussard Williams. I was like, “Wow. What’s going on here?” I started reading her stuff and then I got this intro and it was like, wow, the universe is trying to say something to me. You got to pay attention to TBW here. But she is awesome. You’re all in for a real treat.
She just put out a book, by the way, which I think you’re going to want to get after you hear her presentation, “Find your Fire.” It’s on Amazon unlimited for free, right Terri. So if you’ve got that Amazon, yeah, you can get it pretty easily, but if not, you should probably buy it because you’re going to love what she has to say. She does a lot of board trainings, kind of her thing. So it’s a real treat to have you, Terri, and you’re doing us a huge service by talking about this topic. So I’ve already blabbed on for way too long. I don’t want to take any more time away from you. So, Terri, I’m going to stop sharing here and I’ll let you bring up your beautiful slides.
Terri: Awesome. And you all, thank you for being here. I want to first start before I bring up the slides, just to hold a moment. This weekend there was so much going on in the world and also in our country. I’m from Lafayette, Louisiana, and there, we, once again had the intersection of Black Lives Matter, along with the pandemic. A man was shot and killed in Lafayette and now they’re bracing for two hurricanes. And then, you know, just moments later, there’s another intersection in Wisconsin. And so I want to share a quote with you all from John Lewis, and I’m actually going to read it. And it is from the op ed that ran right after his death, that beautiful letter. And it said, “Answer the highest calling of your heart. Continue to build unions between movements. Continue to build unions between movements.”
And so we are here because we are listening to the tenor of our country. We’re listening to our stakeholders, our beneficiaries, our donors, our board members. We want to do better for the social impact sector. And, you know, so oftentimes it can feel like mission drift, but really it isn’t, it’s just that union between movements. And so I’m excited to have this conversation with all of you today and going to share my screen. I will also look down a lot because I’ll be reading your comments in the chat. And Steven is there to moderate the chat as well.
But I want to talk about cultivating colorful movements. Anytime you hear me speak, you’ll hear me talk about movements. That’s just kind of my jam. Not going to get into all the things up here since Steven did a great job of sharing with you, all who I am, but I want to go beyond my fancy resume and I want to just break it down to you a little further about who I am and where I come from.
So I’m the granddaughter of a school janitor, a cafeteria manager, and a darn good cook, a sharecropper, and the caretaker of a white family. These are my grandparents. They are some of the most beautiful people that I know. And my grandmother and grandfather are in a picture together on the left. When I put this slide together, they were both living. My grandfather passed away at 95 years old on Easter Sunday. What the highest honor you can have, to go on Easter Sunday. And my grandmother with the roses there, she’s the only living grandparent I have, and 93. Before COVID she would go to our aerobics twice a week and before COVID she would still serve as a poll watcher and a election day judge at her local election place. But we’re not letting her do that anymore because of COVID.
And none of my grandparents ever went to high school. They all went to middle school, but none of them graduated from high school, yet they always gave back to their community. No matter how much or how little they had, they gave back to their community. And one thing they had in common, my father’s parents, my mother’s parents, is they all had a love of their church. And about 30 years ago, my grandparents did have a car, although they did not always drive the car because gas was expensive. They would go to church during hurricanes, during cold, during the heat in Louisiana, and a lot of times they would see families walking on the side of the road, five and six miles to get to Catholic church. And so they said, “Why don’t we build a church in Truman, Louisiana,” which is the neighborhood where they lived. They wanted something closer, something that would bring community together and allow people to spend time together.
So about 10 years ago, 1 month after I got engaged, that church burned down. So, you know, some people get married and it’s like a stairway to heaven. I get engaged and, you know, the church catches a fire. And at that time, my parents continued the tradition. You know, my grandparents built the church, they were on the committee. They did all the leg work with the community, but my parents stepped up and said, “If not us, then who?” My father became the capital campaign chair. My mother organized all the volunteers and kept the church office running. She made sure the files were incredibly pristine. But they were the leaders that were needed at that moment. They were the leaders that brought people together to rebuild the church, and that’s what you see on the other side. That’s the new church.
What is so fascinating to me about this, and it’s about the topic that we have at hand today is while it was a mostly predominantly black church in a very underserved part of town, their major donors were white. They were people that wanted to be part of a diverse and inclusive movement. And so I often say . . . You know, I learned a lot of lessons there in Truman, Louisiana on how to be a leader that turn a moment into a movement. And that took me to Main Street, you know, where those lessons translate it. And those same lessons translate to Capitol Hill where today I serve as a lobbyist and get a lot of good work done to create systemic change.
And so right now there’s so much in front of us, you know. It could feel like we’re driving a really fast car. Hopefully, it’s as fancy as this Lamborghini, but there’s a pandemic. There’s civil unrest, you know, racial tensions all around us and like two hurricanes right now. And so it can feel like we’re driving the fastest car, you know, but unless we have intention, unless we know where that car is going and we actually activate the GPS, we’re not going to get to our destination.
