Talent Acquisition, Transparency and Compensation: From Posting to Negotiation

By Lisa McKeown, Danisha Martin and Eric Salyers – Nonprofit HR

Successfully recruiting a candidate starts long before the job posting. It starts with understanding the critical role of transparency in your organization’s compensation practices and how it factors into the talent acquisition process. By prioritizing a partnership between total rewards and talent acquisition, your organization can create and sustain a compensation approach that also advances equity in your entire talent acquisition process. 

Compensation: Beyond What Your Organization Pays its Employees 

An internal compensation structure is the foundation on which your compensation offer to a potential candidate is formed. A compensation philosophy comes into play next, which is the outward statement, to your staff and board, of inward practices and a commitment to how diversity, equity and inclusion are infused into compensation decisions. As a guide, this statement ensures equity is at the forefront of your compensation, and talent acquisition, processes. Displaying this statement will also foster greater transparency and trust with both staff and potential candidates.

However, compensation doesn’t just come as a paycheck. For example, offering unlimited paid time off (PTO) or transportation support can be an immense benefit because compensation no longer reigns as the driving force for job seekers. In fact, only 32% of respondents in the 2021 Nonprofit Talent Retention Practices Survey considered compensation/benefits a primary reason to leave a job. Candidates are now embracing the need to work in an impactful role that aligns with their values. Thus, consider how flexible your organization can be when designing new hire offers to add this type of value and reinforce brand differentiation.

Transparency: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Posting the position salary range in a job description demonstrates that your staff know the compensation structure for each position, where they fit in the structure and how equity plays into salary decisions. It indicates that the organization has done the work—and that is an organization candidates want to join. 

If you are a leader, you may have a fear of transparent compensation conversations with staff, even if there is an established structure in place. But staff want to know that they’re being paid fairly and are often comparing salaries amongst themselves. Thus, outlining how compensation decisions are made and highlighting opportunities for career (i.e. salary) growth are how to keep staff motivated and engaged, and set the organization up to thrive.

Talent Acquisition and Total Rewards Partnership

A collaborative partnership between your talent acquisition and total rewards teams ensures a continuous feedback loop of understanding the structures, practices and processes in place, which can encourage organizational cohesiveness and efficiency. For example, your total rewards team can partner with the hiring manager to determine specific role ranges and ensure they know how the structures work. It is also imperative to assess whether your compensation structures are attracting the right candidates your organization is seeking, indicating areas of opportunity to infuse equity

To strengthen this partnership, start by providing each other resources. Consider having your total rewards team create a one pager of your benefits offerings for your talent acquisition team, or participate in salary surveys, which will give your organization a baseline of reliable data to begin benchmarking. The goal is to create a symbiotic partnership between each team of subject matter experts to effectively operationalize your organization’s commitment to equity. 

View the accompanying webinar recording here.

 

Originally published on nonprofithr.com.

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Picture a Scorpion’s Tail!

Have you heard of tail spend?

Even if you haven’t, it exists in your not-for-profit organization somewhere on your Statement of Financial Activities. Simply put, “tail spend” refers to the 20% of your administrative overhead that you don’t have time to manage as tightly as you’d like.

The best way to think about tail spend is by recalling the Pareto Principle – the 80:20 rule. On the expense side of a not-for-profit’s statement of financial activities the 80% represents costs associated with the organization’s core purpose: what the organization spends on people and programs. That’s where financial managers direct their time and energy, and rightly so. And consistent with the Pareto Principle, that 80% of expenses is clustered around 20% of the suppliers – the core of key vendors who are closely managed and, for that reason, subject to all the proper controls.

 

tailspin-min
Conversely, 20% of a not-for-profit’s expenses – the “tail spend” – is associated with cost categories that aren’t core to the organization’s mission but are nonetheless essential. On the “tail” you typically find things like copier contracts and printer leases, telecom and data plans, payroll service fees, benefits insurance, property and casualty insurance, uniforms and linen rentals, software subscriptions, merchant card fees (especially relevant for cultural not-for-profits that sell memberships or charge admission), food service, etc.

