Lack of Diversity Hinders Non-Profits’ Hiring and Retention

April 15, 2011 ( – A national study produced in partnership by Commongood Careers and Level Playing Field Institute reveals that perceived diversity and inclusiveness within non-profit organizations significantly affects both the recruitment process and the retention of employees.

According to The Voice of Nonprofit Talent: Perceptions of Diversity in the Workplace, more than half (57%) of the employees of all races said they attempt to evaluate the commitment to diversity of prospective organizations during the interview process—and this is especially true for prospective employees of color (71%).  

Ultimately, however, the actual diversity of an organization’s staff was by far the strongest indicator to nonprofit employees of that organization’s genuine commitment to diversity. According to the report, 90% of the survey sample believed that actual staff diversity is the number one indicator of an organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.  

Sixteen percent of the sample reported having withdrawn their candidacy or declined a job offer due to a perceived lack of diversity within the organization. More than one-third (35%) of the people of color who indicated that they examine diversity during the hiring process, reported having previously withdrawn candidacy or declined a job due to a perceived lack of diversity and inclusiveness.  

Respondents who had not previously declined a job, indicated they have learned from their experiences within non-diverse organizations and would place greater weight on diversity and inclusiveness in their future job searches. They also expressing with certainty that they would not hesitate to decline offers the next time they participate in the interviewing process, the report said.  

Of the employees in the study who reported having left an organization due to the lack of diversity and inclusiveness experienced within the organization – 64% were people of color.

All Talk and No Action?  

The study found a significant disconnect exists between the stated values and beliefs of non-profit organizations regarding the importance of racial diversity, and their attempts to proactively increase diversity and inclusiveness within their organizations. 

While almost nine out of 10 employees believe their organization values diversity, more than seven out of 10 reported their employer does not do enough to create a diverse and inclusive work environment.  

Among employees who believe their employers value diversity, only one-fourth believe that their organization has actively demonstrated their commitment to creating a racially diverse environment This disconnect was particularly evident among employees of color, who were more likely than were white employees to hold negative views of their organizations’ actions towards creating a racially diverse environment (25% compared to 16%). 

Two common themes emerged from the responses of employees who believed their organizations were not doing enough to create racially diverse environments: reliance on “empty talk” but not action and the lack of staff diversity itself.  

Employees highlighted the lack of follow-through, specifically in the lack of actionable practices in hiring, professional development, and designation of leadership roles to increase the inclusion of employees from racially diverse backgrounds. They believed that organizations talked about valuing diversity (and in some cases, they believed that the organizations genuinely did value diversity), but that these values were either not strategically implemented or not prioritized by management. 

Nonprofit employees also reported that diversity was put on the backburner when discussing budget priorities, developing strategies for recruitment, and focusing on deliverable goals.  

The report includes suggested strategies for making change. It is at