And so today I want to put us on an iron bench so that we can sit there with great intention, a very sturdy bench that will be a foundation to allow us to have colorful movements, movements that are diverse and inclusive in your nonprofits. And so I love this quote. It’s actually come up like about five or six times publicly since I stumbled across it six months ago. And it’s Ella Baker, she says, “Give light and people will find a way.” So I really believe, if we can show people what they need to know and teach them, they will find a way to bring diversity inclusion to nonprofit boards.
And so before I get into the deep down and dirty, I’m going to tell you, this is not going to be, you know, a talk of just a person talking to you, giving you slides that tells you the do’s and the don’ts. We’re not going to get into that today. I’m going to share with you some information and I will walk you through the worksheets in a little bit, but I want you to really listen and learn so that you can begin to show up differently in your workplace. And we’re going to create a plan that will allow you to do that.
But just to refresh you all in things you already know, you know, this 84% number. It comes from BoardSource, from their 2017 report, “Leading with Intent.” And they say that 84% of nonprofit board members identify as white. But each board wants to do better. They want to lead with intent. They want to have a more diverse board. And so they even take it a step further and they say 20% of all organizations report that their boards have zero people of color on the board. And yet we want to do the work, but we don’t know how. The 60% comes from Annie E. Casey and they say that 60% of all national nonprofits actually serve people of color. So we know these things, but why can’t we really get into the work? And so that’s why I turn to each of you. You’re all leaders that are very ready to turn moments into movements, colorful movements.
And so before I get into the how and the why we will do that, I want to remind us of some great phenomenal movements that came before us. The first was this very week, in 1963, MLK stood in front of millions, you know, and they were there to focus on workforce equality. It was a movement that was diverse and it was so inclusive. You can see it from the pictures there. And then the other picture is as March of 2018, just a couple of months ago. Students gathered that time. They remembered their friends who were no longer with them and they said that enough was enough. Thoughts and prayers were not going to get us through that moment. And so they started March for Our Lives, but again, it was a movement that was diverse and inclusive of many.
So I want to get into the fire starter formula. The fire starter formula is a framework that I fully believe in. It’s four simple things that no matter what I’m doing, if I’m trying to lose weight, or if I’m wanting to start a movement, or if I’m wanting to have a conversation at the board table, that helps me. It translates to everything. And so each of them come with a C, so we will see how to get this done today.
So the first is cause. This is where I want you to get your worksheet. And I’m going to walk you through each box. I’m going to talk a little bit about how the fire starter formula translates to the work that you want to do with recruiting and retaining board members. And so I might give you a prompt and when you get a prompt, you know, you’ll have my dual sheets here. You’ll just want to jot some of the things down so that you can remember it because in a bit we’re then going to turn all of these notes into your very first action plan that you can bring back to your organization.
The other thing I want to tell you is all of this will seem so simple. It will seem like common sense. And all of it really is, you know, there’s things that we have to know, things that we can dig deeper into, you know. I told Steven I’m happy to do some blog articles or whatever when we’re done with today for your questions if we don’t get into them, even at the end. But I want to talk about this in the simplest terms, because sometimes we get so caught up in the heaviness of the movement and the heaviness of the responsibility and we forget that we are nonprofit leaders. We are social impact strategist that turn to common sense solutions every day. So let’s talk about this in very simple terms so that you can begin to see, feel, and touch how you can bring this to life.
So the first one is cause. And when we think about cause, we’re really going to think about our why, and this gets into how we’re going to attract people to the board table or recruit them. And so some of the things that I tell people when you really want to get into the cause is, you want to remember, why did you even begin your work? Why do you want to create change within your community with your mission, but also getting to the point where you want to have a more diverse board table? How are you serving your community? What good do you want to bring?
And so, you know, we all have answers and they feel really awesome. They make us feel really good, but these very things are going to help us attract people to the board table. They give us that same sense of inspiration and hope that we saw from MLK, or the student leaders. And we all got into this work because we want to give people inspiration and hope. So if we can infuse that when we’re talking to people about the mission, they will begin to understand why they need to be a part of the conversation you’re having and why they should bring their knowledge to the board table.
And you really want to be as transparent as possible when you’re having these conversations, and that way you can, you can say what you do well and you can talk about what you don’t do well. And then you can and begin to turn to people to help you with the pieces that you don’t do well. And those will be the very people that you want to bring in your board table. And so you . . . Write that down, you know, transparency, that’s number one, how we’re going to recruit people?
Another thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to want to have listening sessions with your donors, your staff, stakeholders. You want to begin to understand the perception of your organization in the community. You know, you don’t want to guess these things. Those moments where you have human interaction and you can listen, even if it’s over Zoom, they’re going to allow you to really see what’s underneath the hood of that car that’s moving really fast.
And you also want to talk to the current board members. You want to understand where their head is in the process and what they see. And those that are your champions, those are that really begin to understand how to do the work, not just the why, but the how to do it. You want to make them your allies. They will be your lead spokespeople at the board table because you will need them as backup as you’re beginning to work on these plans. So definitely at listening sessions, definitely ask for champions as allies.
