Does this election offer us nonprofit staffing solutions?

In watching the coverage from the DNC last week, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that 44 % of delegates represented minority groups. This presidential election has mobilized traditionally under-represented groups in historic numbers. Some examples to note… A record 6.5 million citizens under the age of 30 participated in the 2008 presidential primaries and caucuses, according to data compiled by CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement). Black voter turnout reached a highpoint in the 2008 primaries, according to the Democratic National Committee. Equally, votes from the Latino community have been of particular interest to political parties as the population will quickly become the majority.

This surge in political engagement led me to ponder the change and consider how we in public affairs can impact the same mobilization with volunteer and staff development. Certainly this election’s presidential campaign presents a different painting of political leadership as nontraditional voters identify with Obama, his foundation of a social justice platform, call for change, and practices as a community organizer. There might be something that leaders and managers can learn from this current political climate to influence the diversification of our professional nonprofit staff.

This summer at the leadership conference the PNLC co-sponsors with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, in a panel discussion regarding the future of nonprofit leadership, Ron McKinley of Fieldstone Alliance asked all of the professionals of color in the room to stand. Eight – yes, eight – in a room of 300 stood up. In my opinion, that is inexcusable.

The demographic of Minnesota’s nonprofit professional sector is not reflective of the demographic of communities served. Why is that? I’ve lived and worked in other nonprofit communities and haven’t experienced the same phenomenon. Some speculate it’s due to the low percentage of diversity in the Twin Cities. Others blame limited professional pipelines for people of color. Another excuse might be our sector’s inability to be competitive to jobs in business or government.

Whatever the case, nonprofit organizations might benefit from similar approaches from this election cycle’s lessons to intentionally develop diverse staff teams. What are your ideas to address this issue?

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Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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