What’s difficult is that the tail – that non-core 20% of a not-for-profit’s expenses – is where you find 80% of the organization’s suppliers. And unlike the 20% of suppliers who serve the not-for-profit’s core mission (and for that reason command financial managers’ attention), that 80% of the organization’s suppliers – the non-core suppliers – are much less likely to be closely managed or subject to proper controls.
In some organizations – it doesn’t matter whether they’re for-profit or not-for-profit – it’s not unusual to find that the cost of processing and paying invoices related to tail spend purchases sometimes exceeds the value of the goods or services received.

So, what can you do to put controls around your tail spend?

• Chart your total spending: how does the Pareto Principle apply among the suppliers to your organization? (For an example, see the graph below.)
• Study the data: are there cost categories in which spending is dissipated among a disproportionate number of suppliers?
• Prepare a negotiation strategy: are there opportunities to consolidate spending among a shorter list of preferred suppliers – i.e., reward them for giving you better service and lower costs?
• Leverage your dissipated purchasing power; shorten the tail; gain visibility to your spending; create metrics to measure your success in controlling your non-core administrative expenses.

A Pareto-style assessment of your tail spend opportunities will yield between 10% and 30% savings in each and every cost category you attempt. Why leak cash when you can redeploy it to enhance your mission?

Making financial wellness attainable for everyone

How underrepresented groups view their financial health – and how employers can help

When it comes to financial well-being, Americans are generally optimistic. According to new research conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Empower Retirement, more than half of people surveyed believe they can attain financial health.

However, this confidence is not consistent across racial and ethnic groups. Only 38% of Hispanic Americans and 43% of Black Americans consider themselves financially healthy compared to 51% of white Americans. While the research reveals critical inequalities in terms of how different groups view their financial wellness, it also identifies a clear opportunity for employers to step in and create meaningful change.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of people of color say the concept of financial health needs a makeover — and companies must redefine it so it is more realistic and attainable.

While the specific goalposts employees set for their financial well-being differ across racial and ethnic groups, Americans generally agree about their big-picture financial ideals. Unfortunately, survey results suggest that some underrepresented groups are less likely to feel they have reached those important goals.

Infographic - Financial goals across racial groups
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of white Americans say they have bought a home compared to only 47% of Hispanic Americans and 35% of Black Americans.
  • Similarly, 46% of white Americans say they’re on track to retire when they want to compared to 27% of Hispanic Americans and 33% of Black Americans.
  • And while Asian Americans feel more confident about having an emergency fund and being debt free, they still lag behind white Americans on home ownership and retirement.

How employers can help

From an employer perspective, understanding employee progress towards their goals can serve as guideposts for financial well-being offerings. They can help prioritize what financial education, advice and resources may help the most.

And whereas more than six in 10 people of color want help on their financial wellness journey, employers’ engagement and advice efforts can fall short if they are not careful to build trust and connect with their audience in an authentic way. Download the research brief to learn more.

Research paper download - Making Financial Wellness Attainable for Everyone

Download research paper


The Massachusetts CORE Plan is an affiliate member of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. The CORE Plan is a 401(k) retirement plan designed specifically for small Massachusetts nonprofits. For additional information about the CORE Plan, please contact Lisa Cardinal at 617-510-4036 or lisa.cardinal@empower.com or visit www.ma-employer-core.com.

Racial inequities aren’t a crack in the system – the systems are working as designed

gearsAmerica’s systems, from education to class, and everything in between, are working as they were designed. Deep inequities were present at our country’s founding and have been a through line until today. And therefore, discriminatory beliefs and practices have been built into our systems – those formed by the government and by our institutions. In other to ensure greater equity, nonprofits should explore how racism has been built into systems.

The construction of race is a backbone to our systems

Racism, a system of advantage based on race, is an integral part of how many of our nation’s other systems, such as our criminal justice system, were crafted. This is why race as Americans understand the concept today was formed. As the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) explains, prior to American colonization, “race” was used rarely and generally meant to group people by kinship, rather than shared physical characteristics. However, racial categories as we know them today became more commonplace as the “categorization of people became a justification for European colonization and subsequent enslavement of people from Africa.” 

