Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Critical in Nonprofit Executive Recruitment

Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Critical in Nonprofit Executive Recruitment

Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Critical in Nonprofit Executive Recruitment

In the world of nonprofit organizations, where missions are often centered around creating positive change and addressing societal challenges and inequities, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be overstated. The composition of an organization’s executive team plays a critical role in shaping its values, decision-making processes, and overall impact and a diverse leadership team helps an organization enact and embody DEI values. By embracing diversity and inclusion in nonprofit executive recruitment, organizations can unlock a wealth of perspectives, experiences, and talents to push them toward greater success and societal impact.

A Review of DEI in the Workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are described in an article by McKinsey & Company, as “three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.”

Diversity in the workplace often focuses on gender diversity, age diversity, ethnic diversity, physical ability, neurodiversity, and much more.

Equity is the fair treatment of all people. In the workplace, that means all organizational practices and policies guarantee fair treatment, access, and opportunity, and that also means one’s identity and associated barriers are not a predictive indicator of one’s career trajectory. Equity strives to eliminate these barriers and acknowledges that we do not all start from the same point. Not to be confused with equality, wherein all people should be treated equally, equity considers an individual’s unique personal circumstances and adjusts accordingly to make the result equal.

Inclusion in the workplace refers to how organizations embrace all employees and empower them to make meaningful contributions. In inclusive cultures, all team members feel their voices are heard and respected. When an organization is not inclusive, it quickly follows that individuals feel othered and as if they are “the only,” and this has been shown to result in a higher likelihood of experiencing microaggressions.

When executive teams are comprised of individuals from divergent backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, they bring forth a diverse range of perspectives and insights and are more open to the ideas of others. This has the happy effect of fostering an environment that encourages and supports the exploration of new ideas, approaches, and strategies.

Having a variety of viewpoints challenges the status quo and enables nonprofits to identify fresh solutions to complex problems in ways that benefit both the cause they serve and their employees. By embracing diversity in executive leadership, nonprofits can access the creative power that comes from collaboration among individuals with distinct perspectives and skill sets.

Community Representation

To effectively fulfill their missions of uplifting and serving communities all over the world, it is imperative that nonprofit organizations have executive teams that reflect and understand the diverse communities they serve. There is a reason for people to say that representation matters. It does. Intrinsically. When nonprofit executives share common experiences and backgrounds with those they serve, they are better equipped to understand community needs, build genuine trusting relationships, and bring about change that is meaningful and specific, addressing an acute need rather than the idea a disengaged executive would like to say they worked on. Through inclusive executive recruitment, nonprofits can better bridge the gap between themselves and the communities they aim to empower.

Improved Organizational Performance

Organizations with strong diversity, equity, and inclusion have been shown to outperform homogeneous ones. By including individuals with different perspectives and backgrounds, nonprofit organizations can tap into a broader range of skills, knowledge, and experiences. Diversity in skills and expertise enables organizations to effectively navigate complex challenges, make informed decisions, and adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. Equity in opportunities available and opinions expressed empowers individuals to make their voices heard, leading to innovative ideas and solutions. Inclusive executive recruitment aids organizations in attracting and retaining top talent at all hiring levels, as it sends a clear message of what matters to the organization, which can result in a more positive experience for all involved. As any organization knows, a staff that feels engaged, respected, and safe is able to create the greatest impact.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is critical in all nonprofit operations, where these relationships are relied upon to advance the mission and garner support. By prioritizing DEI in executive recruitment, organizations demonstrate their commitment to representing and engaging diverse stakeholders and communities in a real, tangible way. It is critical for stakeholders and community members to see themselves reflected in the organization’s decision-making processes and priorities and by those who are in positions of influence. Inclusivity fosters trust, strengthens relationships, and enhances collaboration between nonprofits and stakeholders. Through engaging a wide array of perspectives, a broader network of support and resources can be tapped into, and by using equitable practices, communities can be lifted in a self-sustaining way. These values must also extend all the way up to the Board of Directors, who are frequently involved in recruiting new organizational executives, and thereby one of the first opportunities to ensure that DEI is at the front and center of all discussions.

Culture of Inclusion

When diverse leaders occupy top positions, it sends a powerful message internally to the staff and externally to the world that all voices are valued and heard. Such messages have a way of permeating organizational culture, and creating an environment where everyone feels safe, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives. In addition to attracting top talent, inclusive work cultures improve employee satisfaction and retention and open up new opportunities for collaboration and innovation, all of which lend themselves to a cycle of positive change.


Diversity Equity and Inclusion are not merely buzzwords but essential pillars of effective nonprofit executive recruitment. By embracing diversity, organizations unlock innovation, offer a greater representation of communities served, enhance performance, increase engagement, and foster cultures of inclusivity and respect. Having leaders that champion equity and inclusion are critical to workplace culture, feelings of satisfaction, and support from team members. Nonprofit work is challenging in so many ways. Having a strong emphasis on DEI, with policies and procedures to back it up, will help your organization to recruit more inclusive leaders who emphasize equity, making team members feel seen, heard, and cared for.

Here at Scion Executive Search, we live by our DEI values. We know that diverse teams are more than just a strength—they are essential for success. We aim to collaborate with our clients in every way possible to help promote and ensure the application, interview, and hiring processes are thoughtfully inclusive, equitable, and beneficial for all. As partners, our team is willing to ask tough questions so that we can provide best practice recommendations. Our ability to recruit diverse talent pools for every role is one of the leading reasons clients choose Scion and engage our search services! Our diverse recruiting methods focus on two main goal areas: diverse candidate pool creation and strategic recruiting; and running an equitable, fair, and unbiased search and interview process. Contact us today to learn how we can partner with your organization to find your next executive-level leader!

About the Author

Bailey Olderog, Technical Writer (she/her/hers)

Bailey Olderog brings her passion for storytelling and language to her role as technical writer at Scion Executive Search (SES). She is dedicated to telling the stories of others, and it has been her lifelong effort to make contributions that ensure that even the quietest of voices are heard.

Bailey has spent most of her career in service to those who serve. Her extensive public sector experience includes ghostwriting for elected officials and military generals, authoring investigations and public reports, and bringing a voice and audience to those without a platform. She believes language is an art and enjoys using language to advocate for others in ways that are professional, clear, and respectful.

Veterans’ mental health and support have been the guiding star in her career; Bailey volunteers at and has extensively advocated for veteran organizations in her native Texas. She has spent over a decade researching PTSD in veterans, using her research and connections to advocate for positive change and support for military families. She has written extensively on behalf of service members in need of assistance, as well as for military leaders seeking authentic ways to connect with their personnel. She has organized events and supported advocacy efforts for organizations such as Gideons 300 and Texas Veteran County Service Officers. On a nice day, you can often find her volunteering at a park or trail cleanup.

Bailey received her degree in political science from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where she also minored in studio art.