Diversity Recruiting Strategy – First Steps

who-what-where-when-why-howMany diversity conversations start with the question, “how do we recruit more people of color (or more women or more ________ people)?” and while recruitment is certainly a worthy area to address, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the inside map of your current staffing patterns first.

Getting a good handle on what’s happening right now will help you pinpoint specific areas for improvement and it’ll help you avoid common pitfalls and missteps.  For a working example of looking at existing staffing patterns, let’s use racial diversity.  Some key questions to be asking include the following:

  1. What racial demographics are you targeting? For nonprofits, this is sometimes answered, “representative of our region” or “representing those we serve.”  If this is your case, you need to gather baseline data on the racial demographics of your region or your constituency.  For the former, this is easily found through Census Data; for the latter, you’ll need to collect your own data on your constituents.  Keep in mind that even if you have a sense of where your target should be, laws govern the setting of written targets – you’ll need to consult an attorney on this one.
  2. What are the current racial demographics on your staff? A simple breakdown will suffice only if you have a very small organization.  Otherwise, for medium- to large-sized organizations, you need to break down the racial demographics by hierarchy.  If your staff is 50% people of color, but white people make up 90% of your leadership positions, that’s an area for concern and you’ll only be able to look at this if you gather the correct information.  A couple of other considerations:
    • You may want to look at payrate and race together, to get a sense of how equitably your pay structure is playing out. Are people in the same levels getting paid equitably?  If not, this could be affecting both your retention rates and your recruitment efforts.
    • Look at your staff racial demographics by department. Are some departments noticeably more or less diverse?  Why might this be?  What are the causes and what are potential solutions?
  3. How did your current staff come into their jobs? This is an especially important question for strategic recruiting.   Were they “warm” leads from friends or colleagues?  Were they promoted from within?  Were they former volunteers or interns?  Were they purposefully sought out?   Did they come in cold from a job posting?  Where did they find out about the job?  Look for trends and patterns broken down by race.  This will provide valuable information to direct your future recruiting efforts.
  4. How long have people worked at your organization? Look at this question in terms of racial demographics and also check for promotion/demotion history.  If there are race-based patterns, this provides for further areas of exploration.

This blog is based in part on a four-year racial diversity and inclusion initiative at Affirmations, Metro Detroit’s community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  In 2009, we took a close look at all of these questions and uncovered key areas requiring specific attention:

  • While the staff was relatively diverse (64% white; 36% people of color), leadership positions were held mainly by white people at the time (80%-20%). People of color were primarily employed in positions with less authority and were more likely to hold part-time or hourly positions, as opposed to full-time salaried positions.
  • Retention data was alarming. The average white person stayed on staff more than 5 years.  The average person of color stayed on staff less than one.  We were recruiting and hiring, but people weren’t staying.
  • Even though a small organization, programs were nearly always more heavily populated by staff of color, as compared to development or administrative positions.

Gathering this information was crucial to forming a solid recruitment strategy and for informing our retention efforts.  On recruitment, we needed to do two things: 1) target efforts to non-program areas of the organization – development and administration, and 2) target efforts on leadership positions.

On retention, it pointed out deeper problems and a need to gather additional information about why staff of color left the organization, on average, after less than a year.  Great recruitment strategy only works if people want to stay once they get on the job.  Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.  For more on this, check out a previous blog entitled “The Cost of Diversity Without Inclusion,” on the risks associated with diversifying your staff before making inclusive culture shifts from within.

Part 9: 5 Action Steps for Nonprofit Diversity & Inclusion


This is one post in a multi-part story documenting one historically white organization’s journey toward becoming racially inclusive.  The series seeks to document the challenges and successes faced along the way in an effort to provide a learning tool for other nonprofit organizations who wish to do the same.  For a complete copy of Affirmations’ “Blueprint for Change” visit www.GoAffirmations.org and click on About Us.Kathleen LaTosch at NCRC Annual Conference 2012 
Kathleen LaTosch is a consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion planning for nonprofit organizations.  She worked at Affirmations, Michigan’s largest LGBT organization, from 2002-2011 and served as Chief Administrative Officer from 2007-2011.  While there, she was responsible for facilitating a broad-based racial diversity and inclusion initiative.  For more information about Kathleen’s work and availability, email her at klatosch at gmail.com

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