And so once you’ve done that, you want to begin to have conversations between the staff and the board about the definitions and the terms that you’re using. One thing that I’ve really learned in doing this work recently is people don’t know what to say sometimes and other times people are using different terms about the same thing. And so they feel like there’s tension or disconnect and really you just have to have the level set, the conversation so that you’re all on the same page. So once we begin to do these things, we can move from, you know, having intent on creating these diverse boards to really beginning to implement, to do the work.
You’ll also want to really get into some training. You know, implicitly bias training is the first and the most important thing that you want to do. There’s others that will come, you know, throughout your journey that are really important in doing the work, but you have to understand the unconscious biases that are inside of you. Even if you’re a person of color, that’s really important to understand. Again, it’ll give us those common definitions, but it’ll allow us to start from a place of strength. So that’s another thing that you want to write down in that Cause box, is some trainings.
And so now that you have a sense of how to begin to articulate your cause, you want to really think about some aims and drivers. The aims are going to be the big picture things that you’re thinking, and the drivers are going to be the how you’re going to do the work. And so these are the nuts and bolts of some of the plan that we need to do.
So let’s go to the next thing, which is collective. So collective is really the first part of how you’re going to retain your board members. You know, I love the term collective because it encompasses so much. The collective is going to be the people that are on your board table, but they’re also going to be the people in the community and they’re going to be your stakeholders and your beneficiaries.
And so having the potential board members or the new board members of color, really understanding all of that will help retain them. But the other thing that you want to do is you’ll really want them to create a board assessment. So that’s something that you’ll want to write in that box. You’ll want to have a board assessment ready to go, again, so that they can understand how you operate as a board, but they can begin to generate ideas in a way that feels nonthreatening for them to begin to share those things.
I can’t explain to you how intimidating it can be for some, not for all, but for some to, you know, have that first seat at a board table and then not feel like they can speak up. But if you can create something like a board assessment, which would then dovetail with some tangible goals and some first steps, they’re going to ease into the work a whole lot easier and they’re going to already feel connected to that board table, which will allow you to retain them.
That board assessment is also going to help you understand where everyone is in life. So you want to ask them questions about, you know, people’s intent about how they perceive your board, but you also want to understand the stages they are in their life. Some of that might come out in the interview process if you’re interviewing them for a board member, but it’s really going to come out once they get to know you better.
And so, you know, one thing that came to mind when I was writing some of these things out was I was invited to be the youngest at a board table. There was also the only person of color that was a U.S. member. But, you know, at the time I was 37, 38, I was grinding. I was vice president of a 60 person team when you counted, staff members that were full time and contracted professionals. And it was 24/7 job. And so I might be present in that board meeting, but, you know, as a lobbyist, I was having to check my phone for votes if we were up at a city council hearing. And because others didn’t understand where I was in my career, they might have assumed that I was disengaged.
And so you really want to understand where people are because your perception that they might be disengaged, for them, they might then think that you don’t respect them as a person of color, and that could be a barrier for doing your work together. So that’s why I love board assessments. And I think it helps to build that collective and allows people to feel retained.
And so another thing that you want to really think about is understanding everyone’s values at the table, because once you do that, that’s going to be another thing that will unite you and allow you to really be able to show each other how you’re not just talking, that you’re walking the walk each day and that you’re helping to build that space that is needed to have a board that’s trustworthy.
So when I also think about collective, I think about how you might even begin to build in recruitment tactics for that next wave of board members that might come, you know, and it’s also ways that you can integrate any new board members. So, for example, if you are a woman’s organization, like a Dress for Success, you know, and you have volunteers that routinely come from maybe a black sorority or a Hispanic service organization, those are potential board members.
They’re also people that you’d want to introduce new board members to as well as people that you would want them to be advocates for you and to let people know that you have new board members at your table. So that’s the next piece of this, is you want to communicate to others how you are transitioning. You know, like it isn’t until people understand our new behaviors, they see it and they hear it, that they begin to expect it from us. And so that will help you throughout this process, is sharing those stories and the experiences of others so that everyone in your community can see the shifts. And those stories are also another retention tool. The more that you can share them, the more, again, people will believe it. And people will not only want to join your board, but they will also help you by offering other ways that you can be more diverse and inclusive in your organizations.
And so the communication step, I mentioned is definitely key to retention, but it’s so a place that you can focus on those aims and drivers. You know, so if you can really think about what is that larger goal that you have as a board not just, you know, in regards to your mission, but how you want to retain and recruit board members, then you could really splice down the drivers to give actual tasks to people on your board so they can help you further that goal. You know, when we think back to that BoardSource report, we all intend to do the work, but we can’t execute the work. We don’t execute the work. So we can begin to communicate those drivers and those tactics that are needed with the board members that are at the table as well as the larger community, we’ll begin to, you know, live out those values and execute them.
So I love this one as well, because it’s just a reminder of how to do our work. So if you are tracking in your box here, stories is really important to list. Experiences that people could see and touch is also really important and you want to bring people along the journey with you. So this is a moment where you can actually allow people to see a lot of your work and you really, for those new board members, one thing that I don’t want to forget to mention in the communication box is you want them to really understand that they’re more than a potential new revenue stream, that they’re more than a new check, you know, when you think about the give-gets or a connection to your next donor. That is so important. You really want them to understand how they are helping you to fulfill the mission and that you really want them to be there.
