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.

Why Should Nonprofits Invest in Diversity & Inclusion Work? Arguments for the Budget

pencilsI’ve been worried about the diversity problem in my nonprofit organization for a while.  I’m the #2 person, my Executive Director is a little aloof about these issues – he’s ultimately worried that our white, wealthier donors and board members will see this work as “fringe work” and may think we’ve strayed from our mission.  And he’s right, to a certain extent.  How can we justify spending time and resources on internal diversity and inclusion when we have so little resources to work toward our primary mission?
Add to that the fact that I’m also the go-to person for all human resource complaints.  I’ve been trying to keep a lid on things, but I know unless we do some serious work, we’re going to lose people.  We’ve already lost good people and there’s some in-fighting among staff, although the ED is quite insulated from that.  We have some staff well-versed in diversity and inclusion who are all but calling others out on the carpet for their lack of awareness.  Others are really well-intentioned, but get beat over the head by other staff when they make mistakes out of ignorance.  I’m just not sure what to do, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to manage and if I don’t move the organization on this, I will feel like a hypocrite.
 I know we need to make changes, but how do I make the case to invest in this?
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not unusual.  Many people in what I call historically white organizations have a primarily white leadership tier with more diverse hires at lower levels within the organization.  Well-meaning and well-intentioned leaders struggle with how to proactively improve diversity and inclusion within their nonprofit organizations.  They struggle with how to communicate urgency about this work, how to make a case for investing time and resources in it when both are already coming from overdrawn accounts.
Let’s cut to the chase.  Even though nonprofits are mission-driven, change-making, people-focused organizations, they are still in it for the money.  Not to make a profit, but to fund the work toward their mission.  It’s the reality.  And yes, there’s a much more compelling, human reason for diversity and inclusion at your organization, but that may not be the argument your stakeholders need to hear right now.
If you’re looking at it from a purely dollars-and-cents perspective, consider these facts:
1. The cost of replacing a staff person can cost an organization anywhere from 50% to 200% of that person’s annual salary according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
And diverse staff are much more likely leave organizations they find unfair.   The 2007 Corporate Leavers Report found that people of color are three times as likely to cite workplace unfairness as the only reason for leaving their employer.  Gay and lesbian professionals said workplace unfairness was the only reason they left their employer.  Where does that 50% to 200% come from?  Consider these factors:
  • HR Staff time (exit interview, payroll administration, benefits)
  • Manager’s time (retention attempts, exit interview)
  • Accrued paid time off
  • Temporary coverage – paid and “unpaid” where another staff full-time member assumes responsibilities.
  • Reduction in program delivery
  • Disruptions to team
  • Hiring activities (job posting, resume reviewing, interviewing, HR hiring functions, orientation & training)
It’s even more expensive to replace those who have been on the job less than a year because in many jobs, an employee is not fully productive for many months. This Compensation Today article highlights the costs of employee turnover.  A high turnover rate in the first year can be extra costly for the organization.
2. Failed diversity & inclusion initiatives are expensive.
Many organizations start their efforts with diversity training.  In recent years, research has shown that some of the traditional models of diversity training actually have an adverse effect on an organization.  In the 2012 Harvard Business Review article Diversity Training Doesn’t Work, Peter Bregman shows how rather than improving appreciation for difference, many trainings have the effect of heightening and polarizing difference, leaving people feeling defensive and cynical about training efforts.  The cost of these failed efforts equals not just the cost of the training itself but also the cost of fixing the mess – which includes bringing in better, more effective training, managing the increase in the staff retention costs (itemized above) and possibly lawsuit expenses.
Organizations should start with assessing what their training needs are.  One way to go about that is to use the Intercultural Development Inventory.  It’s a research-based assessment grounded in a developmental model that is non-judgmental and offers specific training objectives based on an individual and group’s intercultural awareness levels.  Most recently, the diversity and inclusion field has been abuzz about the effects of unconscious or implicit bias – prejudices that go unnoticed by the holder.  There are new trainings specifically designed to get at these unconscious choices we make – a critical consideration in the hiring process.
3. In ten years, if you’re not diverse, you will likely find that your grant-funding options will decrease. This is already true of major urban cores and is expanding out to more rural parts of the country as well.
The D5 Coalition is a national group of philanthropic organizations that have come together across the country to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy.  They have four main priorities for big sector changes for 2015, one of which is to increase funding for diverse communities and ensure that foundations offer all constituencies equal opportunity to access the resources they need to thrive.  Another priority involves better data collection – including greater transparency of diversity demographics of organizations funded.
In October of 2014, GuideStar, the nation’s leading nonprofit reporting group, announced that it will begin collecting and publishing demographic information about nonprofit board, staff and volunteer diversity.  This will be an incredible tool for philanthropists to access when considering their giving choices.
So let’s tally up our expenses.  While the following exercise won’t be a perfect fit for your organization, you can certainly plug in your own numbers to estimate the cost for your particular organization.
  1. Lost retention of two professional nonprofit staff members: $60,000 (based on annual salary of $45K, plus benefits = $60K x 50% = $30,000 x two people)
  2. Failed Diversity Training = $10,000 (or much more, depending on how much you spend…)
  3. Fewer grant prospects = $50,000 (5% fewer grant prospects= 5% of $1mill budget = $50,000)

$125,000 – TOTAL SAVINGS
By engaging in strong internal diversity and inclusion work, the average one-million-dollar nonprofit has the potential to reinvest a considerable amount of its resources into its mission, build a strong and diverse staff team, reduce turnover, improve service and strengthen its organization.
It’s a new year and time for a new way of thinking.  Let 2015 be the year you decide to do something different.


