Developing a board diversity policy is an important first step toward becoming a board that reflects the communities you serve and incorporates unique perspectives. To create a culture of inclusion, a board diversity policy needs to be dynamic, changing to incorporate new voices and perspectives, and to respond to changes both inside the board and within the organization.
In the first section of this toolkit, we discussed how diversity and inclusion mean different things. We suggested that just inviting people from diverse backgrounds onto your board, does not automatically make them feel included, or that they have an equal voice on the board because of underlying issues of power and privilege. We To create a culture of inclusion, a board diversity policy needs to be dynamic, changing to incorporate new voices and perspectives, and to respond to changes both inside the board and within the organization.also learned that when boards are diverse and all voices are recognized, organizations gain many benefits such as better decision-making, more capacity to respond to the communities they serve, increased board sustainability and more sustainable fundraising.
It is important to review your board diversity policy on a regular basis to incorporate new perspectives as described above, and also to expand it to include the principles of equity and inclusion.
Equity and inclusion often are linked and both are connected to issues of power and privilege. Equity is fairness, making sure everyone has what they need to succeed and removing barriers that disadvantage some groups over others. This is distinct and may be different from treating people equally. Inclusion is what a community, group or organization does, or how it acts to ensure that individuals feel welcomed, valued and supported as members. 
Organizations often establish a small committee or working group to look at board and organizational policies. The most effective committees represent the full board members and not only those members who may belong to under-represented groups.
- Review the current board diversity policy
- Recruit new board members for the committee, ensuring diversity
- Ensure board orientation and ongoing development needs are met
- Ensure the committee has terms of reference (read sample format, Appendix 4, and sample roles and responsibilities in Appendix 5)
- Review and make recommendations to the board concerning any changes to board composition, outreach and recruitment, board size, board structures, board policies and procedures, by-law amendments and board attendance
- Evaluate how the policy has been working, what changes have taken place within the board since its inception? Were these changes positive? Expected?
- Review and make recommendations to the board concerning any changes/additions to the policy (e.g., language about equity and inclusion)
It can be a challenge to revisit board policies and find ways to make their language reflect not just where your organization is now, but where you want to be.
We have included three examples of diversity policies that have been expanded to include language that reflects equity and inclusion approaches:
- Sample board diversity and inclusion policy
- Sample diversity and inclusion statement
- Sample diversity, equity and inclusion statement
- A list of these benefits can be found in DiverseCity onBoard (2011). Diversity in Governance: A Toolkit for Nonprofit Boards. Retrieved from onBoard Canada ↵
- Ontario Public Service (2017) ↵
- Morley, T. (2018). "Making the business case for diversity and inclusion: Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in HR", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 17(1), pp.58-60. Retrieved from Emerald Insight ↵