So the next box is change, and this is where you’re going to get your hands dirty and you’re really going to do the work. This is really the most crucial and important part of retention. So the first thing that you can do is really allow new board members, once you have recruited them to the board table, to be a part of your work. So invite them to site visits. If you have a grants committee, allow them to either serve as a member of that grants committee or to be a part of a meeting by listening in. You want to be sure to allow them to see the list of new grantees before they go out. There’s just so much you can do here.
I’ll share a couple of stories with you before we get into your questions. But recently I was a part of . . . I’m still a part of a board, but recently I’ve been helping a lot of nonprofits craft their new DEI statements or their statements about Black Lives Matters right after George Floyd, and this particular time I was up to like 19. So it was just a second nature for me to start thinking in that way. And I get an email from a nonprofit board that I’m a current board member and the email is our statement. And I cannot explain it to you. Just a moment in time where I did not feel like a human. And so a lot of times when we don’t allow our board members in, again, to peek under the hood of that car, we don’t allow them to feel human.
So for me to be the only African-American out of staff or board members, to receive that in my, and not to even be asked for my thoughts or given a courtesy of seeing that first before it hit general inboxes was a huge slap in the face. And so I think the more that you can integrate your new members into your work will allow them to succeed and allow you to retain them. So don’t be afraid to let them really see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Right? A lot of times we don’t do that because we don’t want people to see the messes underneath the hood, but it’s an important part of allowing them to feel as part of the family.
Another thing that you might want to consider are your give-gets. You know, give-gets definitely show participation, 100%, you know, our grant makers require us to have 100% board members participate as a donor, but they can be an obstacle when you put some hard and fast numbers on them. In Austin, there’s this one board that, you know, we’d all love to be on. I’d love to be on. I love their mission, but they require a $25,000 check from a board member to sit on their board. And that does not come from their corporation, that is their individual gift. That is something that is not obtainable for most people. And that organization does not have . . . it’s not representative of our community because it does not have every population of color on that board, and it’s for that very reason. So the more we can think about obstacles and ways that we can remove that, you know, we will be able to recruit and retain. And sometimes people might be able to make that first time gift, but they might not be able to make it a second year in a row. So thinking about that as well.
One thing that I would encourage all of you to do is when I was a young aspiring board member, you know, I remember going to my first meeting and the give-get was $500. I was a nonprofit staff member and I was making $30,000 a year. So that $500 felt really heavy. And so, you know, now I have established the Movement Maker Momentum Award. So all the dollars for my speaking engagements or most of my consulting work goes into that fund and I will be issuing awards for first-time board members of color who don’t have the means to make that first gift. So what can you do in your community, either as a collective or yourself that can remove some of those obstacles?
Lastly, invite your new board members to be a part of the VIP meetings that you might have. You know, a lot of times we don’t take new board members to the really important meetings, but what more of an incredible way to show to a potential grant maker, a foundation, or a donor that you are walking the walk, but also allow that new board member to feel it and to be a part of that.
Another thing that I did want to mention along these lines is, and this is going back to the give gets. Also be careful in how you talk about some things. For those of you that are part of larger organizations, where maybe you invite your board members to travel. We also want to think about the expectations we set at the board table.
So I’ll tell you another story. I was part of an international board that when you were recruited, you were told that they paid for all of your travel for board meetings, but then when we got to the board table, they encourage you not to submit reimbursement for your travel. That again is another obstacle, and it could feel like you’re changing the game up for those, especially if people are younger in their career or they might not make as much money as others at the table. Then that might, you know, include an element of shame that they are having to submit for reimbursement whereas others are not.
So you want to make sure that everything is a level playing field and, you know, if that’s something that you want to encourage, maybe do that in a private manner and not have the treasurer make it at the board table, which is something that I have seen. So if you’re tracking for change, which is also tied to retention, you know, site visits, VIP meetings, think about give-gets, think about including people in your work.
All right. Now I’m going to put you to work. So we’re going to do the work, get out your . . . This one you filled out, but you’re going to get out the other side of your worksheet or the second page. I love to print on both sides, but we’re going to whoop it up. And so if you don’t have the worksheet, it’s okay, you want to draw a circle on a sheet of paper like this or just grab your fancy worksheet. And you all are the first people to get these fancy worksheets. For the longest time, I’ve been asking people to just draw them on their own.
So that W is will, you know, that again, is the intention piece, the leading with intent from BoardSource. And, in that, in that circle, you want to write out your why. And this is going to begin to be your plan that you could bring back to your board members or even an exercise that you can use with them to help them think about how you’re going to move from intent to implementation. This is why I love doing this.
And I’m also going to do a quick time check. We are right on time. So write out your will. You want to wish, you want to wish really big. You want to think of the possibility of the type of board members that you want to recruit. You also want to dream as big as possible. And in doing that, we’re setting, you know, setting this aspirational goal, that aim. But you also want to be very specific. You want to do something that is achievable and you want to do something that is going to allow you to see possibilities. And I’ll give you a minute to write that out. So I’ll pause there and you guys write a little bit.
