How to make your Nonprofit more Welcoming to People of Color

So…. you think your workplace is inclusive

So, you’ve got lots of people of color on your board

and in your nonprofit leadership

and everyone listens to people of color and women as much as men.

When you DO hire people of color or LGBT people, do they tend not to stay too long?

OR maybe your workplace is not inclusive and welcoming of people of color.

Maybe it goes beyond your workplace, to your entire city, or even your entire state.

Really? An entire state can be non-inclusive? Unwelcoming to people of color and LGBT people? And women?

Yep. Welcome to Oregon!


You think that I joke?

I do not. But even if you do not live in Oregon, I think you might find the next piece useful.


Recently I met a lovely person named Leann Johnson, diversity manager at the Oregon Health Authority Office of Equity and Inclusion. We met at a fundraising event, and she shared with me the concept of microaggressions, which I had never heard of before.

What ARE microaggressions?

According to Derald Wing Sue, “the term racial microaggressions, was first coined by psychiatrist Chester Pierce, MD, in the 1970s. But the concept is also rooted in the work of Jack Dovidio, Ph.D. (Yale University) and Samuel Gaertner, Ph.D. (University of Delaware) in their formulation of aversive racism – many well-intentioned Whites consciously believe in and profess equality, but unconsciously act in a racist manner, particularly in ambiguous situations.

Racial microaggressions are the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally (“You speak good English.”), nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots)”

Bottom line: Micro-aggressions are everyday slights, indignities, put-downs that people of color, LGBT people and women have.

They often appear to be a compliment but they contain another communication or a hidden insult to the people they are delivered. (Here’s a longer article by Darald Wing Sue on this.)

People who deliver these think they are good people. They are outside the level of conscious awareness of the perpetrator.

So how can you make your workplace more welcoming and inclusive, respectful of people of color, women, and LGBTQ people?

Watch these this video

Now what can you do?

I know this topic leaves more questions than answers. Like,

How do people of color cope with the daily onslaught of racial microaggressions?

Are some coping strategies better than others?

How do we help perpetrators to become aware of microaggressions?

What are the best ways to prevent them at an individual, institutional and societal level?

I don’t have these answers, but Darald Wing Sue has two books you might like to check out:

Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation and

Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics and Impact

Here are three more links you might like to check out:

MENTORSHIP and access to hidden networks is important to help us get more cultural diversity in positions of leadership

And here’s what Krishan Mehta is doing in the Toronto AFP on diversity and inclusion in philanthropy

And here’s what a hospital is doing to foster diversity and inclusion

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