Part 6 - Volunteers and Board of Directors


The first sections of this Resource Kit take you through steps around self-reflection, developing vision, mission, goals and policies, making the case for inclusion initiatives and creating targets, measurements (including in communications) and accountability strategies. The board plays a key leadership role throughout and ultimately approves policy and direction.

At the same time your board should be both diverse and inclusive as much in its make-up as in its spirit. Just like your organization, it should reflect the community it serves. This is a long-term goal and process. This is not change which happens overnight, but you can put strategies into place now and start working towards the goal with your next vacancy.

First, is your current board ‘on board’ with the importance of diversity and inclusion as long-term goals?

Have the members had a part in developing a vision and a diversity and inclusion policy? Have they considered what a diverse and inclusive organization means and what would it look like?

Have they acquainted themselves with up-to-date human resource policies such as  accessibility or accommodation policies and other issues we’ve talked about in the previous sections?  Have they had a role in reviewing and approving the policies and language that reflect your inclusive values?

Has your current board received diversity training and explored cultural competency skills? If not, this might be an area to address with a group professional development session for all members.

If you’re ready to welcome new board members, there is likely someone on your board who is already interested in leadership of this issue and in recruiting new members and who could be charged with planning and oversight. If you have an established nominating committee, they should take it on.

The same principles apply to recruiting for a volunteer board as for staff recruitment:

  • Are the board positions and committee descriptions clear and free of bias, jargon, acronyms and barriers?
  • Is your commitment to diversity and inclusion clear in your materials and on your website?


Determining Your Board's Needs

One of the first steps in determining whom to recruit is to determine what you need. Are you clear about the skills, personal networks and interests you need for your board? Your board members have important responsibilities and the board needs specific skills to fulfill those responsibilities. Looking for those skills while considering other factors such as race, gender or ability means that your board recruits will have meaningful, not merely symbolic, roles to play.

Consider reviewing your current board in light of these categories:

  • artistic discipline or function (e.g. teacher, practising artist)
  • fields of expertise (e.g. marketing, policy, legal, training)
  • experience with board governance (e.g. Human Resources management and  policy, financial oversight, policy development, strategic planning)
  • demographics (such as youth, gender, race, disability or sexual orientation)
  • and connections or perspective (e.g. corporate, grass-roots, business, community-based partnerships). 

Take your current board, put them on this grid, and you will see the gaps. Here is a sample board matrix which includes a diversity category that you can adapt to your own situation.

When putting your own grid together, be aware of these common traps:

  • The demographic trap – do you need someone from South America or do you actually need someone who’s part of the Spanish-speaking community around you?
  • The connections trap – are you recruiting people only for who they are without considering what they can actually do for you?





Board Matrices - examples


Dig Deeper

A fresh look at Diversity and Boards – Blue Avocado, an online magazine ‘practical, provocative and fun food-for-thought for American non-profits’  develops some practical and clear arguments for diversifying boards and for starting the discussion.

DiverseCity on Board - Developed with the support of the Maytree Foundation and now housed through Ryerson University, this program offers a system to match non-profits wit  visible minorities and underrepresented immigrants interested in serving as board directors as well as an online board governance training progam.

Diversity in Governance – This clearly written toolkit, written by the Maytree Foundation for DiverseCity, provides written materials, templates and examples  for every step along the way in diversifying a board.

Board Diversity Training – Another toolkit, this one from London Ontario’s Pillar NonProfit Network that considers the role of the board and provides a series of templates and case studies for the stages of a board diversification strategy.