Kathleen LaTosch at NCRC Annual Conference 2012
Kathleen LaTosch is a consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion planning for nonprofit organizations.  For more information about Kathleen’s work and availability, email her at klatosch at gmail.com

Beyond Diversity Programs: Planting Seeds for Systemic Change

planting seedsHow do you take something from a diversity “project” to becoming integrated into the everyday workings of an institution?   Systemic change is at the heart of true diversity and inclusion work –

– to get to a place where you no longer need an initiative, where the culture of the organization supports a genuine and positive curiosity about difference, and authentic inclusion becomes a reflex for the organization. While many agencies start with an initiative, leaders of such efforts don’t have to wait until completion of the project in order to begin planting seeds for systemic change. The time to start is now.

Procedural changes do not require multiple levels of approval and they don’t need to cost a lot of money to implement, as long as the initiative leader has the authority or support to make such changes and has a measure of respect and credibility among his/her staff members.

To plant the seeds for institutional change and a cultural shift, everyone must be touched by the conversation.  When we began our racial and ethnic diversity initiative at Affirmations, led by the Multicultural Advisory Committee, we immediately began implementing strategies internally that would shift the organizational culture on diversity and inclusion – well before any recommendations came down the line.  By the time the recommendations arrived, they were welcomed with open arms in an intentionally fostered organizational climate.

Here’s what we did:
  1. We were specific and intentional in our messaging.
  • We posted our specific values statement on inclusion, called the Statement of Inclusiveness Principles, at our website and on large poster paper at every entrance to the building, along with the Code of Conduct.  The Statement of Inclusiveness Principles clearly outlined our values on inclusion while the Code of Conduct outlined behavior standards connected to those values.
  • We sent regular updates on the work of our diversity and inclusion initiative to our constituents through the website, newsletter and major media outlets.
  • We attached the Statement of Inclusiveness Principles to all job postings.

This was an easy, yet critical step to setting expectations within the organization and for new people arriving to their roles as board members, staff, interns and volunteers.  In fact, we regularly had people comment upon arriving, “I applied for the job because of the Statement of Inclusiveness Principles – it told me this was a place I wanted to work.”   Further, it clearly set the tone for new people on the values of the organization around diversity and inclusion.

  1. We enhanced existing orientation procedures – for board, staff, interns and volunteers.
  • We added an oral review of the Statement of Inclusiveness Principles and Code of Conduct at orientation for all board members, staff, interns and volunteers.
  • We required everyone to complete a 4-hour basic diversity and inclusion training within the first 90 days of service and we offered it on-site monthly.

Viewing our human resource pool as including all board members, staff, interns and volunteers was critical.  Volunteers greeted visitors at the front desk; board members represented the organization at a variety of internal and external functions; staff members coordinated teams of community members; interns often delivered service directly to clients – all were ambassadors of the organization and all needed to have the same foundational dialogue on diversity and inclusion.  In order to get full buy-in on the training time commitment from board members, it was helpful to have them formally approve the work of our diversity initiative first.  In fact, we didn’t initially make the training mandatory for board members.  The subsequent culture shift provided peer encouragement for all to complete the training until the board itself decided to make it a requirement of service later on in the process.

  1. We identified a cost-effective approach to providing diversity and inclusion training.
  • We contracted with a local third party respected provider of diversity and inclusion education, The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, to create a customized training for our organization, then trained a core group of staff to become trainers.
  • Once an internal training team was ready, we offered the training on a monthly basis, rotating between Saturday mornings and weekday evenings to accommodate a range of schedules.  We initially trained a team of five diverse and committed staff members, who rotated as co-facilitators depending upon their schedule availability.

It was important to outsource the initial training for a number of reasons.  First, they were an impartial third party with a distinct and credible reputation in the community on diversity and inclusion training – it lent public legitimacy to our efforts.  Second, they could use tested tools and approaches to create a custom training suited to our needs.  Third, it relieved the time resources that would have been required to create the training using internal staff resources.  And last, it eliminated conflicts of interest and power dynamics among staff related to program content, training models and effectiveness.  As an organization that prided itself on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender diversity, many people in the organization were already well informed on diversity issues; outsourcing it took the pressure off of “being right.”  Adding a train-the-trainer component allowed the organization to continue offering the training in-house for many years to come at no cost.

These were critical first steps in planting seeds for building inclusiveness into the organizational DNA.  After just 12 months, we saw a noticeable change in attitudes, beliefs and expectations.  A learning philosophy had begun to uproot a somewhat blaming culture.  There was also a shift in board, staff, intern and volunteer confidence in handling racially-charged situations which frequently came up between people participating in programs at the center.  One unexpected benefit – our monthly trainings were offered to all who needed to take them, which resulted in a mix of staff, volunteers, interns and board members at each.  Due to the intimacy of the experience, many formed lasting bonds with those with whom they had attended the training and this was often times a cross-role relationship with staff and board members mixing with volunteers and interns.  This cross-relationship building only further solidified and strengthened the inclusive culture that was taking root.

Read Part 7: I’ll Show you Mine: Transparency in Diversity & Inclusion Work


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