While awareness about gender and racial bias has been growing in nonprofits and foundations, particularly over the past 30 years, the leadership of those organizations has primarily remained white, straight and male. One foundation has been steadily fighting to change that, though, and now, its fight is more important than ever.
Third Wave Fund has been around for over 25 years, and is celebrating its 20-year anniversary as a foundation. The fund was founded by Rebecca Walker, daughter of renowned writer Alice Walker, and Dawn Lundy Martin, Catherine Gund, and Amy Richards, who recognized the extreme underfunding of grassroots feminist activism, and set out to remedy this funding gap.
You work in a nonprofit that supports strengthening diversity and being conscious of race and gender bias, and yet you feel discriminated against year after year, as you are bypassed for promotions and other career advancement opportunities. It’s a familiar story for many LGBTQ people of color, and now a new report has come out that fills a big research gap — the lack of data on leadership of LGBTQ people of color in the nonprofit industry.
“It was tough being one of a couple staff people of color in an LGBTQ organization. I would see things others didn’t and I would name it. That was sometimes really difficult for my superiors to hear,” said a multiracial transgender respondent quoted in the study.
The report, Working at the Intersections: LGBTQ Staff and the Nonprofit Leadership Gap, was recently released by the Building Movement Project (BMP), which is fiscally sponsored by Third Sector New England, which recently changed its name to TSNE MissionWorks. BMP started as a collective of 20 people working in small nonprofits who came together in 1999 in order to maximize impact with up-to-date analysis on issues related to social justice and nonprofit operating practices. BMP was originally housed at the Hauser Center for Nonprofits at Harvard, and moved to Demos in 2003.
This LGBTQ-focused report builds on the recent release of Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, which BMP released last month along with unveiling a new website, Racetolead.org, which serves as a new online hub for knowledge and action on the racial leadership gap in nonprofits.
One of the key findings of the study is that most LGBTQ people of color see racial discrimination as the primary barrier to advancement toward leadership positions. Twice as many survey respondents identified race as negatively impacting on their careers compared to sexual orientation, according to the study’s findings.
This finding informs the report’s recommendations that nonprofit agencies take a primary focus on race, in order to lay the groundwork for the organization to begin addressing issues of anti-LGBTQ bias. The report also recommends that funders and nonprofits adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexuality and gender identity, and establish systems for monitoring and addressing discrimination.