Tiffani Truss is the workforce strategist at Associated Black Charities. Previously, Truss participated in the Board Pipeline Leadership Development Program. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

The applications for Associated Black Charities’ (ABC) Board Pipeline Leadership Development Program are now open, and they close on Feb. 28. For the 2022 spring cycle, the Baltimore organization is planning to serve a minimum of 25 participants who want to learn more about the particulars of nonprofit board service. 

Interested candidates must be Black or a person of color, and they must intend to serve on a nonprofit board within a year of completing the program. 

“ABC started this program as a way, if nothing else, to start getting qualified Black people on these boards that they weren’t able to before because a big problem is that nonprofits recruit new board members through networks of their boards,” said Jonathan Law, workforce initiatives coordinator at ABC. “A board member might be leaving and say ‘well, I’ll invite my colleague,’ and when your board members are already mostly White that means they invite more White people.”

The Board Pipeline Leadership Development Program was started in 2011 as a response to a study that the Urban Institute conducted in 2010, which found that nonprofit executive directors and boards in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore were not representative of the communities that they served.  

Specifically, 72.9% of nonprofit board members were White, while just 18.1% were Black in the Baltimore-Washington area even though 70% of the region’s population comprises people of color. 

In ABC’s program, participants attend five learning sessions over five weeks that are led by panelists and speakers who have served on nonprofit boards or worked in nonprofit leadership positions. They discuss the general roles and responsibilities of board service, their own personal experiences and the financial and fundraising aspects of board service. 

The Board Pipeline Leadership Development program culminates in a meet and greet in which participants are introduced to nonprofits that are recruiting board members. ABC encourages participants to consider whether or not the nonprofit is a good fit for them rather than whether or not they are a good fit for the nonprofit. 

Now that ABC has helped to diversify the boards of nonprofits, the subsequent step is to urge organizations to look inward and examine how they can improve retention and employee satisfaction for people of color. 

ABC also wants to help program participants identify how they can disrupt the traditional operation of nonprofit organizations so they can become more equitable and inclusive. 

“Diversity is just the first step. That’s not the goal of having a racially equitable board,” said Tiffani Truss, workforce strategist at ABC. “The Board Pipeline Leadership Development Program is important because it creates opportunity and literal space for folks who are historically kept out of the nonprofit workspace. It gives room for people of color to be intentional in hopes of creating action or change on the board of whatever nonprofit they serve.” 

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