Roles and Responsibilities of the Board of Directors

An inclusiveness initiative is most successful when the board of directors participates in and fully supports the initiative. Commitment from your board of directors will help institutionalize inclusiveness at your organization because the board is responsible for making policies, governance, and hiring the CEO/ED.

The board is responsible for setting organization-wide policy, some of which may be reviewed during the inclusiveness initiative.

If a board of directors actively resists change, then the board can be a significant barrier to progress.

If a board of directors commits to creating a more inclusive organization but the executive director resists, then it is unlikely that real change will come about, since the executive director, with the staff, is responsible for implementing the majority of changes that result from inclusiveness initiatives.

The board of directors is responsible for hiring and firing the executive director; if the board does not embrace the outcomes of an inclusiveness initiative, it may hire a future executive director who is not committed to inclusiveness and therefore minimize the long-term impact of the work.

To ensure a successful inclusiveness initiative, the board of directors needs to support and encourage the executive director to be an active participant.

The board also should commit to being involved in some of the activities of the initiative, though, as is the case for the staff, not all board members need to commit to being involved at the same level. It is particularly vital that the board chairperson or co-chairpersons support the initiative and actively participate. An organization will also find it beneficial if other members of the board who have a particular interest in inclusiveness actively participate.

Realistically, not everyone on a board of directors will start out fully understanding the need for an inclusiveness initiative, much less fully embracing such an effort. As long as some members of the board lead the way and engage other members, the rest of the board will likely come along over time. Some organizations may find that their board members do not fully understand the benefits of inclusiveness for the organization. If this is the case, completing Creating the Case for Inclusiveness (worksheet) and then presenting the findings to your board could be a way of helping your board become more supportive of your initiative. You may also wish to engage an inclusiveness trainer or consultant to help your board understand the ways that race and ethnicity affect your organization's work.

It is most important that the board as a whole commits to examining its own practices and policies at some point in the process, and preferably, to engaging in some kind of inclusiveness or diversity training as well.

The board also needs to recognize that resources of time, money, and energy will be required to engage in the inclusiveness initiative and they must be willing to secure and allocate such resources as needed.