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

trainingI get a lot of calls for diversity 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.  And while there are certainly innumerable answers to this question, here are three typical 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, equity, and inclusion mean to our organization and how they apply to our work, to our mission.
  2. We’re not so good at interfacing with ______________ community, we have difficult reaching this population, and need some cultural competency training around this.
  3. There’s a negative narrative about working here among some people (fill-in: people of color, women, lesbian/gay, millennials, etc.). We’ve had employees lodge complaints – from HR conversations, to exit interviews, to formal EEOC complaints. We want to work on making it better; we need to be better.

Depending on the answer, your approach may 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, equity and/or inclusion for your organization. You may have been working on building greater diversity at the staff, board and/or volunteer levels and want to attend to making important organizational culture shifts to ensure new recruits feel welcome and included when they arrive.  Perhaps you’ve built an inclusive culture but want to dig deeper and offset employment inequities that occur systemically.    Here are some tips as you think about training:

  • Share your diversity, equity and inclusion values broadly with your organization constituents (if you haven’t yet done it).  If you don’t have diversity, equity and inclusion values articulated, take a step back.  You need to start here.
  • Invite a trainer to meet with staff and identify the specific areas where you’d like to improve understanding as an organization; enlist their help in designing a learning program that will work for your organization.  If you haven’t already done it, consider including training on implicit/unconscious bias in your plan.
  • If this is an organizational priority, encourage not just staff, but all volunteers, interns and board members to participate in your new learning program – you will establish a strong, values-rooted organizational culture fast –  depending on your annual turnover, in less than one year, you could 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 growing and relatively new immigrant community you are serving, or you’ve recognized you aren’t serving LGBTQ people well.  It’s important to learn about the cultural norms of the groups you are serving in order to provide your best service.  Here are some training considerations:

  • Consider first why you don’t know much about this population.  Are members of this group represented in any way on your staff or board?  In your volunteer or client groups?  Is this a newly emerging population?  Is this a long-standing community with whom you are disconnected?  Is there any painful history behind your disconnectedness that may prove to be a continued barrier, that may need resolution first?
  • Work on building authentic relationships with this group.  Build your organizational networks – encourage staff and board to make strong connections with sister organizations that serve this group and their community members. Find out how your organization might help them in their work.  Invite sister organizations to provide training and development for your organization.  Compensate them for this valuable service.  Consider opportunities to work together on projects in which you have a shared interest.
  • Consider forming an advisory group made up of members of this community to help inform you on policies and procedures, including employment practices and outreach.

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, equity 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 heal.  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 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, equity and inclusion training.   Recent research has shown that organizations which include a strong implicit bias training component have had good results in shifting organizational culture and in making positive strives in their recruiting and hiring efforts.  Look locally for a facilitator or pair of co-facilitators who can lead your 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.  Many training organizations offer virtual training too.  I recommend organizations invite all existing employees to a beginner level training (you want everyone to know where the new people are starting from), 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 and may come in lower than consultant training, however nonprofit organizations should be prepared to spend the same as they would pay a consultant – at least $1,000 for a half-day session – sometimes this can be part cash, part in-kind trade.    Consider not paying less than $1,000 for their valuable expertise.

Trouble Shooting.  Engaging a consultant in this work is especially important if you are facing specific problem areas. Consultant fees vary based on the organization size, scope of services needed, and geographic spread.  LaTosch Consulting uses a simple six-step assessment process that typically takes 4-6 months, depending on the organization.  Much of the work can be done remotely with as few as three in-person meetings.  Fees are based on the size and complexity of the organization.  Click here for a free consulting quote.

Ferguson & the Gay Rights Movement

This Black gays for justiceweek Ruth Bader Ginsberg drew an important distinction between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement – and she’s not been alone in her assessment.  The gay rights movement, which gained dramatic momentum following the protest at The Stonewall Inn in 1969, has had notable success.  It is less than 40 years later and people who couldn’t even say the word ‘gay’ back then now support legal gay marriage.  Everyone says it’s just a matter of time  before everyone will be able to legally marry.  National organizations and LGBT organizations across the country are scrambling to figure out what the next major gay rights cause will be – a new mission and purpose.  I use “gay rights” here on purpose because transgender rights are still woefully hard to find and certainly have not enjoyed the success that gay rights have enjoyed.

They say slavery ended nearly 150 years ago, yet this country still imprisons 30% of young black men.  Black and brown people are several times more likely to live in communities riddled by poverty with no access to opportunity.  They are more likely to drop out of their under-performing school, and be arrested or stopped by police – often landing them in jail.  As we have seen in Ferguson (and in many other cases), young men like Michael Brown are more likely to be killed.

The reason the gay rights movement has moved ahead so quickly is because gay and lesbian people live in families all across the country.  In every city, in every town, in every suburb.  Every time someone comes out, it forces the entire extension of people in that person’s family and friend network to question their assumptions about gay people.

