What is the sustainability case?

An organization’s health, success, and longevity – that is, it’s sustainability – is more achievable when it invests time and resources to become more diverse and inclusive and pays explicit attention to advancing equity inside the organization and in the communities with which it works and serves.

Many nonprofits feel ethically and morally compelled to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and some even feel that this is necessary for achieving positive health, education, economic, and other outcomes. At the same time, many still hesitate to invest substantial funds and time toward becoming more diverse, inclusive, and equitable fearing that it may not generate favorable organizational outcomes, that the change will not be measurable, and that it will negatively impact their bottom line.

On the contrary, why should nonprofits invest in becoming more diverse, inclusive, and equitable as a strategic and operational imperative?

  1. As our society continues to become more diverse in all kinds of ways, nonprofit organizations must remain relevant and responsive to the communities they serve. Improving the capacity to understand the strengths and needs of communities that have been “invisible” and excluded and tailor strategies and programs that amplify their voices and treat them with fairness, dignity, and respect while being responsive to their needs will maximize your organization’s reach and impact.
  2. Nonprofit organizations must be able to sustain a diverse workforce. As the United States’ population continues to diversify, workforce diversity has also increased. Nonprofit organizations must develop a culture of equity and inclusion capable of sustaining a diverse workforce.

Where is the evidence?

The YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) partnered with Community Science to co-create a research-informed and experience-based sustainability case for increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity at local Ys, focusing on equitable hiring practices, organizational policies, and treatment of staff.

Our cross-case study of 10 local Ys and systematic review of the literature revealed that increasing diversity and inclusion and practicing equity improved four interdependent components that support sustainability:

  • Financial and fundraising growth (e.g., donor and funder growth)
  • Quality products, services, and programs (e.g., membership growth, effective programming)
  • Personnel and organizational wellbeing (e.g., recruitment and retention of diverse staff, psychological safety of diverse staff)
  • Social responsibility (e.g., community trust, mission alignment)

Want to learn more? Come join us at AEA Evaluation 2023.

At the American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference, Evaluation 2023: The Power of Story, we, Marissa Salazar, PhD, Amber Trout, PhD, and Ashlee Bledsoe, PhD will present, “Sustainability case for increasing diversity: A membership-based organization approach to advancing equity through leadership development research” on Wednesday, October 11th, 2023 at 5:30PM-7PM ET at Griffin Hall. We will discuss:

  • Detailed sustainability outcomes, including rich narratives about how increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity promoted local Ys’ organizational sustainability
  • Research-informed and experience-based best practices for increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity within nonprofits, including top resources
  • Key lessons learned from Ys on how to sustain efforts for more diversity, inclusion and equity in nonprofit organizations, including how to start or build on your equity strategy and plan

We hope to see you there! Click here to find our presentation.