By Logan Herring
In the mid-2000s, as a young black man, at the age of 23 and returning home from college, I started a nonprofit to expose the next generation that looks like me, to the opportunities I was fortunate enough to experience. A few years into this work, one of my kids in the program and his mother were the victims of a home invasion. They were both shot, and his mother died in his arms. In 2016, I was presented an opportunity to work in the very same neighborhood where this unimaginable event occurred. This neighborhood is called Riverside (Wilmington, DE), and it leads the entire city, with 70% of its children living in poverty. This poverty is a result of the racist policies and practices that have been embedded in the fabric of this country for over 400 years.
As CEO of REACH Riverside, I have the privilege of leading a diverse staff and engaging donors, partners and volunteers who are committed and have a heart for mobilizing change. Before the pandemic, we were off to the races with a $37 million capital campaign, with over a third of our goal raised to date. But then, the pandemic hit us, followed by an overdue reckoning with our country and community’s history of racial injustice.
With all eyes and efforts focused on the importance of inclusion and diversity, we are committed to raising more and doing more through a lens of addressing the many racial inequities that have historically been and currently are being imposed on minority communities. Nonprofits, like most businesses, must do more, thinking creatively and taking action to build a diverse network of professionals, volunteers and donors. This even, or rather especially, includes those nonprofits working to serve communities of color.
- Does your organization have a diverse board and staff that bring their personal experiences, perspectives and understanding to the organization and the fundraising process? If not, assessing and making a plan is a great place to start. Define diversity and inclusion for your organization and then devote resources to education, training and changing behavior.
- When you are meeting with donors or scheduling volunteer events, have you considered whether the meetings, events and opportunities are inclusive, welcoming donors from different backgrounds? When talking with donors, do you involve those you serve that will be most impacted by their gifts? Do you ask questions and convene those your organization seeks to help, moving the needle WITH them, not for them?
Conscious or unconscious bias further widens the socioeconomic gap and impairs the strength and growth in minority communities and the nonprofits that serve them. The civil unrest that has transpired in the past months brings forth the overuse of buzz words, but it also shines a bright light on issues we have long covered up, even by those organizations whose very charters are dedicated to serving minority communities. Equity means opening seats at the table, be it board, programming or fundraising, to those who have not traditionally had a voice.
“Equity means opening seats at the table, be it board, programming or fundraising, to those who have not traditionally had a voice.”
We are now all required to convene around the table with a common goal, to “Do Something to CHANGE Something.” That is what drives and pushes our organization daily, and is the mantel I ask you to take up with me. We can no longer just have conversations to appease, or to check a box on our long lists of best practices. We must thoroughly examine our current policies and practices that continue to leave targeted groups of our population on the outskirts, marginalized from economic growth and prevented from participating in the planning processes that most impact them and their families. Once that acknowledgment and examination is complete, we can all demonstrate that providing equal opportunity truly means equal at every level.
Logan Herring is CEO of REACH Riverside, a nonprofit community development corporation created to revitalize the Riverside neighborhood under the nationally acclaimed Purpose Built Communities model, to include over 600 units of mixed-income housing, a new Kingswood Community Center, and a Teen Warehouse. He is a graduate of Goucher College with a degree in business management. He also has many professional affiliations:; board of directors for Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County; ChristianaCare Council of Advisors; board of directors for Leadership Delaware, Inc.;Board of directors for the Community Education Building. Logan has also been recognized in the Delaware Business Times 40 Under 40 class of 2018.