Generating ideas, connections, and action

LLC Webinar Series | Race To Lead

August 15, 2017

10am -11am Pacific | 1pm - 2pm Eastern


The nonprofit sector is experiencing a racial leadership gap. Studies show the percentage of people of color in the executive director/CEO role has remained under 20% for the last 15 years even as the country becomes more diverse. To find out more, the Building Movement Project conducted the Nonprofits, Leadership, and Race survey. Over 4,000 respondents answered questions about their current nonprofit job, interest in leading a nonprofit, training/supports, views of leadership, and personal background. They were also asked about their views on race and the nonprofit sector. This report, the first in a series to be released over the next two years, will compare people of color and white respondents’ background, aspirations to be leaders, training, and attitudes towards leadership.

The findings from the survey challenge the way the nonprofit sector has been approaching the racial leadership gap. The prevailing theory of change has been that there needs to be more attention on finding or convincing people of color to consider leadership positions, keeping those who are qualified from leaving the sector, and offering training to the others to prepare them for taking on the top job. Underlying this logic are the assumptions that people of color are less interested in nonprofit leadership than their white counterparts, that qualified leaders of color will leave the nonprofit sector, and that those who stay do not have the skills to be competitive (without help) for top leadership jobs.


The results tell a different story. They show more similarities than differences in the background and preparation between white and POC respondents. In addition, people of color are more likely to aspire to be leaders than white respondents.   To increase the number of people of color leading nonprofits, the sector needs a new narrative about the problem and new strategies to address it. Nonprofits have to transfer the responsibility for the racial leadership gap from those who are targeted by it (aspiring leaders of color), to those governing organizations. Join The Building Movement Project on August 15th to learn more about their latest report.  

Download their full report:







Frances Kunreuther co-directs the Building Movement Project, which works to strengthen U.S. nonprofits as sites of civic engagement and social change. She is co-author of From the Ground Up: Grassroots Organizations Making Social Change (Cornell, 2006) and Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership (Jossey Bass, 2008). Frances spent five years at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. Before that, she headed the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBT youth, and was awarded a year-long Annie E. Casey Foundation fellowship in 1997 for this and her previous work.

Sean Thomas-Breitfeld co-directs the Building Movement Project, developing research, tools, and training materials that bolster the potential of nonprofit organizations to support progressive social change. Prior to joining the BMP staff, Sean spent a decade working in a variety of roles at the Center for Community Change; moving from the policy and communications departments to developing training programs for grassroots leaders. Sean started his career at UnidosUS (formerly NCLR), where he developed research and lobbied on issues related to employment and income security. Sean holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.