GuideStar Coalition Launches Exchange To Benchmark Diversity

October 16, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

Nonprofits will be able to track and compare the diversity of their organizations against others in the sector, through a partnership announced today. “We believe that data about who’s leading, working in and with organizations is just as important as financial and operational data we already have,” said GuideStar President and CEO Jacob Harold.

Data “helps us understand how nonprofits work, who they are, and their ability to be responsive to a community’s needs,” he said.

The voluntary program will appear as a new section within the GuideStar Exchange. “We’re adding another set of questions to something that’s already working well,” Harold said.

GuideStar Exchange provides recommended standards for organizations to voluntarily share information about the makeup of board members, staff and volunteers based on gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and ability/disability. Organizations enter the information into the free GuideStar Exchange or they can integrate standards into their own collection and reporting systems, such as surveys, assessments or client intake forms.

“The decision to track data is important. It gives us a currency, a baseline to have a public conversation about who’s doing well and why,” said Robert Raben, president of The Raben Group and founder of Green 2.0. “Ultimately the goal is not data, the goal is diversity,” said Raben. “Data is crucial…it gives us the shared currency,” he said, a shared understanding of exactly what the numbers represent.

Green 2.0 is an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity across mainstream environmental nonprofits, foundations and government agencies. Green 2.0 commissioned the report, “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” the most comprehensive report on diversity in the environmental movement.

“At a time when people of color are on average not even 5 percent of mainstream environmental NGO boards, it is clear that more must be done to address the overwhelmingly white ‘Green Insider’s Club,’” said Raben.

“A lack of reliable data has left foundations and nonprofits in the dark about the true impact of their work,” said Kelly Brown, director of the D5 Coalition. There are sporadic pockets of diversity tracking around the sector, she said, but a system-wide, high-level effort is a needed. “We need to understand how populations are changing and how and if organizations are changing with it,” she said. “These voluntary standards for reporting data can help organizations measure progress toward the goals they set, evaluate their impact on the constituencies they serve and, at the end of the day, be more effective,” Brown said.

In collaboration with the D5 Coalition, GuideStar developed data standards with a wide range of partners to advance transparent and uniform data collection about staff, board and volunteer demographics in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

Green 2.0 will collaborate with GuideStar and D5 to seek participation from environmental organizations in this diversity tracking effort.

Without sector-wide standards for how data on diversity are collected, nonprofits and foundations have had difficulty identifying trends, gaps, overlaps and opportunities, leaders said, adding that better diversity information across the sector will help foundations better understand their constituencies they work to help. Nonprofits will be better able to evaluate of the impact of their work and hold themselves accountable to their goals.

Foundation and nonprofit leaders voicing support for the new partnership include the Kresge Foundation, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Resource Media, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sierra Club, California Endowments, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.