How To Use DEI Training To Diversify Your Nonprofit Board


Nonprofit board training ensures that your board members are on the same page about important matters, values, strategies, and systems. That way, they can more effectively serve your nonprofit and your community as a whole. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training is particularly important, as your board cannot know what the interests of your community are if the members do not look like your community. To help you examine what your board currently looks like and determine how to prioritize diversity moving forward, we made this guide to diversity on nonprofit boards.

Let’s go! 

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What Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Before examining the how-tos of DEI training, let’s start by defining each concept in the acronym and tying it back to nonprofit organizations and their boards. 


A diverse board demonstrates your belief that anyone, regardless of race, gender, culture, life experience, or sexual orientation, can be trusted with high-level decision making. It also ensures that your nonprofit acts as a microcosm of the community it serves, and even the world at large.


Your board should have an understanding of how systemic inequalities affect both your nonprofit and your community. Incorporating an equity framework takes more than just saying the right things, however; intent and action must predominate. Individuals from other overrepresented groups may need to forego some opportunities to intentionally make room for the underrepresented groups on the board. 


You can demonstrate inclusion by fostering an environment that welcomes all. If you focus on inclusion, most anyone is going to feel comfortable involving themselves in your nonprofit’s work by attending events, volunteering, or otherwise supporting your mission. As a result, your mission itself may even grow to impact a wider network of beneficiaries.


Why Is a Diverse Board Important?

An organization’s board should represent the community it serves; it should reflect the diverse group of individuals that comprise it. That way, the board is better in touch with the community’s issues and needs. 

dei-training-for-nonprofit-boards-why-its-importantNancy knows diversity leads to a strong board!

This diversity also plays into decision making. With a variety of perspectives, you are able to come at a problem from every angle to land on an innovative solution.

Pro Tip: If you currently lack a diverse board, then you may need to look in new places for recruitment. Go beyond internal networks, and approach your volunteers or the outspoken advocates in your community. See if any of them would like to help your organization lay a foundation of diversity. 


Before the DEI Nonprofit Board Training

As you begin your DEI journey, your board members need to look inward. Let’s take a look at some questions that can facilitate this self-reflection. 

Examine Your Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is an association, belief, or attitude toward any social group that is automatic and unintentional. By its very nature, this type of bias is insidious and difficult to root out. To identify and address implicit bias within your board, have each member ask themself these questions: 

  • What privileges do I have that others do not?

  • Do I interact with people who have different life experiences than me?

  • Do I have conversations about anti-racism and other social issues?

  • Do my unconscious biases manifest into microaggressions?

Look at the Board’s Current State

Now, it is time to examine your current board as a whole. Here are some questions that you can use to start this conversation: 

  • What gaps in identities, skills, and perspectives exist in our current board?

  • What specific practices are we using to recruit board candidates from diverse backgrounds?

  • How would we explain our diversity efforts to our community? 

  • Does everyone in our organization from the CEO down know what our diversity goals are?

Pro Tip: It is always helpful to get an outside perspective when it comes to matters of diversity and inclusion. You can hire a diversity consultant to evaluate your practices. From there, they can provide you with feedback on how to better align your practices with your intentions. 


The DEI Nonprofit Board Training

Your organization can choose to either prepare an internal training internally or use a third-party firm. There are benefits and pitfalls to both. 

In-House Training

With an in-house workshop, you can tailor it directly to your organization and conduct it in a familiar and comfortable environment. You are also able to set the schedule, which makes it far easier to get the whole team together. 


  • Has a personalized agenda

  • Costs less than hiring an outside consultant

  • Does not share internal data


  • Requires more preparation on the personnel’s part

  • May not have the necessary expertise on your board or in your organization

Outsourced Training

Outsourced training, especially in the case of diversity, equality, and inclusion, can offer fresh perspectives from a firm that specializes in this topic. In many cases, the facilitator hosts the session in a neutral environment that eliminates distractions.

dei-training-for-nonprofit-boards-the-trainingTo outsource, or not to outsource...that is the question, Oliver.


  • Can cost more than simply preparing an in-house presentation

  • Offers DEI expertise

  • Reduces the workload of in-house personnel


  • Gives you less control over the format, agenda, and location

  • Not as personalized to the organization’s culture


After the DEI Nonprofit Board Training

Following the DEI training, you have to take steps to implement a diversity roadmap — or improve it if you already have one. Here are some potential action items.

Form a Diversity Committee

Forming a board committee to directly address and oversee diversity issues within your organization and board is an act of good faith that you are making this topic a priority. 

Set Diversity Goals

Your committee should draft actionable goals for where it wants the board and organization to be in the coming months, quarters, and years. For example, maybe you set a goal to have two women of color on the board by the start of the next fiscal year.

Make Your Commitment Public

Once you have hammered out these goals, document them on your website. This alerts your stakeholders to your intent, which can hold you more accountable. 

Modify Your Appointment Tactics

Unless your board is already diverse, you have to change your appointment process. As we discussed earlier in this article, this may mean that you have to cast a wider net into other networks with underrepresented individuals. 

Pro Tip: Racial equity is one of the biggest areas where nonprofit boards struggle. To find people of color for your board, start with faculty and staff members at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

Seek Diverse Partnerships

Take your diversity goals to the next level by seeking out partnerships with other organizations or businesses that also prioritize diversity. For example, if you are looking for a corporate sponsor for your next fundraising event, look at companies that agree with your values. This is just one way you can put your money where your mouth is.

dei-training-for-nonprofit-boards-after-trainingSadie is feeling great about her board's DEI training!

Measure Your Diversity Goals

The last step in your DEI journey is to measure the goals that you have set for yourself. Check in every month, quarter, and year to determine if you are on track. If you find that your board is falling short, your diversity committee can reconvene to come up with adjustments. 


Final Thoughts

No nonprofit operates in a vacuum. Every single one is part of a greater community. If your board does not acknowledge that by taking steps to properly represent its community, then your organization cannot grow. Do not let a lack of diversity be the reason you fail.

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💡Why should nonprofit boards be diverse?

A nonprofit board should represent the diverse community it serves. That way, it understands how to best help its members. Find out more. 

🔑 What is DEI training?

DEI is an acronym for diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI training is intended to help your board understand how to govern with these values in mind. Find out more. 

📝 How can nonprofit boards increase their diversity?

There are any number of topics that nonprofit board training can cover, including meeting planning, diversity and inclusion, networking, and crisis management. Find out more.


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