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Report: People of color underrepresented on top Rhode Island nonprofit boards

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“The organizations in this report impact a broad and diverse swath of our community; ideally, their organizational leaders should also reflect of the communities they serve,” said Kelly Nevins, who chaired the committee that authored the report.


The Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsRhode Island Chapter (AFP-RI), through its IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) Committee, recently completed a study that looked at the gender and racial diversity of the leaders of Rhode Island’s largest nonprofit organizations by net worth. Rhode Island has 4,140 registered 501(c)3 public charities which together hold assets of $31.7 billion.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The largest 150 nonprofits in Rhode Island had total revenue of $11,515,924,424 in 2017;
  • Revenues of these organizations ranged from $5,389,143 to $1,369,753,828;
  • 876 women served on the boards of these organizations, representing 38 percent of all board members;
  • 43 percent of the CEO roles were held by women;
  • People of color made up 10 percent of all board members, despite representing 30 percent of Rhode Island’s general population; and
  • Only 3 percent of the CEO roles were held by people of color, less than the national average of 10 percent.

“This report provides a baseline for nonprofits to consider what can be done to diversify the leadership of their organizations. From a fundraising perspective, diversity is critical to increasing dollars raised and expanding donor networks,” said Amy Gravell, President of AFP-RI and Managing Director for The Gamm Theatre.

Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and Chair of the IDEA Committee of AFP-RI which worked on this report, added, “The organizations in this report impact a broad and diverse swath of our community; ideally, their organizational leaders should also reflect of the communities they serve.”

The report includes several recommendations for improvement, including:

  • Consider life experiences and transferable skills that can be used in place of certain prerequisites to give individuals more access to organizational leadership pipelines;
  • Move beyond the personal networks of current organizational leaders by engaging outside organizations, consultants and stakeholders in sourcing future board members;
  • Recommend women and people of color to serve on boards or be considered for an open CEO role;
  • Use term limits to ensure fresh and new perspectives; and
  • Provide training and support in fundraising and development, using best practices for both board members and staff in the leadership pipeline.

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Annual revenue was the primary criterion for inclusion in the list of the 2019 Census of Nonprofit Directors and Chief Executives in Rhode Island’s Largest Organizations. Information on board members and chief executives was obtained from the organization’s websites, the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s corporation database or other publicly available sources. Where possible, this information was verified by someone on staff or board at the specific organization.

[From a press release]

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Rhode Island Chapter (AFP-RI) ENC empowers individuals and organizations to practice ethical fundraising through professional education, networking, research and advocacy. This report is a project of its IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Access) Committee.