Some things that you’ll want to consider or just those aims and drivers that I talked about, what’s that big goal and then what are the tactics, because that’s going to really help you work on the next piece. So you also want to write out what does that board table look like? The more you can write it out, kind of like your vision board, you know, in January, you will be able to see it. If you’re going to hold a listening session, you know, what is that going to look like? Where are you going to have it? You know, you don’t want to have, you know, your listening session in the fanciest tower and you’re, you know, at the Camelot Club. You know, you’ll want to have it at a place that’s like a community center because you really want to feel diverse. So think about the will and your wish.
Now we’re going to move on to the next one, and it is the opportunity. You’re going to put it up here and you’re going to think about what does the outcome look like once you begin to recruit the board members. Make it extremely real, make it tangible. You know, how will you recruit those new members? Which organizations will you ask for help? You know, what will it look like? How will you celebrate once you begin to get some wins?
Really think about the opportunities that exist and not just for you as a staff member, but for the existing board. You know, you want to give them the feedback that they need just to keep going. Again, think about the inspirational things and the hope. That’s what kept all those movements moving, the idea that MLK told us we could have a dream and one day, you know, that dream would get into existence. This is what you want to think too when you think about the opportunity, just you want to exude a feeling that this is something that can be accomplished.
What’s also nice about this part of it is, again, you’re starting to get into the implementation. There’s some science that says if you just watch a movie, so if you’re just dreaming and you don’t take the next step after you’re watching a movie or if you’re daydreaming, then you’re just stuck in that fantasizing, that thinking about what could be. So by thinking of the opportunity and the implementation steps, we’re getting out of that dream cycle, we’re getting into the living. And so that’s the important part of moving from intent to implementation.
So the next piece is the obstacle, and you’re going to put it here. So what might be the dream killer? What might stop you from getting this work done? What might be the one story that someone will tell in your community that will stop you from getting diverse people at the table? And I’ll share a quick story with you to make it real.
So I was a part of a nonprofit board where we wanted to retain the executive director. She was making about $120,000 a year, and we were scared that she was going to leave. And so we were thinking about a way we could give her a bonus or we could increase her salary the next budget cycle. And a lot of the board members at the table just felt like we could not do it, we could not afford it, and that was just shot down. No was the answer. We did not offer her anything. Weeks later, she leaves the organization and we are bringing in the next leader. And so the selection committee actually doesn’t give us as a board any options, they bring back one final candidate. And then when we get into the negotiation with that candidate, that candidate ended up getting $150,000.
And so three board members of color, only three board members sat at that board table. They all left. And I was one of them, you know? So that was a board that was not in alignment with my personal values. If we took a board assessment at that point, it would have just not . . . most people would have not been in a good place. But that story exists within the Austin community today. So that might be an obstacle that that organization has in recruiting new board members.
And so that might be the case for you, but again, you know, there’s always the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we can overcome those. So you really want to be intellectually honest with yourself to think about it because the more you can think about it, the more you can overcome it. And so just take a moment to write down those perceptions and why you think people might leave, why you might not retain the board members.
And that’s going to help us a whole lot with the next one, which is our purpose. So here is the purpose. It is a time to fine line. It is definitely a start and a stop because we want to move from intent to implementation, getting things in practice. So you want to think of what is that time bound goal that you will set, how you will achieve it, and start to plan. And also, I love to call it purpose because when you have that marriage of the two unions of your organization mission and creating this colorful movement, and having diverse and inclusive faces at the board table, when you think about purpose first, then it becomes easy to plan, it becomes easy to take that first step.
And again, the science shows that, you know, things feel so heavy and they feel like we can’t make them happen because a lot of times we are afraid to take that first step. So just write down, you know, one to three things that you can do to make it achievable and those also become your drivers. So you’ve gone from the aims and that big goal to some drivers that are actually achievable for you and your board.
So you might want to consider, what will it feel like? You know, what will happen if you don’t achieve it? That might help you think around it, might help you think of another opportunity. And then once you start to do it, how will you share this story with others? Again, going back to communicate. The more that you can share these wins in the community, the more you will feel good about the work that you will do, but it’ll start to bring that energy to your work. And others will, you know, want to be a part of your board or a volunteer within your organization. So as we say, “Whoop, there it is,” you have really begun the first steps that you need to, you know, just really do the work.
So I want to show you something. I said earlier that I love sharing things within the Firestarter formula because it allows you to see a way no matter what it is that you’re trying to do. You know, this formula works great with mentees. It works great as just, you know, an ice breaker at meetings. But when you break it down, you clearly can see how you can recruit, retain members. And so I just wanted you to see that flow chart so that, you know, you could see and feel it and then begin to think as something that was achievable for you.
So I want to get back to that human piece of it, and I really want to talk about four things that no matter what movement I’m building, if, you know, it is a movement to create a new policy, or if it is a movement to find new people to bring to the table, these are four things that have served me well. The first is faith. And if you look at the definition of faith, it’s that inspiration, it’s that hope, it’s knowing that something is possible. That is something that drives me. So don’t forget, there’s always a way, know that this is possible as you do the work, because it is hard work, and it’s going to be heavy, and it’s going to not feel so good all the time.
