Originally established in 2010 and strengthened in 2020, San Antonio’s shared Community Vision makes clear the significance of leadership, civic engagement, and institutional accountability:
In 2030, our entire community takes responsibility for our collective well-being. San Antonio fosters leaders across the community who collaborate to reach shared goals. Institutions across sectors value community-based knowledge and build trusted relationships.
To reach this vision, the community set a goal for the City’s boards and elected officials to more closely reflect San Antonio’s population by race. This goal signals the importance of representation to San Antonians and to achieving the shared Community Vision. Research shows that representation in every sector supports both increased civic engagement and the likelihood that policies and programs will effectively meet the needs of the people they serve.
In 2019, SA2020 launched The Board Game, a leadership development and matching program for nonprofit board service. SA2020 trains prospective board members on the basics of board responsibilities, including governance and oversight, resource development, and strategic planning. We demystify board service—for example, by interviewing current board members about their experiences—and share questions one needs to ask before deciding to serve with an organization.
Race to Lead, an initiative of the Building Movement Project, has shown that senior nonprofit leaders are overwhelmingly White. This holds true in San Antonio, too: our 2019 Nonprofit Partner Impact Report showed that of our then 144 Nonprofit Partners, just 38% of Executive Directors and CEOs were people of color. Recognizing the lack of representation in the nonprofit sector, we intentionally recruit for The Board Game people of color, people from City Council Districts 2-7, and people under 40.
The strategy we see most commonly pushed, across sectors, to increase the racial diversity of senior leadership is focused on recruiting and training people of color. Yet national research and our own experience running The Board Game in 2019 tells us that this alone is a misguided and even harmful strategy.
Race to Lead found that there are more similarities than differences in the educational backgrounds and years of experience between White people and people of color in the nonprofit sector. Among SA2020 Nonprofit Partners, women of color in ED/CEO positions have higher percentages of master’s degrees and doctorates than their counterparts. Further still, Race to Lead reports that people of color aspire to nonprofit leadership at higher rates than their White colleagues.
In other words, it’s not for lack of expertise that people of color are not represented in senior leadership positions. It is a structural problem for the entire sector, in which policies and practices prevent qualified people of color from competing for leadership positions.
Existing boards of directors and EDs/CEOs are responsible for identifying and eliminating the barriers to recruiting and retaining people of color. This includes, for example, recognizing lived experience as expertise, accepting work experience to substitute for higher education, and creating fundraising policies allowing board members to donate money, time, and/or skills in ways that are personally significant and support the organization.
This is the significance of The Board Game. In addition to recruiting prospective board members, SA2020 surveys participating nonprofit partners to understand their needs and areas of growth, then trains their senior leadership how to advance racial equity in the process of board development.
At the end of the training, SA2020 matches participants to current board openings with Nonprofit Partners in need of their expertise. By connecting talented San Antonians with nonprofits that have shown an organizational readiness and commitment to advancing racial equity, we know we’ll move closer to San Antonio’s shared Community Vision.
The Board Game application is open for prospective board members through Sunday, August 1st. Find out more and apply.