Our Equity Story

Taking Action for Equity

July 2021 marks the start of a new fiscal year for CNE. As we shift to FY22, we offer here a reflection on CNE’s journey so far to center equity in our organization and our programs, with related resources we’ve found valuable in our work that we hope will help you with yours.

Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) builds communities by strengthening nonprofits – which are in the business themselves of building strong, healthy, and just communities.  And yet how can we as a social impact sector be about building more just communities if we don’t center who we are and what we do in equity?

That’s the question we at CNE asked ourselves back in the fall of 2017 which led to the development of a strategic initiative focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). With our DEI Steering Committee of board and staff leading the effort, we’ve been hard at work on that initiative, and we’re making measured and steady progress.

Our DEI strategy has three pillars all of which are grounded in our Equity Commitment which calls us to commit to our work with humility, intention, transparency, and hope. For more information about how our Equity Commitment came to be, check out that part of our story.

Build an equity-based culture at CNE

This work started with board and staff affirmation of DEI as a strategic priority, and a DEI organizational self-assessment with 100% board and staff participation. It also has included:

  • Introduction of DEI line item in annual budget, and commitment to incorporating equity learning and strategy into all board meetings
  • Robust board and staff participation in formal equity trainings and ongoing individual and group learning
  • Full internal review of policies and practices through an equity lens (and continued changes to our policies and practices as we deepen our understanding of equity)

For more information on CNE’s DEI journey, and resources as you consider yours, take a look at how DEI became apart of our budget.

To learn more about the changes CNE made to our communications strategy and practices after a DEI review, check out this update. 

Support our members and the sector in their pursuit of an equity-based culture

This is our strategic commitment to support other nonprofits seeking to understand and embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion as an organizational priority. Here are examples of this commitment in action:

  • Embedded equity into our annual Philanthropy Day event—a community celebration of giving – by making the event more accessible and offering themes, topics, speakers, and learning experiences that bring issues of equity to the forefront
  • Offered 55 hours of workshops, panel discussions, and advanced trainings on race and equity, LGBTQ+ issues, leading for inclusive culture, and addressing organizational inequity with associated resources & referrals to equity consultants
  •  Facilitation of 2 Charlottesville Racial & Ethnic History Bus Tours for nonprofit staff

Support a leadership pipeline of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) within the sector

An identified challenge for the social impact sector is that staff and boards of nonprofits do not reflect the communities they serve. We aim to prioritize and provide targeted support to BIPOC individuals within the sector.

  • Facilitation of Further Together convenings for area BIPOC leaders to identify common challenges and explore opportunities for collective action
  • Provide scholarships to BIPOC within the sector for CNE leadership development programs (e.g. Emerging Leaders, Leadership Circles, and Board Academy)
  • Provide consulting and technical assistance support to emerging Black Empowerment Coalition and explore, with BIPOC feedback, the creation of a BIPOC program for and by leaders of color within the sector.

If you’d like to learn more about the BIPOC program under development, please visit our Leaders of Color Circle page.

Our story is still being written. We are listening and learning as we write each chapter. Like many nonprofits, we experience a tension between executing successfully on our programs and services and allocating appropriate resources to advance our equity work in a healthy and impactful way.  That is why we’ve intentionally embedded equity as a key organizational priority so that strategic decisions and allocations of financial and human resources create a through line across all of our activities.

We share this story in the spirit of transparency knowing that every social impact organization must write its own story. And with real hope, as we see nonprofits every day challenging themselves and their stakeholders to become better educated, more self-reflective, and further equipped with the tools to disrupt and dismantle inequitable policies and systems.

We continue to believe that as a powerful, compassionate collective of community builders, we in the social impact sector can and will and must make meaningful equity progress – within our own organizations and through our programs and services—as we strive for more just and equitable communities where everyone in them can thrive.