When you look around the Boardroom, who do you see?
If you’re lucky, there are people of diverse backgrounds bringing vast perspectives and experiences to the table—a collection of points of view that let all participants feel seen, heard, and understood. But that is often not the case. Especially for underrepresented groups, including those in positions of power.
Black nonprofit leaders, executives, and CEOs navigate different waters than their white counterparts—spaces they were historically, and intentionally, excluded from. And despite the heightened awareness that was amplified during the racial unrest that exploded during the pandemic, Black-led nonprofits in Philadelphia still struggle to connect with the region’s philanthropic community.
The overarching goal of the recent report Reflecting Forward: Philadelphia–based Black Nonprofit Leaders’ Recommendations for Regional Funders, backed by Kelly Woodland, managing director of leadership equity—was to first develop a better understanding of the challenges faced by Black leaders, and the value Black-led organizations contribute to Philadelphia’s nonprofit ecosystem. Then, to change the climate to one with equitable opportunities.
Woodland’s primary focus is on advancing racial equity in the region’s nonprofit sector, and ultimately designing and launching a centralized leadership hub to improve equity in the nonprofit sector and grant-making institutions.
Seven months into his work at United Way, Woodland is already making waves due to an existing network he has cultivated throughout his career. An early initiative of his includes the Black Nonprofit Chief Executives of Philadelphia (BNCEP) Affinity Group that began organically at the height of work-from-home mandates.
What started out as a group of 20 has evolved into a cohort of more than 120 executives coming together to become better connected to one another and the sector at-large.
“Folks have been coming to the virtual meetings because they feel a connection,” said Woodland. “For many Black executive directors or CEOs who opt-in to the Affinity Group—all seasoned in their careers—it’s the first time they see only other Black and Brown faces in the Zoom room.”
“For many Black executive directors or CEOs who opt-in to the Affinity Group—all seasoned in their careers—it’s the first time they see only other Black and Brown faces in the Zoom room.”
Guest speakers are often brought into the conversation—recently, The Philadelphia Foundation, the Hamilton Family Trust, and Harris Philanthropies. There is also information and updates given about current or upcoming funding opportunities all to ensure the grantmaking process is a leveled playing field.
Starting this month, Woodland looks to expand the group’s offerings, including culturally competent Executive Coaching. (Stay tuned for more on that!)
“With the resources of the United Way, we’ve been able to take the BNCEP to another level,” Woodland added.