Fortitude. That’s knowing that there is a way. If you have an obstacle, there’s going to always be a way around it. And if you have the mindset that you will find a way, you will always find a way.
Failing forward, you’re not going to get it right. You know, you’re going to screw up. You might say the wrong thing. You know, you might need someone that’s an ally or a champion of fix something for you. That is okay. If you’re going to fail forward, fail forward early in this process and lean on others to help you learn the new way to learn the way forward and have a celebration sometimes. If you mess up, celebrate that you have grown from that experience and that you have failed forward and it’ll become to feel a little easier. You might not feel like this is something that is not achievable.
And last, sometimes you just got to forgive yourself. You know, if you screw up, and I even screw up being a person of color sometimes because I don’t, you know, there might be . . . going back to those unconscious bias, there might be a bias that I might have that I’m not aware of because we’re all human. We learn this as we do the work. Or there might . . . I need to learn a new way, or I might need to read something that I haven’t read before. You got to forgive yourself. When you forgive yourself and you give grace to yourself, you truly begin to own all of it. You humanize yourself. People can feel that energy and cannot explain to you just how much people appreciate authenticity and sincerity when we do this work.
So as Steven mentioned, I have any book it’s called “Find your Fire.” And I share stories of change makers and social impact strategists that do this work. And there are some stories about people you guys might know, including Kishshana Palmer, who is a fundraiser of color and a dear friend. And so I tell her story and how she’s created colorful movements as well as the story of other changemakers in my book.
So with that, I want to give you guys information to keep in touch. Feel free to tweet me @terribwilliams, Instagram. I tell everyone I believe in unicorns, Skittles, and pots of gold. And so there’s plenty of inspiration on my IG grid @terribwilliams. And tons of blog articles and resources and tools at terribwilliams.com. So I’m going to pause here for all of your questions and turn it over to Steven to get us back on track.
Steven: Oh, we’re on track. I’m actually going to get us off track because that was awesome, Terri. That was, man, inspirational. I was just sitting here nodding my head. And I know it generated a lot of questions, so we’ll try to get to all of them. If we don’t get to yours, you know, it was nothing personal. There’s just a lot of good stuff in here. Terri, a question jumped out at me and it’s one that a lot of folks have asked in similar sessions that we’ve had where we’ve been kind of talking about DEI from different angles. And I’ll leave them anonymous, but the person is saying, you know, we live and work in kind of a rural area that is really white and they struggle with this. What advice do you have for people that may be kind of feel like that? And I know they’re not trying to make an excuse for it, you know, obviously they want to do it, but is it just a matter of being even more intentional than maybe other folks would have to be? What do you think about that?
Terri: Yeah. And I want to go back to something that you said, you said it was inspirational. I want to tell you guys one thing, I keep it real. I keep it 100. I never mince words. I always say very simply what needs to be said. But one thing that I have learned is we do have to find a place of inspiration and common ground because this is heavy work and it’s not easy. So, you know, that’s why I start off with that picture of MLK. You know, when we keep it real, he had bricks coming through his windows, people calling his house and threatening to kill his family, but yet he could still give us this vibe that there was hope. And so when any of you feel like you can’t do the work or you feel like . . . You know, there’s a sense of white guilt. A lot of people tell me they feel like white guilt or they feel like people make them . . . they just don’t feel like they’re doing enough. You got to get out of your head and get back to a place where you’re thinking of that purpose and the mission of the organization and the why. And then you’ll be able to think through with great intention about how to implement.
So back to the question about rural America, you know, I don’t envy you all. It definitely is harder, right? But you don’t get a hall pass. I mean, we got Zoom now. We all know now that we can live and not be in the same location. We can all do work and still do it well and not be together. So you have absolutely no excuse. You can have an advisory board of people that don’t live in your community, people that might live in a rural part of the country that isn’t just white because that does exist, right? Monroe, Louisiana would be a great place to tap into. You know, and you might easily go to a place of, “Well, they don’t know our community.” But you can teach them a little bit about your community. And there’s things that resonate with all of us because we’re all humans and we all want to do good and serve our community. So think about the nontraditional ways that you can find the people that you need to move your board forward.
Steven: I love that, it’s true. It’s a virtual world. I mean, we’re talking across state lines now, so why not? I love it.
Terri: It’s a game-changer.
Steven: Along the same lines, this question, they marked themselves as anonymous. I’m kind of glad they did, but it sounds like they’re maybe struggling with convincing their boss, their CEO, ED, whoever that this should be a priority, right? I’m sure you’ve run into this. You know, maybe they’re getting blocked by the person above them. Is it a matter of trying to wear them down? Should they leave the organization? I mean, what advice you have for that person?
Terri: Yeah. I get all the fails. And let me tell you, I was on a Zoom happy hour with . . . I did the Independent Sector’s NGen Fellowship very long time ago. I’m not going to tell you when, because it’s going to date me. But with some of them, and we’re all hearing this, no matter where you are in the hierarchy or no matter where you are in your professional career journey, this is something that is real. So you’re not alone. And just knowing that you’re not alone sometimes is enough.
