The Why Behind DEI: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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Riley Randolph

One of the most prevalent conversations circling the nonprofit sector is the impact of the pandemic on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the country. Right behind COVID-19, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is the leading topic among a vast majority of funders. The most recent U.S. census report shows nearly 40% of the population is composed of minority individuals. With many of our nation’s citizens classified as minorities, coupled with the recent racially charged incidents plaguing our society, funders are beginning to look internally to change the world for the better. That is where we come into play.

What is DEI?

Diversity is defined as the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social groups, ethnic backgrounds, different genders, as well as sexual orientations. As nonprofits, the clientele you serve is uniquely different for your organization.

Equity is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. Within the past 18 months, we have seen funders particularly interested in the equity aspect of DEI. They are looking for projects or programs that allow historically marginalized groups of people to perform equally in comparison to the majority. Some funders will note in their Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) that they give priority or additional points in the scoring rubric to applicants whose project or program highlights DEI. An example of this would be the TD Ready Challenge application cycle that just closed. The foundation called for programs and projects that directly impacted students experiencing a learning loss in the face of COVID-19 due to factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.

Inclusion is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. The majority of NGOs have an anti-discrimination policy within their bylaws that holds the organization accountable. This accountability can be included in grant proposals to funders to leverage support for your program or project.

What Should I Be Tracking?

We’re here to answer the age-old question: What data should I be tracking? The answer is simple really, everything! Listed below are examples of DEI related topics that we’ve seen funders inquire about:

Demographics of Your Board:

More and more we are coming across applications that request an in-depth view of the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of an organization’s Board, staff, and more recently their Executive Director. Funders want to see not only if your Board and staff are diverse, but if their representation reflects the populations you serve.

Policies and Procedures: Many of the financial institutions are honing in on an organization’s DEI statements, bylaws, and other documentation that establishes a nonprofit’s ability to serve its clientele no matter their age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.

Demographics of the Populations You Serve: One of the most important steps an organization can take when preparing to write grants is to gather the demographics of the clients you serve. This is how you paint a picture for the funder of who you serve. Without demographics such as age, race, ethnicity, household income, and geographic location, you simply cannot convince a funder to provide support to your organization.

Local Community Data: It is imperative for organizations to keep local data on hand that is relevant to their mission. For example, if you are providing subsidized housing to low-income individuals, it might be your best interest to have an updated copy of your county’s rent limits to show the gap between your clientele’s average income and current rents in your area. Census data is also a great tool for organizations to have when preparing proposals, as it provides the writer with data related to the community they are writing for.

Demographics of the Executive Leadership Team, Staff, and Executive Director: More and more we are coming across applications that request an in-depth view into the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of an organization’s Board, staff, and more recently their Executive Director.

How Do I Include DEI in Grant Proposals?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a social justice organization to incorporate DEI within your grant applications. In fact, every proposal you submit should contain some form of information regarding DEI. Touching on DEI in proposals, especially when not directly requested, shows the funder that you are committed to change. It also demonstrates that you hold your organization to a higher standard. Here are three examples of how to better your eye for DEI:

  1. Target Population – Nearly every proposal you write will include a request for a description of the population you serve. This is where you can include the demographic data you have been recording. Be sure to include as much information as your character/word counts will allow, as you will make the application easier to comprehend for the reviewer.
  2. Organization Background/History – Here is an opportunity to include details about your DEI-related policies and procedures, staff training, and Board make-up. If applicable, load in or attach a copy of your organization’s DEI statement for reference!
  3. Statement of Need – The most important place for DEI to live in your application is the statement of need. By including local data, you will show the reviewer the problem you are trying to address and why your organization provides the best solution for the issue. To accurately define the problem, you will have to also think about the implications that DEI will have on the issue. Once identified, be sure to include how your organization is remedying the issue through the DEI lens.

Philanthropy is in the middle of a significant generational shift. Newly established donors, funders, and collaborators are now seeking to support organizations where the Board, staff, and clientele look like them. Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, nonprofits can continue to move the needle for the greater good, one life at a time!

By Riley Randolph, Grants Manager at Soukup Strategic Solutions

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