Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference Re-cap

October 30, 2018

This month, three Praxis Consulting Group consultants, Molly Mead, PhD, Nelson Parrish, II, MA, and Nancie Zane, PhD attended the 2018 Alliance for Nonprofit Management Annual Capacity Builder’s Conference. This year’s theme: Re-envisioning our Field: Advancing Racial Equity and Leading Innovation in Capacity Building. Highlights of the conference included a reminder for nonprofits not to settle, but to dream big about what they desire to accomplish for those they serve.

In preparation for the conference, Molly worked closely with the Alliance conference organizers to design a speaker series within the conference and invite a diverse group of speakers around the topics of advancing racial equity. Nelson and Nancie in partnership with Curdina Hill of Clear Water Consulting led the Advancing Racial Equity Interest Group*. In that session, many noted the increased need for racial equity work in an environment of rancor and division. Curdina, Nancie, and Nelson also lead a workshop entitled “Advancing Racial Equity: Exploring our Roles as Non-Profit Change Agents in Cross-Race Teams.” They provided a framework that helped set the conditions for effective cross-race facilitation and attended to the differential experience of consultants of color from their white counterparts in predominantly white nonprofits.

Key Themes and Ideas from the Conference:

  • There is value to making the commitment to working on racial equity explicit. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are significant but more encompassing terms, and can sometimes allow us to avoid an explicit focus on race. Defining concepts such as race, racism, white supremacy, racial equity, etc. are critical so that organizational leaders and staff are on the same page about what they are working to change.
  • Racial inequity in the United States is embedded in our history. Thus, situating it historically and systemically is important.
  • Consultants can help organizations decide whether the equity work they want to do is a tweak or a transformation. Transformative goals won’t be achieved with tweak processes.
  • The nonprofit sector has made virtually no progress in racial diversity of the leadership of our organizations over the last 20 years (see the “Race to Lead” report by Building Movement Project, 2017). The problem is not a lack of qualified and motivated candidates of color. Unconscious bias too often means that we don’t “see” competence when it is present.
  • Racial equity can’t be achieved by the nonprofit sector alone, though there is much we can accomplish as a sector. Ultimately, we need to forge alliances with the public and the private sectors.

Overall there, was a positive and reinforcing sense of community and an emphasis on the important work of capacity builders to make nonprofits more effective.

*The Advancing Racial Equity Interest Group is an Alliance discussion group in the process of being formed; if you’re interested in coming to quarterly Zoom-based meetings please send your name and email address to Curdina Hill at