People who have been at odds with “the gays”, found them sick, wrong, unqualified parents and undeserving spouses now have children that fall into that category.  And their personal knowledge of their son, their daughter, brother, sister, aunt, best friend, their relationship with that person, conflicts with the societally-driven stereotype they have always known.  It forces them to confront their biases in a very personal way.  And love is winning out.  People are renouncing their bias.  As people know someone who is gay, they become supportive of gay rights.  This is backed by ample research.

Research also shows that lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color are at greatest risk for poverty, unemployment, incarceration, HIV/AIDS infection, and premature death – whether due to health access issues, suicide, violence or racial profiling.   LGBT people of color are not benefiting from the gay rights movement the way that white gay and lesbian people have.

People in the LGBT movement have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that all of our brothers and sisters are protected – especially those who are most abused by our system – our brothers and sisters of color.   If you’re white – you can take a hint from the gay rights movement.  Make some new friends.  Expand your family.  Get to know your existing friends and family who are people of color – ask them about their experiences.  This call extends to the transgender community. If you’re gay or lesbian, make some friends in the transgender community.  The killing of the Michael Brown is personal and it should be personal for all of us.  Including those of us who have white skin and are cisgender.


Kathleen LaTosch at NCRC Annual Conference 2012Kathleen LaTosch is a diversity and inclusion consultant specializing strategic planning for organizational change at nonprofit organizations. She works in Michigan and nationally, assisting organizations in making systemic and lasting change.  For more information, visit www.LaToschConsulting.com.

Employers, What’s your Water Cooler Conversation on Michigan’s Gay Marriage News?

gay marriageI get called on a lot to help businesses create a more welcoming environment for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees.  As part of the presentation, I help HR professionals and supervisors understand what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people want in order to feel like valued employees.

I cite surprising statistics about the high percentage of LGBT people that feel unsafe to come out for fear of reprisal or professional consequences – hitting the lavender-tinted glass ceiling of advancement.  One question that comes up over and over again from well-meaning supervisors and HR directors is “How can we let LGBT people know that it’s a safe environment?”  “How can I, as a co-worker, encourage my fellow colleagues to come out and feel safe?”

The perfect opportunity just dropped in your lap.

This past weekend, Michigan became the 18th state to rule that a prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  Hundreds of couples rushed to the three courthouses in the state which opened their doors on a Saturday, following the late Friday afternoon ruling from Judge Bernard Friedman.  Although the Appeals Court issued a stay on Saturday afternoon which temporarily ended the issuing of same sex marriage licenses until an appeal is heard, hundreds of couples were married over the weekend and Facebook exploded with traffic on the issue.

In my own town of Ferndale, Michigan, hundreds of straight well-wishers commented on the wedding announcements.  After being engaged for 22 years, I finally married my fiancée and was astounded by the local support of our straight friends and allies.  I was overwhelmed to learn that school board members waited for hours at our LGBT community center for us to return from the courthouse and applaud our nuptials;  I was awe-inspired to see high school friends from out-of-state and college friends from out-of-country praising the decision and congratulating us to all of their friends on Facebook.

The sheer feeling of community support was indescribable, especially since I once lived a part of my life in the shadow of the closet – worrying how others would treat me if they found out.

And your employees are not much different.   The vast majority of LGBT people have lived a portion of their lives in the shadow of the closet.   People living in that shadow carefully watch for signs that they can come out or that they should stay in – they listen to the informal conversations, they pay attention to how those who are “out” get treated.  They watch how other minorities fare professionally.

Michigan’s recent court decision provides all organizations with an opportunity to do a quick culture check.  What’s the conversation around *your* water cooler on this issue?   Do you hear people excitedly talking about friends, family and colleagues who got married over the weekend?   Did someone at your company get married?  Do you know?  Did you ask?   How do you feel about it and how are you conveying that feeling to others?

Listen in.  Is the conversation instead comments like, “Geez, what’s this world coming to?” or maybe there’s no conversation at all.  Perhaps when the subject is brought up, there is silence.

These are great opportunities for you to take the temperature of your organizational culture.

It’s also a good opportunity to check on your organization’s non-discrimination policies.  Do you specifically state that you won’t discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?   If not, now is the perfect opportunity to make some headway there.

If you already have such a policy, the recent news is an excellent reason to recommit your organization’s values by sending a congratulatory message to all those in your employ who may have benefited.   Talk to them about what this may mean regarding their employment benefits, now that they are married.   Check with your legal counsel about what this may mean and share the information with your staff members.

And don’t forget the little touches, something as simple as receiving a beautiful and heartfelt Congratulations! card can make a world of difference.


Kathleen LaTosch works as an independent consultant and focuses her work on building diverse and inclusive organizations.  For more information, visit www.LaToschConsulting.com.