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Balancing Act: Asian American Organizations Respond to Community Crises and Build Collective Power

March 20, 2023

The Building Movement Project (BMP) supports and pushes the nonprofit sector by developing research, creating tools and training materials, and facilitating networks for social change. BMP's movement building work provides tools, trainings, and narratives to foster cross-racial solidarity among movement leaders and social change organizations.This report is part of BMP's Movement Infrastructure Series which offers ideas, approaches, and practices to strengthen individual organizations and broader social movement ecosystems. Balancing Act: Asian American Organizations Respond to Community Crises and Build Collective Power is a collaboration between BMP and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC). ALC brings together legal services, community empowerment, and policy advocacy to fight for immigrant justice, economic security, and a stronger democracy, with a specific focus on serving low-income, immigrant, and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area. ALC coordinates the Asian American Leaders Table (AALT), a network of local and national organizations that came together in March 2020 to respond to the increase in bigotry and violence targeting Asian American communities during the pandemic through information sharing, narrative change, and advocacy. Since 2020, BMP has supported the AALT through strategic facilitation, guidance for frontline response, co-learning sessions, and solidarity workshops.

Meeting the Need: Building the Capacity of Community-Based Organizations

November 30, 2022

The Building Movement Project (BMP) surveyed leaders in the nonprofit sector to find out what they needed to maintain and build their organizational infrastructure in order to fulfill their mission. Our interest was two-fold. We targeted leaders of smaller community nonprofits that are often left out of national discussions on building nonprofit capacity. We also wanted to understand whether challenges differed when comparing organizations with Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders and white-led groups.The findings—from over 800 survey respondents, including extensive write-in responses, as well as four focus groups—show the capacity issues nonprofit leaders face are similar across race. Nonprofit leaders want help growing their organizations, raising money, and addressing staff issues, especially burnout. Despite these similar needs, there are differences between white and BIPOC leaders when it comes to finding the capacity-building supports they need to address these challenges.The results reflect recent critiques of the capacity-building field in three ways:Our findings call into question the assumptions that BIPOC-led groups have greater needs for infrastructure supports than white-led organizations. The data shows that BIPOC and white respondents faced similar infrastructure challenges across a variety of indicators.BIPOC respondents reported a harder time than white respondents in finding providers that understood their organization and the communities they served. BIPOC leaders were also less likely to rate the support they received as adequate, suggesting that capacity builders were less able to offer the help BIPOC-led groups needed.Respondents told us their greatest challenge to stabilizing and growing their organizations was funding. The mostly small community-based organizations that responded to this survey were in a bind. Addressing their infrastructure issues would help them grow as an organization, including raising more funds.But money for capacity-building did not necessarily lead to funding for doing the work. BIPOC participants were especially concerned that they received grants to hire consultants instead of, rather than in addition to, funds that would help them build and operate their organization, or even support to implement the recommendations made by the infrastructure providers.As we enter a period that many worry will see an even bigger decrease in giving to nonprofits, especially for groups with small budgets, it is important to reflect on how capacity building can provide the best added value to help nonprofits in local communities survive and thrive.

Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs: A Race to Lead Report on Nonprofit Executives of Color

January 20, 2022

Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs: A Race to Lead Report on Nonprofit Executives of Color focuses on the experiences and challenges of nonprofit leaders of color who have attained the top position in their organizations. It builds upon the findings of the 2019 Race to Lead Revisited report, as well as a previous report on nonprofit executives from the 2016 Race to Lead survey data.This report demonstrates that the proverbial glass cliff is an all-too-common reality for leaders of color in the nonprofit sector. Ascending to an executive position does not end a leader's struggles with racism, and sometimes increases those challenges. In particular, Trading Glass Cliffs for Glass Ceilings shines a spotlight on:The racialized barriers that leaders of color overcome to attain their executive positions.The persisting challenges experienced by people of color who hold executive leadership positions.The heightened struggles faced by leaders of identity-based organizations.The added burdens placed on leaders of color who follow a white executive director or chief executive officer.The potential next wave of executive leaders transitioning out of their positions.

