What Kind of Diversity Training Do We Need & How Much Will It Cost?

trainingI get a lot of calls for diversity and inclusion training and my first question is always, “what kind of training do you need?”  Most don’t know.  Most also don’t know how to answer the question.

In order to figure out what your organization needs, it’s a good idea to start with the question, “Why do you want training?”  Answers to this can be varied.  Here are three common responses:

  1. Our diversity is growing and we’d like to ensure that our organizational culture grows with it. We want everyone entering our organization to have a baseline understanding of what diversity and inclusion are, what the concepts mean to our organization and how they apply to our work.
  2. We’re not so good at interfacing with ______________ community and need some cultural competency training around this.
  3. There’s a negative narrative about working here among people of color (substitute: women, lesbian/gay, millennials, etc.). We’ve had documented cases of employees lodging complaints – from HR conversations, to exit interviews, to formal EEOC complaints. We want to work on making it better.

Depending on the answer, your approach should be different.  How you go about it is key.


With the first scenario, you have likely had at least one conversation among leadership about the meaning and value of diversity and inclusion for your organization. You may have been working on building greater diversity at the staff, board and/or volunteer levels and want to ensure your new recruits are welcomed into the organizational environment.  Perhaps you want to extend inclusive thinking throughout the various nonprofit function areas – programs, communications, fundraising, operations – for ever greater success.  Here are some tips as you think about training:

  • Share your diversity and inclusion values broadly with your organization constituents (if you haven’t yet done it);
  • Engage with a trainer about putting together a broad-based diversity and inclusion training – include a strong component focusing on implicit (or unconscious) bias.
  • If this is an organizational priority, encourage not just staff, but all volunteers, interns and board members to take the training – you will establish a new organizational culture fast – in less than one year, you will see a noticeable shift.

The second answer relates to learning about specific populations. Sometimes you recognize you don’t have enough information about a group of people in order to serve them well.   Perhaps there’s a new immigrant group or a newly identified unmet need.  It’s important to learn about the cultural norms of the groups you are serving in order to serve these populations well.  Here are some training considerations:

  • Start with a broad-based “cultural competency” or “cultural responsiveness” training; this will lay the foundation for learning about specific cultural traits, behaviors and expectations.
  • Identify the groups you require deeper understanding and awareness about and reach out to organizations that specifically serve those populations. Invite them to provide training for your staff.
  • Build your organizational networks – encourage staff and board to make strong connections with sister organizations that serve this group. Find out how your organization might help them in their work.

The third response is your hint that there is deeper work to be done. If there are negative narratives or specific complaints, it may be the tip of the iceberg.  If you engage in diversity and inclusion training without laying the proper foundation, you may leave staff feeling that the training is just “window dressing” without real meaning.  Negative narrative(s) fester when they haven’t been given the space to properly air out.  You could do more harm than good.  Some considerations before you proceed with training:

  • Engage a consultant to help you get started. It doesn’t have to be very expensive, but it will be well worth your while and save you valuable time and money in the long run.
  • An outside third party will be able to gather data about the perspectives and experiences among your staff, engage them in conversation about the how to move the organization forward and help set a plan for change.
  • Take the organizational readiness survey at the Denver Foundation’s Inclusivity Project. While the survey focuses primarily on race and ethnicity, you can think of the survey along any dimensions of diversity. http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/node/55

Fostering Inclusion.  Many organizations offer diversity and inclusion training.   Recent research has shown that organizations including a strong implicit bias training component have had good results in shifting organizational culture.  Look locally for a facilitator or pair of co-facilitators who can lead your diversity and inclusion training and education efforts. Cost depends on frequency of training, but organizations should budget a minimum of $1,000 per half-day of training which includes two professional facilitators.  I recommend organizations invite all existing employees to this standard training, then include it in each new staff member’s orientation process.

Cultural Responsiveness.  It’s important to build relationships with the groups and communities about whom you wish to learn.   Pricing can vary, but nonprofit organizations should be prepared to spend at least $500 in Michigan for a half-day session.  Some organizations will provide training for free, but with an honorarium.    Consider not paying less than $500 for their valuable expertise.  LaTosch Diversity & Inclusion Consulting offers culturally-specific training on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and can make referrals for other community-specific trainings.

Trouble Shooting.  Engaging a consultant in this work is especially important if you are facing some specific problem areas.  Consultant fees vary based on the organizational size, scope of services needed, and geographic spread.  LaTosch Diversity & Inclusion Consulting uses a simple six-step process that typically takes 4-6 months, depending on the organization.  Fees are based on the size and complexity of the organizations.  Click here for a free consulting quote.