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11 Things Every Woman of Color, Especially Black Women Should Consider Before Accepting A Role At A Nonprofit.

11 Things Every Woman of Color, Especially Black Women Should Consider Before Accepting A Role At A Nonprofit.

For many years, quietly behind the scenes, I have helped black women find their confidence and apply to roles they once thought was out of their reach. There is no real secret, I take the time to get to know them, understand where they want to be and wrap everything around them (Resume, LinkedIn, My Network, Sound Advice, and Pure Love). I am filled with joy when I see these black women sprinkle all types of Black Girl Magic in their new roles. I am now ready to share what I have learned over the years in IT, Sales, and the nonprofit sector.

This article highlights what I have learned transitioning from corporate technology sales to nonprofit development/fundraising. I would like to share what I wish someone would have told me before accepting a role in the nonprofit space. I hope this article helps other women; especially black women navigate this purpose-driven sector.

1) Research the leadership team and board

Do they have black women on the board or in leadership roles? If not, don’t be afraid to ask why during the interview process? For example, you could phrase it like this: I noticed you have a DEI statement on your website, what progress have you made and are you making a concerted effort to hire black women in leadership positions? Do you intend to expand your board and if so, are you considering having a black woman on the board? Be direct and ask with confidence.

2) Understand how they make money

According to Candid.Org, 53% of nonprofits rely on contributions for the majority of their revenue. Do they make the majority of their revenue through individual donations, grants, foundations, memberships, programs, or earned revenue? What percentage of the funding is restricted vs unrestricted? Here’s how you can find out this information. A simple Google of the company name and 990. e.g., if I wanted to quickly find out about DEI-ABC company, I would search DEI-ABC 990 in Google. A 990 is an IRS form that provides financial information about a nonprofit. Many nonprofits have their financial information on their company website as well. Also, companies such as GuideStar, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and others may have additional financial information about the nonprofit. My point is do your homework, you should have a clear understanding of their operational costs and how those expenses are covered before accepting a role.

3) Does their mission align to your personal goals?

Reviewing their mission statement is a good first step, however, take the time to dive a little deeper. Be relentless to find out what impact they are making, and the trickle-down community impact the mission is making on your demographic of interest. Review these statistics year over year as this will demonstrate their commitment and the progress, they have made to move their mission forward.

4) If the nonprofit relies heavily on corporate donations/corporate funding, does their mission align to the industry?

I was in corporate technology sales for over 15+ years and nonprofit leadership for 4+ years and I can’t stress how this question impacts everything from the internal partnerships between The Programs and Development Teams, marketing and go-to-market strategies, employee morale, and leadership direction. Simply put, if the nonprofit aims to support veterans, there should be veterans on the leadership team, veterans on the board, and creative and impactful veteran programs.

5) Are you passionate about the role you will play in strengthening the mission?

Do you work for nonprofits because you’ve had it with the corporate world and you’re tired of being the only one in the room? Before making the move, consider these facts.

a. According to IRS data, 3% public charities have annual revenues >$5M.

b. According to an article by Mitchell (2021), as cited in Urban Institute, all white boards govern 16% of nonprofits that serve people of color. Furthermore, Urban Institute’s Research Report, Nonprofit Trends National Findings on Donation Trends from 2015 through 2020, Diversity and Representation, and First-Year Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic study of nonprofits with $50,000 in annual expenses or more found that 79% of executive directors and 79% of board chairs are white.

6) Are professional development and career advancement top priorities?

Do your diligence! Highlighted in an article by Weldon (2020), “The lack of diversity in nonprofit sector leadership was not a reflection of the qualifications or ambition of people of color, but the result of racialized barriers that inhibited their leadership ambitions, from lack of support by white boards of directors to the biases of executive recruiters”. “A higher percentage of people of color answered that race/ethnicity was negatively impacting their career advancement and a higher percentage of white respondents reported that their race/ethnicity was a positive factor in their career”.

7) Do they make data-driven decisions?

I would stay clear of nonprofits that only review their impact when it’s time to report to a funder or post their annual report. Data should always be a major factor in sound decision-making and strategic planning.

8) How involved is the board in development and providing warm introductions?

It is the CEO’s responsibility to ensure the board is properly trained on all fundraising resources. Board members should support retention by co-leading C-Level meetings, attract new funders by engaging in events and research, and be a key thought partner in building sustainable goals and strategies. If the board is not involved in any of these activities, run the other way, QUICKLY!

9) Do they partner with other nonprofit organizations?

Nonprofits are working to solve BIG societal problems with limited resources. Forward-thinking nonprofits do not pigeonhole themselves in corporate sales lingo e.g., competitors, value proposition/add, they are proud of their impact and understand that partnering with other organizations leads to greater impact.

10) Leverage LinkedIn and Glassdoor

Use LinkedIn to find former and existing employees. In my experience, former employees are eager to share their experience. I have received quick notes on LinkedIn from former employees that informed my decision on whether to accept a role. Existing employees may be a little tricky. Find an existing employee that you would like to speak with during the interview process. Share your interest in speaking with the employee with the hiring team, do this preemptively to avoid any confusion. You may find that some employees are willing to talk Off The Record (OTR). Glassdoor may help you find little golden nuggets such as salary, interview questions, and company culture. I have used Glassdoor to research several roles and found that the information is pretty accurate.

11) Is this the right nonprofit for you?

Large corporations create company-sponsored foundations that provide grants to nonprofits. These foundations are particularly focused on nonprofits that deliver shared value engagements and sponsorships. In addition, high-net-worth-individuals (HNWI) and families create private foundations to fund causes they care about and to build family legacies. Certified B Corporations measure a company’s social and environmental impact, these companies are for-profit, however their work benefit society. There are several options out there, it’s up to you to find, research, and apply to them. I always say, “As long as you have your breath, health, and self, you can accomplish anything!

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