Inclusiveness and Cultural Competency

One challenge that we see with nonprofit organizations is the dangerous assumption that simply having a diverse board or staff is synonymous with demonstrating inclusiveness. Diversity is but one initial step toward a true philosophy of including wide-ranging values, practices, and voices in your work–and ensuring that power is shared by those affected by your programs, throughout both your organization and the community you serve.

RMA considers both inclusivity and cultural competency to be the cornerstones of a true participatory democracy, and by extension, a fundamental priority for nonprofits to build cohesive and representative forms of leadership no matter what mission they are engaged in.  In the absence of inclusiveness as a fundamental practice, the nonprofit sector is prone to create and perpetuate systems of dependency in which those with access to privilege and access define the reality of ‘others’ who have been historically disenfranchised without their input, self interest or brilliance represented.  The absence of diversity in the sector is both entrenched and compounded because this very cycle of dependency recreates conditions in which certain people have and continue to be under-represented.

With all of RMA’s clients, we work to position cultural competency as a strategic and organizational priority such that it is integrated and identified within all aspects of our consulting, be it strategic planning, board development or executive searches.

Sometimes when we discover that cultural competency is simply not an organizational priority, we have to be delicate but assertive in helping executives and boards to recognize the value of diversity as not only the ‘right’ thing to do but also an issue of pragmatism and bottom line outcomes. We gently remind clients that if they plan to be relevant and fundable, cultural competency must become a demonstrated priority.

The most simple strategy to realize the value of cultural competency is to create authentic and intentional conditions in which your community stakeholders share power no matter their location. Once the conditions of cultural competency are set in motion, nonprofits begin to recognize that they are ultimately better off and true stewards of community resources when they share power with their constituents.

If your nonprofit has neglected this important aspect either in spirit or in practice, here is a generic non-discrimination statement and policy that could at least open the conversation with your board and management staff. Different organizations will want to customize this language to reflect the communities they serve, and will need to pursue unique steps to make the policy real. There is much more to embracing inclusiveness throughout your work than adopting a document as policy, of course, but such a document can at least open the door to considerations for change and improvement in 2011.

As a minimum, you should have such a document approved by your board, and prospective funders (especially public sector entities) may ask for both a copy as well as its date of adoption.

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Non-Discrimination Statement and Policy

Adopted by the Board of Directors on [ DATE ]

[ NONPROFIT ] does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.

[ NONPROFIT ] is an equal opportunity employer. We will not discriminate and will take affirmative action measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Anti-Harassment Policy

We are committed in all areas to providing a work environment that is free from harassment. Harassment based upon an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion or any other legally protected characteristics will not be tolerated. All employees, including supervisors and other management personnel, are expected and required to abide by this policy. No person will be adversely affected in employment with our organization as a result of bringing complaints of unlawful harassment.

Sexual harassment is behavior of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and offensive to the person or persons it is targeted toward. Examples of harassing behavior may include unwanted physical contact, foul language of an offensive sexual nature, sexual propositions, sexual jokes or remarks, obscene gestures, and displays of pornographic or sexually explicit pictures, drawings, or caricatures. Use of our computer system for the purpose of viewing, displaying, or disseminating material that is sexual in nature may also constitute harassing behavior.

Reporting Harassment

If an employee feels that he or she has been harassed on the basis of his or her sex, sexual orientation, race, national origin, ethnic background, or any other legally protected characteristic they should immediately report the matter to his or her supervisor. If that person is not available, or if the employee feels it would be unproductive to inform that person, the employee should immediately contact that supervisor’s superior or human resources. Once the matter has been reported it will be promptly investigated and any necessary corrective action will be taken where appropriate. All complaints of unlawful harassment will be handled in as discreet and confidential a manner as is possible under the circumstances. The procedure for reporting incidents of harassing behavior is not intended to impair, replace, or limit the right of any employee to seek a remedy under available state or federal law by immediately reporting the matter to the appropriate state or federal agency.

Disciplinary Measures for Harassment

Any employee engaging in improper harassing behavior will be subject to disciplinary action, including the possible termination of employment. Not every instance of harassing behavior will warrant immediate termination, but some may.

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1 Comment

  1. Linda
    December 30, 2010

    Great article, thank you!

    One point I’ve seen as an issue is that groups may think policies are irrelevant to the work as they are just starting up. The point is particularly often raised as far as the employment implications are concerned, since some groups begin as small bands of volunteers — who can’t even bear to imagine one day meeting in an office or having staff on board. And yet I think that inclusiveness is something that needs to be part of our thinking from day one. At least opening up a discussion seems as if it would be worth while and just not letting ourselves get hung up on adopting the policy straightaway.

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