In 2020, every board we worked with was asking the same question – how do we as a board truly commit to racial equity and social justice? Last summer we wrote a post, “7 Actions Nonprofits Can Take to Be Anti-Racist Organizations” with some ideas that we have successfully implemented with clients. I’m so pleased that my colleagues and fellow allies – Carole Rylander, CFRE of Rylander AssociatesRachel Branaman, CEO of Talem Consulting; and Barbara Shelton, CFRE, VP of M. Gale & Associates – took on the challenge of creating a board workbook that goes even deeper. I asked Carole Rylander to write a guest blog to introduce it to our readers.

Philanthropy, the love of humankind, and service, putting another’s interests and needs ahead of your own, are inherent in the culture of nonprofit organizations. As a result, board and staff members who participate in this work are folks who genuinely want to do the “right” things.

However, in this time of heightened awareness of the need for board equity and inclusion, how can boards determine the “right” things to do? How can they increase their individual and collective knowledge about racism and the benefits of equity and inclusion? How can they honestly explore their systems and practices and then take the “right” actions to embrace equity and inclusion?

This is a complex endeavor, and there is no single path toward equity and inclusion for all boards. Speakers with expertise and articles with valuable information can get the process started. But, how can boards sustain a path to equity and inclusion where the conversation needs to be held – in the boardroom?

The “Building an Inclusive Board: Pathways for Education, Exploration and Action” guide was created as a result of a conversation Rachel Branaman, CEO of Talem Consulting, and I had at the end of 2020. We discussed the knowledge, tools and actions boards need to create inclusive cultures. And, we agreed that we hadn’t come across a comprehensive, user-friendly tool we could provide to our own clients for self-education, study and action.

So, Rachel, who has a breadth of experience working with organizations dismantling system of inequity, poured her vast knowledge and wisdom onto paper. We shaped that information into three sections – Education, Exploration and Action – each with many stand-alone sections and discussion questions. Then, Barbara Shelton, CFRE, VP of M. Gale & Associates, took this voluminous information and formatted it into a user-friendly guide.

The “Building an Inclusive Board” guide is available for your board to use – for free – because we believe this work is so very important to the efficacy of the nonprofit sector.

  • Start by reviewing the first sections about “How to Use This Guide” and “Who This Guide Is For.”
  • Then, send pages 6 – 8, “Benefits of Being Inclusive,” to your board as a pre-read. At your next board meeting, identify and discuss the specific benefits your organization could realize if equity and inclusion are strengthened.
  • Focus the next board discussion on the “Distinguishing Terms and Concepts” section. Use the questions on page 12 to stimulate a discussion and identify related actions.
  • Follow this conversation with the two-page, “Four Levels of Racism” section as a pre-read and pose the discussion questions at your next board meeting.


Dissect, discuss and use all 34 pages of this guide! Download it here. We are genuinely committed to helping nonprofit boards find paths toward greater equity and inclusion. The benefits are tremendous, and too much good is at stake to not take action!

As consultants and coaches, we exist to help organizations become the best version of themselves. Part of that work includes committing to continual learning and supporting clients in their efforts toward equity and inclusion. (At Social Impact Architects, we too are continually learning and affirming our commitment to equity and inclusion – see our equity statement here.) We hope you enjoy this amazing guide and will share how you use it to advance your equity efforts. And, if your organization is looking to go even deeper, we strongly encourage you to engage a specialist in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to work alongside you.


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