Making (Or Taking) Space: Initial Themes on Nonprofit Transitions from White to BIPOC Leaders

October 5, 2021

The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation (RSCF) has observed that many organizations are eager to transition from white leaders to leaders of color, but that they often do not have the experience, expertise, commitment, or supports in place to fully embrace new leadership and make these transitions successful or joyful. Too often, it is the new leaders of color who pay the price for under-prepared organizations. As RSCF continues to understand and move resources to directly support leaders of color during these transitions, they wanted to take a closer look at themselves and their grantee community.This report shines a light on one small group of organizations and offers some findings, rather than recommendations. It helps to better understand the realities of what is happening on the ground as groups like RSCF seek to develop a better set of considerations and capacities for releasing and sharing power that white people in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors must hold themselves accountable to, particularly during this critical period. 

On the Frontlines: Nonprofits Led by People of Color Confront COVID-19 and Structural Racism

October 7, 2020

This report presents data collected from over 400 nonprofit executive directors and CEOs of color about the effects of COVID-19 and the uprisings against anti-Black racism on their communities, organizations, and themselves.On the Frontlines makes five key findings:- The Crisis Is About To Get Worse: Organizations led by people of color are preparing for multiple crises in the immediate future due to unmet survival needs, a resurgence of COVID-19, and policies that criminalize communities of color.- Nonprofits Are Filling Government Gaps: Since the start of the pandemic, organizations have been pivoting to meet the pressing demands of their communities and filling the gaps left by ineffective government policies and systems.Women of Color Leaders are Bearing The Brunt: The toll on nonprofit leaders of color, particularly women of color leaders, is immense.- The Long-Term Sustainability of POC-Led Nonprofits Is Unclear: The long-term financial stability of POC-led nonprofits is unclear.- We Must Unite to End Anti-Black Racism: POC-led organizations that are responding to the uprisings against anti-Black racism need partnerships and investments that deepen their organizing, advocacy, and solidarity efforts. We heard an overarching message from leaders of color: there is no going back to normal, and this is the opportunity and moment for meaningful systemic change.How do we get there? The report offers recommendations for how nonprofits, foundations, and the sector can support leaders of color so that they can continue doing their vital work, how we can focus our efforts on systemic and structural issues, and how to achieve transformational change.

Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap

June 16, 2020

Inequality in the United States is a familiar issue to those who work in the nation's nonprofit sector. Many nonprofit organizations are dedicated to supporting and empowering communities that have limited resources and influence due to systemic and structural inequalities. As part of this commitment, a growing number of nonprofit organizations are reflecting on how societal inequities are replicated in their own organizations. This report, Race to Lead Revisited: Obstacles and Opportunities in Addressing the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, presents ongoing research and analysis by the Building Movement Project (BMP) into why the nonprofit sector has so few leaders of color. As this report is finalized in the spring of 2020, a worldwide pandemic, renewed grief and outrage over the continued killings of Black people by police and vigilantes, and a deepening recession have even more sharply exposed fault lines of who holds power and privilege and who is treated as expendable.1 The nonprofit sector itself is scrambling as organizations, especially smaller community-based groups, fear for their financial futures at the very moment when their work is more vital than ever. These challenges offer the opportunity for organizations and their funders to respond by addressing not only the immediate crisis but also systemic inequities both within nonprofit organizations and society at large.2 The data and analysis presented here offer insight on how to support organizations that embrace racial equity internally as they work toward a society in which all people have equal voice, opportunity, and power.The Building Movement Project released initial survey findings on race and leadership in the nonprofit sector in the 2017 report Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap. That report challenged long-held assumptions about why so few people of color lead nonprofit organizations, including persistent assertions that people of color need more leadership training and are less likely than white peers to aspire to top leadership roles. The data collected from a 2016 national survey of nonprofit employees showed that people of color in the sector were similarly qualified as white respondents and had more interest than white peers in becoming a nonprofit leader.3 The lack of diversity in nonprofit sector leadership was not a reflection of the qualifications or ambition of people of color, but the result of racialized barriers that inhibited their leadership ambitions, from lack of support by white boards of directors to the biases of executive recruiters. To increase the diversity of nonprofit leaders, the report recommended that the sector shift its focus away from the individual qualifications or goals of emerging leaders of color and toward addressing the systemic bias in the sector that prevents their advancement.

Nonprofit Executives and the Racial Leadership Gap: A Race to Lead Brief

May 28, 2019

This brief shifts focus to those who have already reached positions as nonprofit EDs and CEOs to explore how nonprofit executives grapple with the real-world demands of leadership when they attain it. The survey data and insights shared through interviews and focus groups highlight key areas where the pressures of executive leadership seem to be increased for people of color. Despite these challenges, nonprofit EDs and CEOs demonstrate remarkable determination and resilience.

