The recent report “Shifting Power Dynamics: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the Nonprofit Sector” by Imagine Canada offers crucial insights into the challenges and opportunities nonprofits face in their quest to implement EDI principles. The survey, based on 1,655 responses from charity and nonprofit leaders, uncovers the disparities between different types of organizations and the actions taken to embrace EDI.
Though nonprofit leaders widely endorse EDI principles and perceive their value, few integrate these elements with comprehensive intentionality. While most organizations have begun incorporating these beliefs into action, their commitment levels are uneven, especially in small to mid-sized organizations and those led by white individuals.
An important revelation of the study is that nonprofits led by Black, Indigenous, and people from other underrepresented communities (such as people with disabilities, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community) actively engage in more EDI-enhancing practices. This heightened engagement persists even though these organizations, which serve some of the highest-need communities, face larger barriers and demands for accountability from funders.
However, these same nonprofits often operate with fewer resources than their white-led counterparts, illustrating a paradox that needs addressing. As organizations seeking to empower marginalized communities strive to incorporate EDI principles, they confront an ecosystem that imposes additional constraints, thereby accentuating the very disparities they endeavor to bridge.
In addressing these disparities, funders emerge as vital players. The report notes that Black, Indigenous, and organizations led by other under-represented groups face issues with both the levels and types of funder support, such as a lack of long-term and core support. Simultaneously, these organizations face increasing funder expectations related to EDI post the pandemic onset, despite the fact that white-led organizations are often behind in EDI practices.
A broader look at the sector reveals a counterproductive dynamic: organizations serving the highest-need populations, led by individuals from underrepresented communities, do the most to advance EDI. Yet, they grapple with higher demands and fewer resources, while white-led organizations, which tend to lag in EDI practices, have more resources.
These findings present a call to action for funders and the wider nonprofit sector. For meaningful progress in EDI, resources and support must intentionally be directed towards organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and people from other underrepresented groups. This includes offering long-term and core funding, as well as challenging the increased expectations disproportionately imposed on these organizations.
Furthermore, white-led organizations must deepen their commitment to EDI, moving beyond mere acknowledgment to active, intentional pursuit. The path to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable nonprofit sector lies in learning from those who already prioritize these principles, even amidst challenges.
The “Shifting Power Dynamics” report elucidates the urgent need to address these disparities. By doing so, the nonprofit sector can become a more powerful agent of societal change, embodying the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion it seeks to promote.