I love my work as an executive coach. Sure I add value, and I like to think I am helping to build thriving nonprofits. I feel so very lucky that I get to do that for a living.
And I often get so much more out of it than I give.
My clients are terrific leaders, and they are smart, strategic, innovative, and creative. They share their new ideas with me, and what is pretty swell is that I can share those ideas with you.
I’ve got a really good one today.
Ready to hear about the most creative move any of my clients have made to bring racial diversity to life in their organization?
It’s really good.
And it has nothing to do with how racially or ethnically diverse your board and staff is or isn’t (the most common conversation we all have).
It’s about $$…
IT COMES DOWN TO MONEY AND POWER
That’s the conclusion Executive Director Brian K. Bond reached. He looked deeply into how to bring racial diversity to life in real and powerful ways in his organization. Brian leads PFLAG National, the first and largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and the people who love them.
Brian’s idea preceded 2020 when American society faced a racial reckoning with the murder of George Floyd. Brian’s career spans decades (he won’t like this phrase), and it’s not his first E.D. rodeo. That said, much of his career has been spent in politics, most recently as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, known by many as the front door to the White House, through which everyone can participate and inform the work of the President. Through this role, he worked with, listened to, and learned from a diverse population of people throughout the country, and his political background infused in him a real understanding of the power of local communities. This made him a natural to lead an organization with hundreds of thousands of members in communities across America.
Here’s the idea Brian brought to life. But first, some backstory:
So there was this finance committee meeting about investing cash reserves. At this meeting, Brian’s diversity and community DNA were front and center. “I’d like to explore investing our reserve in minority depository institutions — these institutions close the gap on the unbanked, they support home ownership in minority communities. These institutions need money to support their communities.”
Brian’s idea was prescient. As it turned out, it was these very minority depository institutions that went overboard and worked triple time in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, outpacing other banks in advocating to ensure that PPP loans found their way into their communities.
The finance committee began to look at their work through a different lens (more broadly than simply high-yield opportunities). They got it. And approved the idea. They agreed to invest $1mm of their $4mm reserve into minority depository institutions. With $250,000 as the threshold (a floor amount to be sure the money would be insured), they agreed to focus on four communities: Black and African American, Native, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander.
SELECTING THE BANKS
PFLAG National leadership did the research (including sites like the FDIC page on minority depository institutions) while also reaching out to community leaders to get started — to learn who was out there. Next came screening conversations with a long list of prospects for each community conducted by both the staff and board! It was part of a DEI learning experience for everyone. Here are a few issues they addressed:
- Talk about your commitment to your community.
- What do you do to support the unbanked?
- Show us your EEO statement so that we know that your non-discrimination clauses include LGBTQ+ people.
- Tell us your stance on LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion.
THE REACTION FROM THE BANKS
So you get a cold call from an LGBTQ+ organization looking to invest $250,000 in your institution. The reactions PFLAG National received were diverse (pun intended).
Some said no thank you. Brian saw many of these folks as not wanting to go through a layer of bureaucracy with their boards. Other institutions were excited to share how they support their community and how they celebrate LGBTQ+ people in their communities. One credit union revised their EEO statement and when Brian saw it, his reaction? “It might have been better than ours!”
HOW’S IT GOING?
The PFLAG National board has just approved another $500,000 to be added to these MDIs. I think that tells you what you need to know.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE
Creative ideas get the wheels turning, and in the DEI space, once you look at your work through a DEI lens, you begin to work differently. PFLAG National is also looking at DEI more broadly and with equal creativity — interviewing minority-owned CPA firms and vendors. PFLAG National ignites public conversation at these intersections, recently looking at the intersection of LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities (bring your commitment to life, and the next thing you know you have an LGBTQ+ copywriter who lives with a disability). PFLAG National has sent a message loud and clear that everyone belongs.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Nothing would make me happier than for you to share this post with your staff or board. When you share it, add these additional discussion prompts:
- What were your takeaways?
- Would our organization move $ from high-yield banks to invest in these historically marginalized communities? What would have to be true for the answer to that question to be yes?
- Scan your work (and your stakeholders) with that same DEI lens on. How can your organization step outside of staffing and board metrics and get creative? What would it take?
Our own DEI consultant offered a piece of advice early on that has helped us as we have worked together — you have to go slow to go fast. So while I encourage you to start these conversations, this may not be one of the initiatives you embark on that has quick wins. The work must be intentional to be sustainable.
Don’t let this daunt you. It’s a journey. Be intentional. And in the spirit of this blog post, explore every nook and cranny of the work you do and how you do it — and know that creativity can pay dividends (in this case, pun intended).
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