European colonization and the founding of America depended on this construction of race, thereby ensuring that race was interwoven into our nation’s policies and practices. Understanding that race has been and still is the central way that we divide, and therefore understand, our nation helps us see that it has necessarily been built into the core of our institutions. 

Inequitable outcomes are a product of intentional design 

The racial disparities we see today are expected outcomes based on intentional design. Let us take a brief look at the housing system in particular, which is often said to be broken, to understand how this system perpetuates itself.

In response to the Great Depression, the New Deal included housing programs – programs which intentionally shut out Black Americans. On top of this, the newly established Federal Housing Administration refused to insurance mortgages in and near Black neighborhoods, a process called redlining. Over the past century, mortgage insurers have not always explicitly stated that race is a reason for denying coverage, instead color coding these neighborhoods as “risky.” But the racism was overt in the Federal Housing Administration’s manual, which stated that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” Today, credit scores are used as a form of redlining, disproportionally impacting Black and Latinx households. Home ownership is one of the most secure ways for families to accrue wealth. As a result of redlining policies, White households have a median wealth that is ten times that of Black households and eight times that of Latinx households. 

Nonprofits must examine the systems they are built on and uphold 

With this knowledge, nonprofits should examine how inequities show up within their organizations, how they affect their stakeholders and community, and explore how DEI initiatives can address them. Learn how to take your first steps here.
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About YW Boston


As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I Services—such as InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

I Can’t Get Donors to Talk to Me: The Donor Engagement Call

mindfulness webinar Instagram landscape (1)-minYou’ve identified donors you’d like to get to know better.  How do you get these donors on the phone? 

  1. Core premise:  We want to serve you better. 
  2. Eliminate “ask” anxiety: Come right out and say that you won’t be asking for a gift—and don’t! (Really—this works!)
  3. Ask questions that will help you learn more about the donor’s interests, values and beliefs.
  4. Get permission for a next step and set a date.
  5. Smile during the call.
  6. Record notes.
  7. Make good on anything you said you would do.
  8. Tailor communications based on what you learned.
  9. Keep at it.  Only one out of three or four donors will want to engage more deeply.

Prepare the donor for your call

(Recommendation: Contact 10 donors at a time)

Donor receives a letter or email introduction to you from the CEO/ED 

  • ABC Nonprofit is committed to better serving its <supporters/members/volunteers> and we’d love to hear what you think.
  • <Person making the call>, in whom I have the utmost confidence, will be contacting you shortly. 
  • [If you don’t have a phone number:] We don’t have a phone number for you.  What would be the best number for <first name of person making the call> to use? [If communicating by letter, provide email address to which to respond with a phone number.]
  • Warm, gratitude-based sign-off

Make the call, for example:

Hi Jackie, This is Mark Jones from the board of ABC Nonprofit. I’m the person <CEO/ED> mentioned in their recent <letter/email>.  [speak slowly and clearly] I’m calling to thank you for being such a wonderful <supporter/member/volunteer> and see how we can better serve you. And Jackie, I won’t be asking you for a donation on this call—I promise!  

[This is a good place to take a breath. The donor will let you know if it’s not a good time. If that’s the case, arrange a time for a 10-15 minute call.]

I’d love to learn more about your story—about why you started <supporting/subscribing/volunteering> at ABC Nonprofit. What got you going with us? 

What is it that you think we do best?

What would you like less of?

If the donor is enthused, keep it going:

[Depending on what you do:] Has our work—or the work of other organizations like ours, impacted anyone you know personally?

[For donors] If it’s OK with you Jackie, I love to learn about how people get started with giving. What is your first memory of making a gift? Follow-up:  What is the best gift you ever made?

Listen for how well the donor’s interests and beliefs intertwine with your work. 

If the donor is not engaged, thank the donor for their time.

Otherwise, the next step might be:

  • An in-person or Zoom visit to explore in more detail projects/initiatives that ABC Nonprofit is working on that might be of interest to the donor. Can this be an “ask” visit? Yes. With permission. Meet the donor where they are.
  • A tour of the facility (if applicable)

From value comes engagement. And, as always, “get on the phone.”

