[Editor’s Note: On October 22, the Council hosted a “Leadership Conversation on Diversity and Inclusion in Philanthropy.” The convening brought together more than 50 foundation and nonprofit leaders, trustees, and search firm executives to discuss a newly released report—Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership. The event also included a panel discussion and participant Q &A. In the third in a series of posts about the convening, John Morning, a panelist and trustee of Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and trustee emeritus of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund offers his personal view on the importance of and need for diverse boards in philanthropy.]
I am a black professional who has spent 40 years on nonprofit boards in higher education, the arts, philanthropy and other fields.
In my view, we cannot have more black CEO’s at institutions until there are more diverse boards making the choices for leadership. No greater obstacle to hiring ‘minorities’ exists than the boards empowered to choose them — or not, as in most cases.
Boards without black members are simply less likely to know such candidates and more likely to hire in their own image: individuals with similar views, experience and outreach. We need to have more black trustees and directors in order to promote change and engage CEO’s, black or white, for whom diversity is a true priority. We know how critical CEO’s are; no organization moves toward racial fairness at any level without their explicit, overt support.
This lack of democracy in our boardrooms isn’t just a human deficit, it is a veritable brain drain that discourages black professional skills, civic commitment, cultural insight and, yes, even funds in this time of financial scarcity.
Why should philanthropy and all its forms be deprived by not including the abilities of all people? Diverse boards are better boards for having a greater range of experience; being open to less hidebound thinking and ways of doing things; and gaining far more insight to the services and people for whom we come together.