How would you feel if I told you that Jeff Bezos got his groceries for free from a food bank?
If he did, it would probably shock and anger you, right? These feelings come up because we as a society assume that nonprofits exist to support those who are unable to access the services they need, and in our country, one of the biggest barriers to access is wealth. So, it is safe to assume that NPOs do not exist to help people like Jeff Bezos.
Welcome back, white board members, to the next step in your RE board development work! (note: be sure to read my last blog on racial equity and boards before launching into this one) So much of our effort to change our boards focuses on diversifying the board composition and bringing in more BIPOC members. But today, I want to take a closer look at the other demographic already in the room: the white board members. And, as part of my commitment to offer practical strategies in these blogs, I included a step-by-step activity for you to engage in.
It seems like every day there’s another statement from a historically white led organization (HWL) stating that they “stand with BLM.” Overall, it is good that there is a swell of consciousness and awareness of systemic racism among HWLs. There are many white leaders out there who are really paying attention with heightened urgency and truly want to make change. In the grand scheme of things, this has the potential to be such an impactful shift of our NPO sector to really identify and uproot racism in our systems.
Lately, it seems like every meeting I have with an Executive Director ends with them asking, “how do I bring my board along on my org’s racial equity journey?” I get it. I was an ED, I work with and for boards, and I’ve served on boards of all kinds. It’s hard. Boards are designed to play a specific role in the function of nonprofits. They guide visioning and planning and oversee the macro-level organizational functions; they hire, assess, and (if needed) fire the ED; they fundraise; they network; they donate their skills and expertise. This is often a group of highly passionate, highly skilled volunteers who believe deeply in the mission of the organization.
There is so much pain and suffering in our country right now, especially in BIPOC communities. It pervades all aspects of our daily lives, including work. For those of us fortunate to still be employed, we spend most of our waking hours doing our jobs. And, there is an unspoken and unrealistic expectation that we draw a curtain between the work that we are doing and the lives we are living. The pervasiveness of racism can make this separation harder to maintain for BIPOC than white folks. Many BIPOC colleagues of mine report feeling feeling tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, scared, frustrated…and this can impact focus and productivity at work.
The other day, I was trying to wrap a rubber band around a box that was just too big for the band. I stretched it and stretched it and sure enough, it snapped. But, for some reason, I started crying. It wasn’t because the sound scared me or I hurt myself; rather, I was sad because like that overstretched rubber band, I have been feeling so overstretched lately, too.
Angela Sheffey-Bogan is a veteran public school educator and Principal of Sartori Elementary School, an innovative STEM school in Renton. Sartori is Angela’s pride and joy and she takes very seriously her responsibility and privilege to teach a student body composed predominantly of low-income students of color.