Blog Out Loud 2014 - If You Want to Change the World, Stop Caring About Diversity

Meet Natalie Clay, the second speaker of the 4th Annual Blog Out Loud. This is a blog post introducing her presentation on November 18th, 2014. Be a apart of the conversation at #BOL14. Register for the event here.

I don’t care about diversity. I just don’t.

This may sound weird coming from an individual who works for an organization with diversity in the title, but hear me out:

• By 2050, the United States will be comprised of 53% people of color (Kaiser Family Foundation)
• Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States (Pew Research Institute & American Community Survey )
• This is the first time there are 5 generations in the workplace at once

These are just a few examples of why I don’t need to care about diversity…diversity is happening without me. Genetics will ensure we are always a diverse species.

What I DO care about, however, is INCLUSION.

Diversity without inclusion is the equivalent of lucky charms with the boring cereal bits in one bowl, and each of the different marshmallows in their own separate container. No one wants to eat just the boring cereal bits. No one. What makes this breakfast treat magically delicious is the combination of the different flavors, textures, designs and colors.
Our approach to “diversity” needs to be the same way. We are all different, and if we silo ourselves and each other, we are not actually in a better place than we were before. We are still boring grain cereal and lonely rainbow marshmallows. Inclusion is what will get us where we want to be.

Here’s the dirty secret: nonprofits, by and large, are terrible at inclusion. Far worse than any other sector.

But, you are likely thinking, we are all bleeding hearts that want to change the world! We love our clients and can only afford to eat Lucky Charms for dinner because we put our clients first…how can you say we aren’t inclusive??

Because nonprofits have not made the business case for being inclusive. In other words, nonprofit organizations have not articulated why inclusion is critical to their mission delivery. Sometimes we have diversity because we want staff to reflect our clients, who will in theory then achieve better outcomes. Sometimes we have board diversity because it’s the right thing to do.

Those are not good reasons for inclusion. Here’s why: if inclusion is loosely tied to a nebulous outcome, or your imperative is a moral one, inclusion will always fall to the bottom of the already-too-full priority list. There will always be another donor who needs a call back, or there will always be a problem with the data system, or there will always be one more client to squeeze in. Human beings are creatures of habit, and creating more inclusive cultures will be uncomfortable. So it’s easier to do what we know.

The reason corporations have workplaces far more inclusive than nonprofits has nothing to do with how much money they have. Corporations have more inclusive workplaces because they understand how inclusion directly makes them more money. Nonprofits need to think in the exact same way. 

Read any issue of Diversity, Inc., Harvard Business Review or SSRI, and you can see how employees who feel included at work are more productive, and organizations with diverse and inclusive teams out-perform organizations similar to them year over year. In other words, employees who feel included work harder and smarter than employees who don’t feel included.

Nonprofits, at the end of the day, live or die by how much money they bring in the door. Would you rather have a staff and board filled with people who do not feel included in the organization? Who wouldn’t want to come to work or ask for money on your behalf? Or would you rather have a staff and board that feel like their diverse perspectives and experiences strengthen the mission delivery system, leading them to be fired up to talk about the value of the organization?

I don’t know about you, but I would rather work with people who feel included. Lucky Charms are more fun with friends.