Dollars and diversity

Big Day of Giving raises cash, but also broadens nonprofit leadership

Linda Beech Cutler is CEO of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

Linda Beech Cutler is CEO of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

We launched Big Day of Giving—the Sacramento region’s annual 24-hour online fund-raising day that returns Thursday, May 2 (—with dual aims.

The first was to empower local donors to give to nonprofits that serve the capital region. In just six years, they have contributed more than $30 million to more than 600 local nonprofits.

The second goal was to help staff and volunteers at those nonprofits strengthen their skills in areas that can sometimes seem secondary to the more immediate work of their groups’ missions—things like regularly and richly engaging their donors, building their marketing know-how and, importantly, developing diverse leadership.

The latter is critical.

We believe that a strong nonprofit sector leads to a strong community, and we believe that our community’s nonprofit sector is strongest when it is marked by equity and inclusion at all levels. After all, as stewards of the public good, nonprofits play an important role in upholding the democratic ideals we all value.

That’s why we aim to empower local nonprofits to meaningfully reflect the communities they serve in their leadership. But data from GivingEdge, the nonprofit database that powers Big Day of Giving, suggests we have some ways to go.

For example, take the racial and ethnic makeup of governing boards at nonprofits. Of the thousands of board members, a disproportionately small number are non-white; that underrepresentation is worse in some nonprofit categories than others.

Because nonprofit board members hire top executives, determine strategies and allocate resources, they play critical roles in ensuring organizations support and reflect equity and inclusion. These leaders should mirror our region and the breadth of its diversity—racial and ethnic, yes, but also gender, socioeconomic background and professional expertise.

Our community benefits when we strengthen board deliberations and decision-making by drawing on the talents and perspectives of a broader and more diverse range of leaders.

This is not a challenge unique to nonprofits in the Sacramento region, of course, nor can it be sufficiently addressed with quick-fix solutions. This is long-term work. At the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, in addition to looking at how we can make our own board more reflective of the region we serve, we are advancing this cause through our Big Day of Giving work with area nonprofits and through other programs and grants.

You can support it, too, by getting to know local nonprofits. When you donate during Big Day of Giving, I encourage you to review the comprehensive nonprofit profiles on the website that contain information about the 601 participating organizations, their missions, their impact and their leadership.

As an informed donor, you can ensure your favorite local causes support equity and inclusion. That helps strengthen our region’s nonprofit sector and our community.