Race to Lead: Women of Color in the Nonprofit Sector

February 5, 2019

This report reveals that women of color encounter systemic obstacles to their advancement over and above the barriers faced by white women and men of color. Education and training are not the solution—women of color with high levels of education are more likely to be in administrative roles and are more likely to report frustrations about inadequate and inequitable salaries. BMP's call to action focuses on systems change, organizational change, and individual support for women of color in the sector. 

The Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap in Massachusetts: A Race to Lead Brief

January 1, 2018

The survey results highlighted in this report are of particular interest given the stark circumstances of inequality that characterize the Boston metropolitan region, where 55% of the Massachusetts subsample reported they worked. A 2017 Boston Globe poll found that more than half of African-American/Black respondents considered Boston unwelcoming to people of color, positioning it as the least welcoming of eight cities studied. The Globe's related series on race depicted Boston as a city deeply segregated in its key institutions, with little change for decades in the dominance of white power brokers over public and private decision-making roles and where public expenditures for development prioritize wealthy white constituencies.4 Steady growth in technology, health/life sciences, and other service sector industries has been accompanied by high and rising inequality. A 2016 Brookings Institute study ranked Boston the number one city for income inequality in the nation.5 Another study that year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found stark racial wealth gaps, with white households holding median wealth of $247,500 compared to near-zero wealth for U.S. Black and Dominican households.6 Meanwhile, the area's growth rests largely on immigrants and people of color, who make substantial contributions to the regional economy but reap fewer of its benefits.7 While these circumstances are especially stark in Boston, they reflect broad national trends, making the findings here potentially instructive beyond Massachusetts.

Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap

October 18, 2017

Building on the Boston Foundation's Nonprofit Effectiveness work and the spring release of Opportunity in Change: Preparing Boston for Leader Transitions and New Models of Nonprofit Leadership, this forum focused on the racial leadership gap that the nonprofit sector is experiencing.Studies show the percentage of people of color in executive director/CEO roles has remained under 20% for the last 15 years, even as the country and the people nonprofits serve have become more and more diverse. To understand the causes of this disparity, the Building Movement Project conducted a survey with more than 4,000 nonprofits on the topic of nonprofits, leadership and race.At this forum, the Boston Foundation, Barr Foundation and Race to Lead report authors Sean Thomas-Breitfeld and Frances Kunreuther presented the results, including new analysis of Massachusetts data, which calls into question the common assumption that to increase the diversity of nonprofit leaders, people of color need more training. The findings point to a new narrative: to increase the number of people of color as leaders, the nonprofit sector needs to begin by addressing the practices and biases of nonprofit organizations themselves.

Engage to Change: From Client Feedback to Participant Involvement

March 1, 2017

Service organizations are meeting the immediate needs of their constituents and provide essential supports. At the same time, many of these groups recognize how larger policies and procedures can make their job harder and limit options and opportunities of their program participants. With increasing inequality, slashes in public budgets, and greater demand on their services, nonprofits are looking for new ways to do their work.The set of strategies outlined here describes how some service organizations are integrating social change into their everyday work. Supporting the voice of their service recipients helps participants gain a sense of efficacy and gives organizations new ideas and power to make change.

Coordinating Collaboration To End Homelessness: A Mid-Point Learning Assessment Of The Reaching Home Campaign And Opening Doors-Connecticut

July 29, 2015

The Reaching Home Campaign was launched in 2004 with the goal of ending chronic homelessness in Connecticut. Through the adoption of the federal Opening Doors framework in 2011, the Reaching Home Campaign expanded its focus to build the political and civic will to prevent and end all forms of homelessness in Connecticut. The report identifies some key elements that have helped us sustain the Campaign over the arc of many years: the Campaign has energized and motivated a diverse group of stakeholders to work together to respond to a significant social problem, established strong internal structures to direct this energy, and kept its focus on advancing change in a few distinct strategy areas. As the report notes, three key actions that have made the Campaign a success so far are a) finding a clear shared purpose and defining clear goals to guide the Campaign, b) nurturing strong relationships with state officials, and 3) speaking with one voice in advocating for solutions. The report also highlighted areas the Campaign can build on, including further refining its collaborative structure, amplifying its communications, and expanding engagement of staff working at the front lines of service delivery and people who have experienced homelessness.