But, you know, there are three buckets and usually there are always three things that you can think through to help you find a solution. The first, it’s tied to your story of self, right? We first go to who we are and how we can fix the problem. So that is an option. You can try to wear your boss down, and that might be something that will bring you great joy, but you also have to have an intellectually honest conversation about how that may play out in the workplace. And that is something that if you need help, I’m happy to, you know, exchange an email or a Marco Polo, or all the things with you for some advice with that.
The second is those allies and champions on the board. You know, so when I was at the American Heart Association, I always had a friend on the board. Well, actually I’m now telling my secret and some of my Heart colleagues are here, but I was finding that one person where I was like, “I want to learn from you.” You know, “Can I just hang out with you?” Or I just find my way at the table, at the mixer. And the same thing for the local community where I did not have influence on their board, but the work they did still had impact on me because we were working at the capital where they were. Whispering in their ear and telling them I have concerns and sharing with them from a place, you know, where you’re showing your greatest piece of emotional intelligence, right? So that message doesn’t get lost. And when you can do it from a business perspective with a business case, a lot of times they’re going to be happy to be that champion for you and share it at the board table as their own thought. And sometimes that’s all it needs, right? You need it to sound like it was their idea.
And then that third bucket, if you’re in a community, you’re getting your money from somewhere. So is there a donor that speaks on your behalf? Is there someone at the foundation that you trust that maybe you’re their mentee, they’re your mentor, that you can get them to influence? Again, there’s always three buckets, so the story of self, the story of your allies and champions, and the story of the stakeholder in the community. And usually when you’re trying to solve a problem, one of those three things will be the key that you need.
Steven: Suddenly when revenue is at stake, people start listening, right? It’s sad that it may take that, but that’s a great idea. And, you know, you made me think of something along those same lines, is, you know, whenever I talk about this topic or, you know, I’m trying to share webinars or blog posts, sometimes there’s pushback, like, well, what’s the actual tangible benefit? And you’ve touched on it a couple of times. I kind of want to hammer it home. It’s like funders care about this stuff, right? You can literally . . .
Terri: Oh, yeah. They cared about it before so they care about it a whole lot now.
Steven: Right. Right. Okay. Good. I just wanted to hammer that home because it’s like, this could be a revenue and it’s not the reason to do it by any means, but that is a tangible benefit. I mean, they do care.
Terri: It is. You know, like, I think of my time at American Heart Association, it was an expectation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and they made sure that we did it well. So they were that ally, right? But I’ll also tell you, you know, you also don’t want to tokenize this moment. You don’t want to manipulate it, if you will. Again, I was sitting on a board where, you know, all of a sudden, there’s this sponsorship that went to a foundation, you know, saying that they wanted a staff member to focus on DE&I. They didn’t ask anyone on the board who was of color to take a look at it. And there were some things in that proposal that just really weren’t in alignment with the moment. So, again, use people at your board table are use allies in your community to help you because you want to do this work truly from a place of inspiration, authenticity, and sincerity, or it’s just going to fall flat.
Steven: I love it. Can we pull on that tokenization thread for a minute? Because I’ve been thinking about this word the entire hour. It’s come up a couple of times in the chat. How do we avoid doing that to a person? Right? I feel like there’s a lot of organizations have good intentions. They want to diversify the board. They’re like, “Okay. We got an African-American board member. We’re done.” And it’s like, that doesn’t seem good either, right? How can we avoid simply making this just a token thing and truly make it, you know, make it part of the culture and something that is just beyond just kind of checking that off the list? I feel like it’s kind of a check box sometimes, you know?
Terri: Yeah. I mean, you got to do the work and you got to be honest about it. And we feel each other’s vibes, you know? If you don’t have a swagger about you that is one that is for the greater good, people will feel tokenized. If you are using this, you know, to check a box or just to get money to keep a grant, people are not going to return. You’re not going to retain people. If you are faking the funk, that isn’t going to work either. So you really have to do this from a place of sincerity.
And so, you know, I have been the youngest and the only black at many board tables. And so I’m a person that, you know, I will be a cheerleader, I want to help do the work, but there are also been moments where I’ve walked away. And it all boils down to really understanding that organization’s mission and where the organization was headed. And if I ever got caught off guard, if I ever was asked to do something that I didn’t agree with, or if I ever got a bad vibe, I did not return.
So I was a part of an organization in Austin that was like one that was super hard to get on, you didn’t even know that you were being nominated. So one day I get this beautiful like flower at my front door with an invitation to join. And so I’m like, “Okay. I’m about to do this.” And I was going to be the only person of color. In Austin, that’s kind of a hard thing to do, we’re a city of a million. And so I go to the board meeting and the people that had nominated me were not there. So I’m an introvert. I know that shocks all of you, but I’m an extreme introvert. So I walk in the room and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know any of these people.” So I kind of sat in the back, right? Because I also am a person that is observant. I wanted to observe everyone to see where I might want to plug in the conversation. No one came and sat along the side of me, no one.
