YW Boston and the Boston Foundation publish joint report on facilitating organizational change towards greater racial equity


Gender and racial disparities still pervade workplaces. National trends reveal that women, people of color, and especially women of color are underrepresented in leadership roles. The nonprofit sector is no exception. People of color have filled under 20% of executive director and CEO roles in the nonprofit sector for the past 15 years. These inequities are both harmful to employees and inefficient for employers. As staff increasingly leave their workplaces to search for fairer treatment, employers are left with the high cost of turnover. YW Boston is working to help individuals and organizations address that.


Facilitating organizational change diversity equity inclusion report InclusionBostonOver the past two years, YW Boston has had the incredible opportunity to partner with the Boston Foundation and a number of their grantees. The Boston Foundation funded ten nonprofits’ participation in InclusionBoston. Through the generous support of the Boston Foundation and the participation of this nonprofit cohort, YW Boston was able to extrapolate learnings that can benefit nonprofit leaders, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioners, funders, and anyone wanting to continue to engage in DEI work. As a result of this partnership, YW Boston and the Boston Foundation published Facilitating Organizational Change: Lessons from Nonprofit Participation in InclusionBoston.


The goal of our Facilitating Organizational Change report is to provide tools, learnings, and context through which individuals and organizations can begin or deepen their diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Specifically, this paper introduces the InclusionBoston model and explores the impact of this model on racial DEI within nonprofit organizations in the Greater Boston area. 


“For years, the nonprofit sector has grappled with a lack of diversity in leadership positions,” says Beth Chandler, President & CEO of YW Boston, in the report’s introductory letter. “Though many of the people served by nonprofit organizations are people of color, the leadership doesn’t reflect that. The Building Movement Project’s 2017 Race to Lead report shows that the percentage of people of color (POC) in executive director/CEO roles has remained under 20% for the last 15 years. Yet, 50% of POC aspire to leadership positions compared to 40% of their White counterparts.”


Beth continues, “We believe that there is enough evidence to show that if the nonprofit sector is truly committed to increasing racial diversity in leadership positions, then it must find ways to support cultural change within the sector. Leadership development programs may help, but as over twenty years of such programming shows, they will not alone make a marked difference. A new approach is needed, one that targets cultural change within organizations and the sector.”


“Despite our region’s changing demographics, the nonprofit sector continues to face a persistent racial leadership gap,” explains Jennifer W. Aronson, Associate Vice President for Programs for the Boston Foundation. “According to the 2017 Opportunity in Change report, 85% of Greater Boston leaders identify as White, in stark contrast to data from the 2019 Changing Faces of Greater Boston report, which demonstrates that people of color represent 32% of the Greater Boston’s and 56% of Boston’s population.”


Jennifer goes on to say, “This disparity is problematic for at least three reasons. First, as author and criminal justice reform champion Bryan Stevenson reminds us, those with firsthand experience of these challenges are the ones who can develop the best solutions. Second, as the disability justice movement teaches us, ‘nothing about us without us’ should be the guiding principle of our work. Last, the ‘business case’ for representative leadership is clear as we can see from published analyses—including from McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, and Forbes—that diverse teams drive innovation and lead to better decision-making. Although racial equity is both a moral and business imperative for our sector, if we are not intentional about disrupting the biases, practices, and policies that reinforce the racial leadership gap, we can only expect more of the same.”


The case studies enclosed in the Facilitating Organizational Change report provide a first-hand account of organizations’ challenges and triumphs in their diversity, equity, and inclusion work. We hope that, by reading them, others will identify opportunities and next steps for advancing DEI with their own organizations. YW Boston wishes to thank the many organizations that have participated in InclusionBoston as part of their diversity, equity, and inclusion journey. In particular, we want to thank the ten organizations featured in this report for their hard work and dedication, as well as the Boston Foundation’s generous funding of their participation.


Click here to download a copy of Facilitating Organizational Change: Lessons from Nonprofit Participation in InclusionBoston.





About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as through our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.


About InclusionBoston

InclusionBoston advances diversity, equity, and inclusion by partnering with organizations looking for improved results. Using our advanced assessment tool and the latest research on behavioral and organizational change, we partner with organizations to create an action plan and provide them with the resources needed to drive lasting change. Our customized, evidence-based approach builds internal capacity and promotes cultural change while supporting organizations throughout their journey.

Ready to unlock the power of diversity in the workplace? Click here to learn more about InclusionBoston and request your free consultation.


About the Boston Foundation

The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, seeks to bring the collective power of our region’s people and resources together to drive real change. Established in 1915, it is one of the largest community foundations in the nation—with net assets of $1.3 billion. In 2019, the Foundation received $151 million in contributions and the Foundation and its donors paid $153 million in grants to nonprofit organizations. The Foundation has many partners, including its donors, who have established more than 1,000 separate charitable funds for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. With support from the Annual Campaign for Civic Leadership, the Foundation also facilitates public discourse and action, commissions research into the most critical issues of our time and advocates for public policy that advances opportunity for everyone. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), a consulting unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. To learn more about the Foundation and its work, visit TBF.org.