A shout-out to iMarketSmart for coining the term “engagement fundraising.”

 

8 ways to start confronting anti-fat bias at your nonprofit

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Source: UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health

Often considered a delicate and sensitive subject, it may feel uncomfortable or even rude to talk about anti-fat attitudes at your nonprofit. However, studies increasingly show that people in larger bodies are treated differently and paid less than their straight sized counterparts. Fat individuals face hurdles as small as not having accessible clothing options and as large as facing medical bias that can have disastrous consequences.

The primary tool used to measure fatness and uphold thin Whiteness as the standard body is still widely used today: the Body Mass Index (BMI). It’s been increasingly scrutinized as an inadequate measure of a person’s health for decades in parts of the medical community. The BMI emerged out of racist pseudoscience in the 19th century and now disproportionately punishes and harms women, people of color, and especially women of color today.

A 2011 study found that for each one unit increase in BMI women made 1.83% less, which could lead to thousands of dollars in lost wages over a lifetime. 42% of fat individuals report facing some kind of discrimination as a result of their size, and the larger a person is, the more discrimination they report facing. In our workplaces and our world, anti-fat attitudes have clear and direct consequences on the lives of fat people. This discrimination is intersectional, compounded by sexist, racist, and classist attitudes and behaviors.

If we do not discuss anti-fat attitudes as part of diversity, equity, and inclusion work, the problem will only persist and harm those already most marginalized in our workplaces, especially women of color. In order for everyone to thrive we must entertain the uncomfortable.

A good first step is to educate yourself and your employees on how you view people in larger bodies. Beyond that we must consider how our workplaces feel to those in larger bodies.


The following list is a starting point to have larger conversations about anti-fat bias in our nonprofits and society.

  • Consider taking the weight IAT test to see what your implicit bias is towards fat individuals. 

  • Ensure that your office is accessible for people at all sizes by providing comfortably sized furniture, and devoid of architecture that may be hostile towards people of larger body sizes. 

  • During staff outings pick activities that wouldn’t exclude someone based on their weight. 

  • Examine your workplace policies around hiring and promotion to ensure that people of all sizes are treated equitably.

  • Include weight-based discrimination and bullying in guides about inappropriate workplace behavior. 

  • Eliminate weight-based workplace “wellness programs” that are not shown to be effective at achieving positive health outcomes and may actively harm fat employees.

  • Use more positive images of larger people in your communications. The UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health has a Media Gallery. 

Anti-fat bias is a pervasive force within our world and requires a dynamic response to confront our own individual biases and dismantle systemic barriers faced by those in larger bodies.  

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About YW Boston


As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I Services—such as InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

4 recommendations to strengthen your nonprofit’s evaluation of DEI efforts in 2022

Screen Shot 2022-01-10 at 8.54.06 AM-minAs we enter a new year, many nonprofits find themselves evaluating the past year’s challenges and successes to determine how they can have greater impact and fulfill their organization’s mission. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits continue to seek ways to improve upon their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices to ensure more equitable outcomes for their employees, constituents, and communities. Here are some things to consider as you evaluate your DEI efforts in 2022.

Reflect on how your nonprofit evaluates DEI

Many nonprofits are measuring diversity by looking at who is in the room, in the organization, and in different roles. But has your nonprofit started measuring equity and inclusion? When we expand our view beyond who is in the room or the role, we can look at other experiences, attitudes, processes, and systems. So, take the time to consider what data may be missing or excluded, and what the key drivers are behind what you have been collecting.

Gather feedback to determine whether your nonprofit has collected data inclusively

No matter what questions you ask, or how you ask them, we want to emphasize that central to your success will be getting all voices to the table – both in hearing from all voices and in considering what questions matter most to even ask in the first place. It’s important to recognize whose thoughts, ideas, and experiences may be ignored during the evaluation process. As you build or rebuild your evaluation strategy, take time to speak with staff across your organization about what matters to them and how to make the evaluation process inclusive.

