President's Message: Walking the Talk of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

4 minute read

Jeanne Canina Tedrow, President & CEO, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits

I begin my second year at the Center as we continue in our second year on our “Walking the Talk” journey. The initiative’s core goals are to improve the capacity of nonprofits to address: the sector’s racial leadership gap; the sector’s generational leadership gap; and the policies, practices, and organizational cultures in nonprofits that exacerbate these gaps.

During the Center’s strategic planning process a year ago, we made our work in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) a commitment and priority as a board, staff, and organization. In so doing, we agreed that we would: first, take a look at our own inventory – our policies and practices – and make the necessary changes to be more reflective of our commitment; and second, offer outreach opportunities through webinars, educational tools, on-site training, coaching, and shared learning to our members and constituents across the state and beyond.

I would like to share a summary of our journey, steps we have taken, and challenges we see (we’ll continue the updates on our progress and encourage your journey along the way.) As we looked at all the possibilities for program offerings for the year, we looked inward. We committed resources to hire an outside consultant to walk with our board and staff on our journey over the next fifteen months. To support our work more deeply, our board of directors agreed to participate in the full process and, toward that end, formed an EDI Committee that will work directly with our consultant throughout the process.

The committee has already solicited and reviewed requests for proposals from equity consultants and selected Alexa Broderick, founder and principal consultant of The Equity Paradigm, to guide us on our way. “Alexa specializes in helping individuals and organizations better understand themselves, their experiences, and their work through a lens of equity, while helping them hone and develop critical mindsets and practices that can be used to interrupt oppressive systems, implicit biases, and behaviors that perpetuate inequity.” We’ll share with you our lessons learned as we go.
At our August board meeting, our EDI Committee Chair, Ivan Canada, alongside the Center’s Program Director, Bridgette Burge, led us in a transformational sharing exercise. Pair Share/Turn and Talk invited each person to pick a partner and share how we identify racially and ethnically, and when and where we became aware of our racial identity(ies). This simple exercise helped open us up to think in new ways about ourselves and better see the people with whom we work. We are not a ‘color-blind’ society, and this exercise helped us see race in self-identified, positive ways. We took the time to share what might have been difficult, what encourages/discourages us from talking about race, and why it is important for the board to become comfortable having these conversations. Ivan also shared a short video that helped us “de-bunk the myth of race.” 

Another step in our 'walk' was to invite equity experts together to share information and begin to look at ways to collaborate across the state to meet organizations where they are on this continuum, create training opportunities, and encourage nonprofits to use these experts to identify and meet the needs of their organizations. Through this cadre of experts, we hope to identify ways and means for this valuable service, especially among local, community, and statewide foundations that are using an equity lens in building capacity for the organizations they support. As funders focus on this important issue and begin integrating EDI as a key component of capacity building, we hope these values will become the norm.

We believe that all organizational programming, policies, and processes can – and should – be viewed through the lens of EDI. We believe that our sector is stronger when it reflects the communities we serve and when opportunities for executive leadership are available to all. Soon we’ll share our updated Principles & Practices for Effective Nonprofits in which we’ve integrated EDI as a benchmark for management excellence.

It’s true that “it’s inevitable”; that leadership will transition. Thanks to the Building Movement Project, we recognize that over the past twenty years, the needle has not moved for executive succession among people of color, and in some ways, the gap has widened. Through Walking the Talk, we hope to encourage our sector to look at the ceiling we maintain and consider new measures to open it up. As the saying goes, if we continue to do things the way we always have, we will continue to achieve the same results. The Center’s challenge and focus is to approach succession planning and strengthening the bench with specialized training with the EDI lens, and we hope to see different results over the next five years.
With organizations at different points on their EDI journeys, we hope to elevate tools and encourage all to move along their paths in ways that allow their personal progress. In as much, the Center will continue to develop new EDI webinars and training, and make available past trainings. One organization at a time, learning together, we will move the needle. 

There is much work to be done, and creating a culture for change, with intention to embrace change, will help us begin to build equitable, diverse, and inclusive organizations and communities. We invite you to join us on this journey, and welcome your feedback and ideas along the way.

Explore more on your own:
AWAKE to WOKE to WORK: Building a Race Equity Culture, Equity in the Center
Insights, tactics, and practices social sector organizations can and have used to measurably shift organizational culture, operationalize equity, and move from a dominant organizational culture to a Race Equity Culture.

Race: The Power of an Illusion, PBS
Documentary series. Dowload the discussion guide for deep conversation with your board and staff.  
SURJ Political Education, Showing Up for Racial Justice
Political education tools, including a template for a 2-hour workshop groups can lead themselves to help understand institutional and structural racism.


Equity, Diversity, Inclusion
Human Resources
Organizational Development
Program Design, Management, & Evaluation
Succession Planning