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Moving nonprofits toward cultural competency

Kris Kewitsch is the executive director of the Charities Review Council, a U.S.-based organization that maintains a set of 25 rigorous accountability standards for nonprofits. The standards focus on key functions such as public disclosure, governance, fundraising and finance. Unlike other accrediting organizations, the Charities Review Council also maintains a distinct standard for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Here, MissionBox co-founder and CEO Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk talks with Kris about the organization's groundbreaking Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit.

Tell us about your standard for diversity, equity and inclusion. How do you measure these factors?

The diversity, equity and inclusion standard ensures that organizations that serve specific audiences reflect their communities and engage the voices of their stakeholders in their strategic missions as well as their leadership and program delivery. To meet this standard, nonprofits are asked to understand the demographics of who they're serving, assess their own organizations, and then compare the results side by side to determine where they might have gaps. Once the gaps are identified, each organization sets goals to measure progress against their own cultural competence.

We don't draw a line in the sand about where an organization needs to be. We do, however, want to measure how an organization's policies contribute to an environment that allows people of different races and demographics to work productively together — and for people to feel like it's a place they want to work. This supports a positive experience between the people being served and those delivering the mission.

Is it challenging for nonprofits to meet this standard?

Historically, less than 15 percent of organizations going through our review process met our standard for diversity, equity and inclusion without additional resources. Many simply didn't know where to begin or which demographics to measure. To better support this important work, we created the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit.

Tell us about the toolkit. What does it include?

The toolkit helps organizations measure their demographics, their people, their policies and their power. The toolkit includes not just the assessment, but also training modules to help complete the assessment and, in turn, do the work to increase internal cultural confidence. Although the toolkit is designed to support nonprofits going through our review process, it's an affordable resource that can be used by any nonprofit worldwide to forward cultural competence.

Let's talk about affordability. Is the toolkit really within the scope of a limited nonprofit budget?

Yes! In a larger organization, hiring a consultant to lead a cultural competence assessment can cost thousands of dollars — and it's a snapshot of one point in time. Despite the vital nature of the work, it can be challenging to devote so many resources to a single initiative. So, we've created an affordable membership model that allows nonprofits to take the assessment and access the support resources during a one-year membership window.

How can the toolkit help bring together the voices of stakeholders and leaders?

We're seeing greater diversity in our communities than ever before. How do we bring all of these voices together? How do we give space and place for those individuals to have a voice and be heard in order to create meaningful solutions? How do we live together in a way that allows us to appreciate and embrace our differences?

This is where the toolkit can help. Completing the assessment will help organizations explore diversity (how we're different), inclusion (how well we create policies and processes to support diversity) and equity (since we don't all start from the same place). Ultimately, this work can help ensure that the voices of the stakeholders feed into strategy at both the leadership and the programmatic level.

Consider the example of the nonprofit that hosted an annual friends and family gathering. The organization chose a different restaurant each year, serving appetizers and offering a cash bar — only to find out later that Muslim organizations didn't participate because alcohol was served. It's a simple — but profound — finding. That's the type of understanding the toolkit can support.

What do you see as the most engaging part of the toolkit?

One of the things we're really excited about is the piece that addresses how decisions are made within an organization. For example, the leadership team might believe that decisions are egalitarian and that people have voice — but the staff might think something different. The assessment will help to measure and address any disparities.

How can nonprofits access the toolkit?

To learn more about the toolkit, join the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Toolkit mailing list.

Know another visionary leader or organization working for social good? Let us know! Email editorial@missionbox.com.

Kris Kewitsch is the executive director of Charities Review Council, an organization committed to mobilizing informed donors and accountable nonprofits for the greater good. In previous roles, Kris worked in corporate philanthropy with Target Corporation, U.S. Bank and Piper Jaffray, directing resources — both human and financial — to nonprofits across the United States. Kris has served on numerous boards, including the Corporate Volunteerism Council, National Council on Workplace Volunteerism and the Volunteer Resource Center (now HandsOn Twin Cities). Kris was named to the Twin Cities Business Magazine "100 People to Know in 2017" list.

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