15 Ways to Create “Belonging” at your Nonprofit
By Executive Service Corps (ESC) | Published December 2019
A key to maximizing your organization’s mission is ensuring that all stakeholders are represented and engaged at every level of your organization. These critical steps will help you along your journey of creating belonging at your organization.
Budget for It
Put money for adaptive services in your organization’s annual budget. ESC’s inclusion budget plans for live captioning, American Sign Language, or other accommodations for our meetings. As the year progresses, we offer accommodation in every meeting invitation.
Hold your meetings in ADA accessible spaces. Guidelines for adapting meeting space for ADA accessibility are outlined at www.ada.gov. For local assistance and supportive training regarding ADA accessibility standards, contact the Great Lakes ADA Center at (800) 949-4232 (Voice/TTY).
Start from the Top
Ensure that your Board of Director leadership is representative of the community in all ways. ESC uses a comprehensive board analysis tool, with 30 data points, for our consulting clients to ensure that a board is diverse from expertise to ethnicity. To engage ESC to assist your organization in its mission fulfillment efforts visit www.4org.org.
When posting for a job explicitly ask for all candidates to apply. An example job posting text is, “IBM is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.” Make sure your job description avoids gender or other coded language and minimizes must-haves. For more information visit the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at https://www.eeoc.gov/index.cfm.
Recruit for It
Post job openings on websites that focus on diverse candidates. Some “must post” options include:
70 Million Jobs = candidates who have a criminal record https://www.70millionjobs.com
Ability Jobs = candidates that identify as having disabilities https://abilityjobs.com
All LGBT Jobs https://alllgbtjobs.com
Diversity Working = candidates from various ethnic backgrounds https://www.diversityworking.com
Hire Autism = candidates on the autism spectrum https://hireautism.org
Hire Purpose = candidates who are veterans, service members, and military spouses https://hirepurpose.com
Recruit Diversity = candidates who have disabilities http://recruitdisability.org
Make an effort to reach out to local organizations that provide job training and/or help applicants with diverse backgrounds in jobs. In Chicagoland some of those organizations included:
Curt’s Café https://curtscafe.org
Goodwill Industries https://www.goodwillchicago.com/help-for-employers
Inspiration Kitchen https://inspirationkitchens.org
- National Able Network https://www.nationalable.org
Offering some or all work done via telecommuting allows applicants with family obligations, like eldercare coordination, to apply for the position. Make sure if you can offer telecommuting you do so, and you advertise it when recruiting for a job.
Provide benefits such as childcare subsidies, parental leave, and other benefits to allow a wide range of people to work at your organization.
Provide direct and indirect ways for stakeholders to provide feedback. Honor the voices by taking suggestions and offers of leadership seriously.
Rules are Rules
Create, post, and follow a diversity, equity, and inclusion policy. ESC’s policy states, “The Executive Service Corps is committed to diversity and inclusion as an organization.” Click here to read Executive Service Corps' Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy. If you need any assistance in accessing ESC's services contact Rachelle Jervis, President and CEO at or via her mobile phone at 312-402-2489.” To read ESC’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy visit https://30ffc7cd-d99e-486d-a343-61272fd961ef.filesusr.com/ugd/77738c_355c2c54e8d44d6b9fc911f729d56c5d.pdf.
Provide every new board member with a board member mentor and every new staff member with a seasoned staff member mentor in addition on an extensive and thoughtful on-boarding procedure. If you have a robust volunteer program, provide your volunteers with volunteer mentors too. It costs nothing and it increases stakeholder retention. Mentorship is free and invaluable.
Level Playing Field
Ensure that performance matrix and evaluations for board members, staff, and volunteers are fair. Arbitrary analysis such as fit with “our culture,” are thinly valued ways to marginalize people with differences. Welcome a wide variety of communications and other styles. There should be no single gatekeeper to admittance to any level of the organization nor any single point of performance analysis.
A key way to ensure long lasting belonging is to create structural changes that ensure inclusion. Think of belonging as doing laundry; your work is ongoing. If you can put into place the structures that ensure your success, then you will have long term impact and maximize your outcomes. Things like fair hiring, evaluating, and prompting polices need continuous review to ensure that they encourage belonging.
Compensate for It
Get an external compensation analysis to ensure that you are paying everyone fairly and at market rates. If that’s not in the budget, specific online data sources are available. Unemployment is low, if you want to get and keep good people, you’ll need to put your dollars where your mission is.
If an organization is filled with belonging, you will have a lot of difference coexisting. That’s wonderful! Stay flexible and reflective not reactive. You will all get the opportunity to accommodate each other. It is in that cohabitation that you can share power, influence, and most importantly the power to fulfill your organization’s mission.