The following is the project by 2016-17 cohort of the American Express NGen Fellows program. This podcast series features emerging nonprofit leaders grappling with complex, sometimes controversial issues. Each leader brings an authentic voice to the conversation, based on personal views and lived experience. These leaders were selected for the NGen Fellows program by American Express and Independent Sector, but the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of either organization.
Through the course of our year-long NGen fellowship program, our cohort has been asking many questions about leadership. Who gets to lead? What will the next generation of social sector leaders look like? And how are we addressing equity—in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.—to ensure this next generation of leaders represents the dynamic communities we serve?
To help us focus our questions, we researched a variety of studies and reports on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We were struck particularly by the findings of Building Movement Project’s study, Race to Lead: Confronting the Racial Leadership Gap, and used it to frame our NGen Speaks conversation. The report summarizes responses from more than 4,000 nonprofit employees to questions about their current roles, interest in leading their organization, views of leadership, and personal background. They were also asked about their views on race and the nonprofit sector.
On finding of the study is that the percentage of people of color in nonprofit executive director roles has remained under 20 percent for the past decade. Less than twenty percent? For over a decade? We wanted to look into some of the most important factors underlying this statistic and compare some of Building Movement Project’s findings to our own experiences as leaders in the sector.
For the second episode of NGen Speaks, three of us (Ivan, Neesha, and Abby) highlight some key findings from the Race to Lead report, and share how those findings compare to our own experiences as next generation leaders.
Ivan Canada, Radha Friedman, Neesha Modi, and Abby Sienkowicz are 2016-17 American Express NGen Fellows. Canada is the executive director for NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad. Friedman is director of programs for The World Justice Project. Modi is a program officer for The Kresge Foundation. Sienkowicz is the executive director of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.