Enabling Diverse Perspectives On the Board

October 12, 2011

By Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers

Diverse perspectives improve effectiveness.

A bold statement perhaps, but a belief that is being embraced more and more in the corporate world, and we hope, in nonprofits as well. Why have for-profits moved to making sure their Boards are diverse? Because they recognize that successful companies today need to have a management that is more globally oriented and culturally diverse. Because having that produces better decisions and stronger organizations.

This holds true for nonprofits as well, and it is why my organization, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, is partnering with New Jersey’s American Conference on Diversity to explore creating The Board Bank, a board matching service for diverse leaders in the state who want to connect with nonprofits and foundations. We thank the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for recently sending out a survey to its grantees that will help us gauge their interest in this idea. If you’d like to take the survey follow this link. All responses will be kept confidential and will be enormously helpful as we work to create this new resource designed to ensure that New Jersey’s diverse voices are well represented.

The idea of finding a way to help foundations and nonprofits identify diverse trustees has been on the docket of the Council for some time. In recent years, there has been a good deal of discussion about board diversity in the philanthropic community. As CNJG considered how it might help our members identify potential trustees, it seemed natural to enlist the American Conference on Diversity as a partner. With some planning grant support from the Albin Family Foundation, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the Eastman Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we began earlier this year researching similar programs throughout the country, considering criteria for inclusion, and formulating a business model for long term success. An advisory council made up of highly-regarded diverse professionals from all over the state has been providing frank and invaluable input into the development and execution of The Board Bank.

We expect that through The Board Bank, institutions within the State’s social sector will have access to diverse business and community leaders looking to actively participate in the governance and leadership of organizations while serving as trustees. Individuals who wish to expand their community and philanthropic involvement will be matched with organizations seeking to ensure that their Board reflects the significant and rapidly growing diversity in New Jersey.

There are two very important outcomes we see for this program, and both are critical to improving the quality and relevance of services rendered by NJ’s social sector:

  • The Board Bank will inevitably boost the amount of knowledge and expertise available to foundation and non-profit Boards.
  • It will be a unique and valuable resource for companies looking to become more connected and engaged in the communities in which they conduct business.

The American Conference on Diversity expects to launch The Board Bank in 2012. Look for more information then on how your nonprofit can become a “Member” or how your business or leading institution can become a “Partner.”

Nina Stack is the President of Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association for corporate, family, independent, and community foundations. She is a regular contributor to the Dodge blog.