Achieving the Elusive Goal: Determinants of Racially Diverse Board Membership among Human Service Nonprofit Organizations
Given their mission-related role as advocates of disenfranchised and needy minority groups, race may emerge as a particularly salient characteristic when human service nonprofit organizations consider the composition of their boards of directors. Indeed, it is thought that organizations with racially diverse boards enhance the capacity of communities to solve social problems. Although boards in the U.S. are on average around 80% white, the boards of some organizations achieve high levels of racial diversity. The factors that facilitate diversification of human service nonprofit boards are poorly understood, however, as most of the literature on board diversity derives from research on publicly traded for-profit organizations. I add to the empirical literature on the racial composition of boards by asking the question: What organizational characteristics predict the racial diversification of human service nonprofit boards? Using a representative sample of human service nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles County that was drawn in 2002, I test a set of expectations derived from the theoretical and empirical literature. Key finding are that: 1) racial diversity of the board increases with increased racial diversity among clients and staff, 2) racial diversity in the organization's location has no impact on board diversity, 3) the percentage of residents who are minority in the organization's location is positively related to board diversity, although this relationship varies across different racial and ethnic groups, and 4) levels of government funding and formalization are positively related to board diversity. Results support institutional and resource dependency theories and suggest that geographical and institutional environments have consequences for the promotion of racially diverse boards of directors among human service nonprofit organizations.
Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations, Boards Of Directors, Racial Diversity
Doctoral Student, Department of Social Welfare, University of California, Los Angeles