While diversity, equity and inclusion have become buzzwords in recent years, the definitions and what they mean and how they apply to each company or organization can differ. For example, there is no clear definition of equity, even in the nonprofit sector. According to a recent whitepaper from LA-based accounting firm GHJ titled The Give and the Get: The Future of Philanthropy, equity helps serve the most basic needs of nonprofits, and it is a way for nonprofits to create messaging that can be used to help match grantor expectations. Every organization needs to define what equity means for them and their service delivery and how they engage with their funders, their communities and volunteers — and likewise, the funders themselves have to think about what that means in terms of their giving. A recent article in Philanthropy Journal highlighted a report from BoardSource titled “Leading with Intent.” The report discovered that 65 percent of nonprofit executives have acknowledged the need for higher diversity but know that they have not prioritized it. The concept of diversity and opportunity for growth is not specific to nonprofits. Even with the best of intentions, equity still falls short — in the nonprofit sector, as well as in the workplace.


According to Harvard Business Review, research found “leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driving insights.” Critical insights are what drive business forward. In today’s rapidly changing economic environment, organizations that cannot innovate quickly enough to keep up will struggle to find success. Having the best and brightest minds may sound like an ideal strategy, but if all of those minds think and behave the same way, they will fall into the same expected patterns. Diversity in the workplace has been a point of discussion for decades, younger generations are making it more important than ever. Millennials, Gen Z and Centennials are considered critical to the innovation process. In fact, a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that the “post-Millennial” generation is already the most racially and ethnically diverse generation. These generations have basic expectations of living and working among diverse populations, so in order to hire and retain them, employers need to think about diversity strategically. Implementing this strategy starts from the top, with leadership education. According to the largest human resources professional society, SHRM, employee differences should be embraced and goals communicated and measured. Daily experiences with coworkers are more telling than anything else, so staying in tune with how daily meetings are conducted can provide helpful insights.

65 percent of nonprofit executives have acknowledged the need for higher diversity but know that they have not prioritized it.

Applying this insight correctly is critical to optimizing business growth, as well as the personal growth of employees. As part of a special report on diversity, science and innovation, a Scientific American article titled “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter” suggests that diversity helps people be more innovative, creative, diligent and hard working. Interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort. Diversity is the cornerstone of the larger global economy. More than ever, business is being accomplished on a global scale. Embracing cultural diversity should be seen as an opportunity for growth, and companies will have to be able to leverage their ability to adapt and innovate in order to be successful.


Diversity and inclusion means more than meeting a quota for race or gender. It promotes respect, acceptance, teamwork and innovation despite differences. When different minds collaborate to achieve a common goal, everyone wins. A study conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy interviewed over 200 nonprofit CEOs; 70 percent stated that it was important to have staff diversity, but just 36 percent said their staff was actually diverse. From the nonprofit sector to the workplace, everyone should see this disparity as an opportunity for growth.

Wilson Donella halfbody

Donella Wilson

Donella Wilson, CPA, leads GHJ’s Nonprofit Practice and is also President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of GHJ Foundation, GHJ’s vehicle for purposeful and proactive giving to the community. A leader in both the nonprofit and accounting communities, Donella was named a finalist in the 2021 Los…Learn More