Bringing our values of diversity, equity and inclusion to life in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab


The Nonprofit Leadership Lab was designed to empower and support nonprofit leaders at small to mid-sized organizations.

That’s what we do here.  But not why we do it.

Where Our Journey Began…

Fueled by the societal shifts of 2020, spotlighted by racial unrest and the inequalities laid bare by the pandemic, we knew we had to ask ourselves some hard questions:

    Where is the Lab today?
    Is our content, instructors, and member experience diverse, equitable, and inclusive?

    What would have to be true for diverse nonprofit leaders to feel they truly belong here in the Lab?

    How might we support all nonprofit leaders of small to mid-sized nonprofits as they attempt to grapple with disparities in their own organizations?

    How do we, as a team get started? 

    Our first move? We teamed up with The Raben Group in Fall 2021, starting with a check-up of our organization. We looked at our team’s cultural smarts and dove headfirst into understanding the Lab, asking our members for their honest opinions. 

    Turns out, we were just at the starting line of our journey towards truly embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

    We were surprised to see that our first DEI training session with the full team was planned much later down the line with The Raben Group. Like a lot of organizations, we thought the training sessions were the first step. Boy, were we wrong. Sure, training matters, but it’s only effective after you’ve taken a good look at the team, the work, and how it all happens. So that’s exactly what we did.

    We quickly realized why they call this a “DEI journey”. It’s not just something you do, it’s about who you become. And we’re all in for this transformation. Keep reading to learn more about what else we did during our 18-month plan.

    Building A Strong Foundation

    All members of the Lab team would tell you that building our core foundational documents took so much more time than we imagined and led us to some of the most important conversations we’ve had as a team.

    Vision Statement

    Our vision statement reflects in-depth team discussions. It’s not a formality for us; we own it, take pride in it, and are fully dedicated to making it a reality. (Read the full vision statement below.)

    Leadership Accountability

    Each team member is viewed as a leader, accountable for fulfilling our vision. Our commitment to accountability has sparked new performance reviews and annual goals, ensuring everyone is engaged in realizing our vision.

    Business Case

    We started envisioning a brief document, but quickly recognized the need for a detailed, researched case showcasing the sector’s needs and Lab’s sustainability. Our 9-page document goes beyond a vision statement and a list of projects – it’s an essential read for understanding our DEI journey. Click here to view the full business case.

    Building on This Foundation

    During this past year, our DEI working group with the guidance of Dr. Pablo Otaola, have begun to bring our DEI work to life in both our internal work culture and our membership. 

    Here are a few of the changes we’ve implemented so far:

      A new content rubric was developed that we use to keep DEI front and center in our content and helps us avoid both explicit and implicit biases.

      A complete overhaul of our recruitment process that places our DEI vision front and center has diversified our candidate pool for new hires.

      A blind resume and screening process has solved for both explicit and implicit bias, enabling us to diversify our team in a host of ways.

      A complete redesign of our performance review instrument and process that puts our values front and center, asking each team member to consider their past year through a DEI lens. As a component of this process, team members offered candid feedback to the Lab co-founders, Joan Garry and Scott Paley.

    Where We’re Going From Here…

    This journey is on-going. It isn’t a straight line; it’s a winding road full of new lessons and fresh perspectives, especially as we continue to grow our Lab family.  

    There are always new things to learn and new concerns as we diversify our membership. 

    As the work of our DEI working group begins to set priorities for the future, you can expect to see our DEI vision come more fully to life inside the Lab.

    We’re committed to truly understanding the needs of nonprofit leaders from every corner of life, and we won’t stop working to enrich every member’s experience. This isn’t just about bettering the Lab; it’s about creating a ripple effect of positive change across the entire nonprofit sector.

    Vision Statement: Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

    Great leaders paint an aspirational vision for the future and invite others to share that vision — because no one lives or acts alone.

    We believe that the strength of a community emanates from genuine diversity and inclusion that welcomes leaders of all genders, ethnic and racial backgrounds, cultures and nationalities, sexual orientations, spiritual traditions, ages, physical and intellectual abilities, personalities, and skills.

    The Nonprofit Leadership Lab strives to create a community space of belonging and opportunity that elevates diverse leaders who challenge their biases and champion diversity, equity and inclusion. We are dedicated to empathy and compassion for all.