So finally the meeting starts and the people that came to the meeting late were the people that sat at the table with me. And then later at a fundraiser, someone like yelled at me. And I don’t think they yelled at me because I was of color, but because I had already experienced no one sitting with me at the table, it felt that way. And so I did not return. And so, you know, everything comes back to your intentions, how you make people feel and how they plug into the mission and the purpose of your organization. And so if you are doing those things with good intentions, good heart, and good work ethic, usually people are going to return and they’re not going to feel like a token. And if you are a staff that’s of color and you . . . because I did see one question in the chat about feeling like a token, you know, I would love to talk to you offline because there probably are some adaptive leadership challenges and some systemic issues that reside in that organization. And that’s a little more nuance. There’s not a one-size-fits-all for that.
Steven: Makes sense. It seems like, Terri, a lot of times this work falls to a person of color in the organization, maybe the only person of color. Is that appropriate? Because I heard you say last time that, you know, a board member wasn’t asked and that was kind of a red flag. How can folks kind of balance this? Because you don’t want to burden the person, right? But you definitely want their perspective at the same time because they probably experienced this. How can you kind of balance those two things.
Terri: For me, and again, I’m a person that . . . I keep it real. So you got to ask, you know, when you’re going through that interview process with a board member, you need to ask them, how do they want to be engaged? And sometimes if you could just lift the veil to pet you . . . again, you got to fill people out, but if you can lift that veil and have that conversation, human to human and direct and not dance around it, you’re going to know what they want from you. And you’re going to know how they want you to plug them in. But for me in that particular instance, having been on the board for like almost two years, like that should have been a non-question. They already know my intentions and how I operate and every other issue. And clearly they also knew from my blog posts that this was something I care about, right? So that was a misstep. And they did apologize, but that was a clear misstep.
But if you don’t know, I think you find a way to have that conversation and you have to do it again, human to human. If you don’t feel comfortable having that conversation, then you need to ask why. Then maybe you haven’t put in enough time with that board member or maybe the way that you are bringing people in with the interview and the onboarding might need to be tweak. And so yeah, you definitely have to understand the person that is in front of you and how they want to be engaged as a board member.
Steven: You’re right. It’s work. Got to go to work, right?
Terri: It’s work.
Steven: You know, we’re running out of time, which this hour has flown by. I wish we could hang out all afternoon, but any final thoughts, Terri? Where can folks get ahold of you? I know we didn’t get to all the questions. I’m so sorry, but final thoughts from you before we kind of wrap up here.
Terri: Yeah. Again, like I’m happy if we can somehow get those questions, we can try to answer them in other ways. My biggest piece of advice, and you’ve heard me say it a lot, human to human. Really allow people to see, feel, and touch your organization before you make an ask. You know, you don’t join a gym without going to the gym for free workout. You don’t buy a car . . . well, maybe you might buy a car today, but you don’t buy a car without test-driving it. You know, for me, I’m 5’2. I need to make sure I could see over that dashboard. So I’m not going to invest my time, my money, but most importantly, my heart with an organization if I don’t truly know it. So definitely think about how you are creating a pipeline, how you are perceived in your community, and how you are showing your purpose to . . . [Ken Chelsea 00:57:38], I love alliteration. But when you do those things, people will show up. I always say, people show up with a good heart, good intentions, and good work ethic when you show them truly the hearts and minds of your organizations.
Steven: I love it. Boy, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Thanks for doing this, Terri. Really, we owe you a big time for sharing all this knowledge. I know people enjoyed it.
Terri: This is my lunch hour. So you guys made it fun. It’s not often that you can really give back and, you know, share your passion with others. So thank you to you, Steven, and Rachel, and everyone who took the time out today. And, you know, I hope you guys, Terri B. Williams on Twitter, terribwilliams.com. I’m here to help you succeed and to start movements. Let’s be leaders that turn moments into movements.
Steven: I love it. Yeah. I definitely connect with Terri. She’s obviously a wealth of knowledge. Super awesome person too. So keep the conversation going and check out our book too. I’ll put a link in the email. Speaking of the email, I’ll be sending out the recording, the slides, the handout, everything. So don’t worry, we’ll get that in your hands. So just be on the lookout for an email from me in just a couple of hours here. And I want to let you all know about some upcoming webinars we’ve got coming up. This is kind of the kickoff to three webinars this week. This is an awesome way to start the week, but we’re going to keep it going strong. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about digital marketing. On Thursday we’re going to talk about interpersonal relations. Maybe some folks who are annoying you. I know tensions are a little bit higher these days, but lots of cool sessions coming up.
Totally free. We’d love to see you again tomorrow, Thursday. We got a ton next week. Like I said, we love doing these webinars, so hopefully you’ll join us on another session. So we’ll call it a day there. Like I said, look for an email from me with all the goodies and definitely connect with Terri later on. So thanks for watching. Gee, I think we have like 600 people listening live, which is awesome. So I really appreciate all of you folks taking an hour out of your day. Terri, go get some lunch. You deserve it. And all of you, I hope you have a good rest of your day, good rest of your Tuesday, and hopefully we’ll see you again in another session. So we’ll call it a day there. Bye all. See you.