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Boards lack diversity, engagement

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Too many nonprofit boards are out of touch with the communities they serve, lacking active engagement and diversity among members, a new study says.

Overall, nearly nine in 10 nonprofit board members are white, says the study by the Urban Institute, while more than half of nonprofits have no minorities on their boards.

That homogenous membership holds for many groups serving minorities, with almost two in 10 groups with primarily African American clientele reporting no African American board members, and almost one in three groups serving Hispanics lacking ethnic representation.

Overall, 86 percent of nonprofit board members are non-Hispanic whites, 7 percent are African American, 3.5 percent are Hispanic and the remainder are other minorities, the report says.

Almost all boards include at least one woman and women make up almost half the membership of the average nonprofit board.

At the same time, a majority of nonprofits report they are not actively engaged with their constituents.

While about one in four board members are very involved in both community relations and education, one in three is not, the report says.

Boards fall short of expectations in other areas as well, with more than half doing fair to poor in fundraising and in monitoring their own board’s performance.

Nine in 10 nonprofits have difficulty finding new board members, the report says, and board members’ engagement appears tied to their reason for joining.

Board members citing a willingness to give their time are more likely to be engaged in all roles, the report says, while those lured by friendships with existing board members tend to be unengaged.

Board members who also are members of corporate boards tend to be active in almost all board-related activities, the report says, but boards that include CEOs or executive directors as voting members are more likely to shirk their stewardship responsibilities.

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