Determine what your nonprofit needs in order to improve

Before you can put your plan in place, brainstorm what your organization will need, such as money, time, or staff, to have more equitable evaluation practices. How can you overcome any barriers to these resources, both in the short term and the long term? Evaluation is a key way to get from where we are to where we want to be. Going through the process of assessing and investing in your evaluation practices is a form of assessing and investing your diversity, equity, and inclusion practices as a whole.

Set your plan in place

Once you’ve reflected and gathered your resources, you can determine what your data collection and reporting will look like. Instead of just asking “how do we measure DEI” also or instead ask “what drives change?” and “how do we know that it has changed?” Ultimately, compiling data is not an end to itself. Instead, these reframed questions help you see DEI as a continually evolving process through which your nonprofit can learn its own unique solutions in driving racial and gender equity and inclusion.

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About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I Services—such as InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

3 ways to engage your board of directors in DEI work

image1-minBoard of directors are crucial in a nonprofit’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. As articulated by BoardSource, due to the responsibilities of their position they “[serve] as a reflection of an organization’s values and beliefs about who should be empowered and entrusted with its most important decisions… [and] play a critical role in helping organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on that reality.” 

InclusionBoston provides long-term partnerships to nonprofits, including board of directors, and assists in the creation of a tailored plan to help implement DEI-based practices and policies. We recently talked to Kathleen Von Euw and Evan Hines, who work at YW Boston as InclusionBoston Managers, about how board of directors can engage in DEI work to make their organization a more inclusive space.


1. Make diversity a priority within your board 

A nonprofit’s attempts at DEI efforts mean nothing if the members of the board itself are not representative of the diversity of stakeholders and communities they intend to serve. YW Boston references a tool called the Organizational DEI Journey. A well-meaning nonprofit and board of directors may make official statements on diversity but still have a lot more internal work to do when it comes to the actual diversity of their board. This would put them in the “Symbolic Change” category of the Organizational DEI Journey, several steps away from being “Fully Inclusive.”  

2. Take time to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion 

Kathleen explains that it is necessary for an organization to develop a DEI understanding: “[The] board is sort of pulling the levers of approval for resources, time, [and] the setting of priorities,” which is why the understanding of DEI work is important. She further explains that if an organization is making an effort to prioritize DEI work but the board isn’t consistent in this reflection it could have a negative effect on the organization. Without the board of directors having gone through necessary DEI work and reflection, the staff is going to potentially get pushback as they try to implement DEI initiatives.  

3. Board of directors and nonprofits should hold themselves and each other accountable with DEI efforts

Engaging in DEI work across the culture of a nonprofit shouldn’t just stem from one place. Board of directors, leadership team members, and staff all have to holistically work together to move the organization to the Fully Inclusive stage of their Organizational DEI journey.  

This collaborative work can be difficult. Both Evan and Kathleen acknowledged that there are power dynamics between a board of directors and the leaders and staff within an organization. While this can be challenging, regularly checking in about your organization’s DEI efforts will help you stay on track. As Robin Stacia wrote in Bloomerang, “Through prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion your board and nonprofit are committing to transformational work that will benefit your organization and community.” 

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About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

 As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

Holding difficult conversations about racism will help us grow as nonprofit leaders

MNN_OurSharedSector_Nov2021Beth Chandler, YW Boston President & CEO, was recently joined by Patricia J. Williams, a University Professor of Law and Philosophy, and Director of Law, Technology and Ethics at Northeastern University for a conversation on Critical Race Theory (CRT). As a CRT scholar, Professor Williams has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law.

The conversation’s aim was to help provide a better understanding of CRT and the role it can play in furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, which is critical to all institutions including nonprofit organizations. Here are some important takeaways from this conversation.

What is (and isn’t) Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory emerged out of critical legal studies in the 1970s and 1980s that assert that race plays a part in our society’s systems, such as our legal system and our education system. Recently many Americans have fought against CRT for fear it is being taught to their children and integrated into DEI programs, though it’s taught almost exclusively in graduate-level courses.

