Nonprofit Sector Needs to Recruit and Promote Leaders of Color, Report Finds

From left to right_ Michael James of Old Colony YMCA, Imari Paris Jeffries of Parenting Journey, Cassie Scarano of Commongood Careers (ceo and co-founder), Celina Miranda executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force and Jocelyn Sarg\Nonprofit leaders were asked to take an inward look at their sector to analyze why its leadership is not representative of the communities they serve.

Representatives from the Building Movement Project spoke about data they collected on this sector at a forum at The Boston Foundation headquarters on April 2.

National data and Boston data show that people of color want to lead, are qualified to lead, but do not feel supported in their sector.

Michael James, senior vice president of HR at the Old Colony YMCA, said those of color often seek mentorship and support outside of their organizations. He stressed that it is important for people of color to be at the leadership table.

“As far as original will and sponsorship, are there people speaking on my behalf when I’m not in the room? That doesn’t happen with people of color,” James said.

Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Parenting Journey,  said the sector itself is making it hard for people of color to want to work for nonprofits since starting wages are low.

“We are contributing to this poverty that many of the folks that we’re serving are living in. If I’m a first generation college grad, why would I want to come to our sector?” he said.

Hyams Foundation’s executive director, Jocelyn Sargent, said the narrative around diversity needs to change to highlight why people of color in leadership roles are an asset to nonprofits.

“We’re not valuing the lived experience as a particular way to bring about effective change,” Sargent said.

Sargent said the conversation can start by acknowledging those organizations that actively sought out people of color, particularly when it comes to philanthropy.

“Do make it very clear that that is part of why they are getting funded,” she said, “to validate that we see it and want to support you for that.”

Data from the report can be read here at  

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.