Michigan Nonprofit Association Blog

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Racial Leadership Gap Among Detroit Nonprofits, New Survey Finds

DETROIT- Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) in partnership with Data Driven Detroit (D3) today released the results of a first-of-its-kind survey that shows the racial leadership gap within the nonprofit sector in the city of Detroit.

The Detroit Nonprofit Leadership Census Survey conducted in February 2021 sought to identify the percentage of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) nonprofit leaders in the city of Detroit and to examine the disparities that exist among the city’s nonprofits. The survey captured more than 200 responses from the estimated 1,500 nonprofits serving the city of Detroit. Of those responding organizations, 66.5% have BIPOC executive directors, while 62.6% of BIPOC executive directors are the first leaders of color in their organizations. The survey found 4.9% of white-led organizations did not have BIPOC board members while 1.6% of them have a 100% BIPOC board. Additionally,19.6% of surveyed, white-led organizations did not have any BIPOC staff members.

“Detroit is a city that is predominately Black and it’s important to affirm where BIPOC leaders are having an impact in their communities,” said Nellie Tsai, social innovation officer at MNA. “This survey allowed us to collect and analyze data in our fight to confront and dismantle systemic racism and build more equitable workplaces in Detroit. We also sat down with the respondents of the survey and shared the preliminary results and interactive report with them first. We wanted to make sure that the data released is reflective of their lived experiences and shines a spotlight on the specific hurdles faced by leaders of color in the nonprofit sector.”  

Key findings include:

  • The percentage of BIPOC leaders among survey respondents is lower than the percentage of BIPOC residents in Detroit as a whole.
  • BIPOC-led organizations generally have a higher percentage of BIPOC board and staff members.
  • Organizations led by Black women tend to have a higher percentage of younger leaders.
  • White-led organizations tend to have a higher percentage of BIPOC members on their staff team than on their board.
  • BIPOC-led organizations have an average length of existence that is 4 years less than that of the White-led organizations.
  • Although data is currently somewhat limited, White-led organizations appear to generally have more human and capital resources than BIPOC-led organizations, in terms of numbers of the average board members, average staff members, owned assets, and earned revenues.

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