As Professor Williams noted, “What [people] are fighting against is not [CRT], but integration.” They are fighting against their own discomfort, and the possibility that their children will “become upset about precisely the difficult dialogues that I think we must have.” In doing so, they have weakened institutions’ diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Learn more about CRT in our previous blog.

We need to frame racism as a systemic issue to create space for understanding and action.

Professor Williams explains, “As adults, we are in a society that has a punitive history. We need to be able to confront this history without the framing as individual faults. Framing [these prejudices] as structural is essential.”

CRT helps us understand racism as a systemic part of our institutions, which individuals take part in knowingly or unknowingly. Recognizing this fact will help us root out the racism in our institutions, with the goal of creating more equitable spaces and outcomes.

Building the trust to hold difficult conversations will help us grow.

Beth acknowledged that though challenging, “We need to prepare ourselves to hold difficult conversations, especially with those we seek to make change with, such as our colleagues.”

Professor Williams explained that not providing the space or ability for young people to have these conversations engrains in them the belief that talking about racism is taboo. This leaves a community unable to take appropriate measures to address the harm from racial incidents and prevent them in the future.

Professor Williams spoke about the importance of trust in holding authentic conversations. Truly listening to one another can result in participants gaining empathy and potentially changing their mind.

Her point is analogous to YW Boston’s DEI philosophy. As Beth shared, “Here at YW Boston we recognize that active listening and relationship building are crucial components within organizations seeking to make positive change together.”

For more information on Critical Race Theory, check out the full conversation featuring Beth Chandler and Professor Williams through the link here.

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About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I Services—such as InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

How nonprofits can prioritize disability equity during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond 

MNNOctober2021DisabilityEquity (1)-minBy YW Boston

Whether we show up to work in-person or virtually, nonprofit staff do not just bring their professional identities to work, but so much more.  At YW Boston, we consider the “Big 8” social identities: various aspects of ourselves that affect “how people and systems treat us and the opportunities that are available to us.” One of these social identities is ability. 

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, disability advocates have noted that many organizations adopted workplace accessibility policies and practices that the community has been proposing for years. It’s essential we understand disability equity and its importance to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

An introduction to disability equity

YW Boston recently completed a series of workshops with Partners for Youth with Disabilities, an organization that was integral in informing our understanding of disability. 

First off, we encourage all to get comfortable with the word disability. Many people with disabilities identify as disabled and are proud to be a part of the disability community. As a good rule of thumb, notice how people self-identify and follow their lead.

A key framework for understanding disability equity is the Social Model of Disability. With the Social Model of Disability, disability is not a diagnosis, but a product of one’s social and physical environment.

The Social Model of Disability holds accountable those in charge of our physical and social environments to make necessary, accessible changes. This model is important when thinking about disability equity, which helps proactively accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.

Intersectionality is key

When thinking about disability equity it’s also important to think about how the social identity of disability can intersect with other forms of identity, such as race and gender. 

Not only may a person experience discrimination for their race, their gender, and their disability, but those experiences are interwoven. Assumptions made about one of their identities will also impact how they are treated regarding their other identities. 

Use the Pandemic to Better Understand Disability Accessibility

Here at YW Boston, we have become increasingly aware throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that we have work to do around accessibility. Some of our strategies to increase accessibility include utilizing online transcriptions, accommodating different learning styles during our programs, and expanding remote participation options. We also now utilize adaptable furniture and have designated quiet areas in our office.

Taking the time to think through disability inclusion in the office is an important part of DEI work and something that should be revisited frequently to be sustained.

How do you begin to implement disability inclusion in your workplace? 

One way to start implementing disability inclusion in your workspace is through required disability awareness training for all employees, including those with disabilities and those without. This keeps everyone on the same page as far as disability language and resources. 

Another way to start implementing disability inclusion is by providing accommodations for your employees with disabilities. As shown by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), accommodations help employees feel more secure in their individual roles and in working with their teammates.

If your organization needs additional support, reach out to those who offer organizational assessments, DEI services, and who specialize in disability equity.

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About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I Services—such as InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.