Sunday, July 21, 2024



Philly’s new LGBTQ board prep program is prioritizing accessibility

A rainbow flag flies during a February 2017 protest in Center City. September 11, 2018 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose
A new City of Philadelphia-supported program is aiming to develop the diversity of local LGBTQ nonprofit boards.

The Community Leadership Pipeline Initiative (CLPI) will train LGBTQ people of color, youth, trans people and seniors, about the ins and outs of board service and match them with leadership positions at local LGBTQ nonprofits.

But the program will purposefully lack many of the barriers present in other board prep programs — namely, cost and experience, said Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Amber Hikes, whose office is developing the program alongside William Way Community Center, the Independence Business Alliance (IBA) and DVLF.

The program was conceived after the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations released a report in 2017 detailing racism in the city’s Gayborhood.

“Obviously we know from anecdotal evidence and also research that in this city, LGBTQ people of color are underrepresented in terms of our leadership in LGBTQ organizations,” Hikes said. “We’ve seen this problem progressing for quite a while” but “never have we taken such an intentional approach” in terms of developing leadership capability.

The six-month program will be led primarily by LGBTQ community members and existing board members and will teach subjects such as ethics, finances and development, personal branding, nonprofit bylaws and the like.

Don’t forget, diversity is about more than race — it’s also age, income, education background, professional experience. CLPI has three methods for increasing its accessibility:

  • The application doesn’t ask for a résumé, but invites those interested to share their past experiences and describe what skills they want developed in a short essay format. They can also self-identify any potential barriers to their engagement in the program so program organizers can address them.
  • The program will be free, and Hikes said organizers are currently fundraising to provide stipends for anyone who finishes CLPI. Existing funding has been provided by the William Way Community Center, IBA and DVLF, and Tabu Sports Bar donated funds to William Way specifically in support of the project. (No city funding is currently being used, according to Hikes.)
  • Each of the dozen organizations that have committed to admitting program graduates to their boards, such as Bebashi, the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, AIDS Law ProjectGALAEI and Philadelphia Family Pride, have pledged to forgive the participants’ give-or-get financial commitments for their first year of service.

Apps are open now through Oct. 1, with an estimated program start in late October (also LGBT History Month). Sessions will be held in community spaces around the city, likely on Saturdays. Between 14 and 20 people will be accepted, and Hikes said she hopes the program will run annually.

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Zach Wilcha, the executive director of the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), said the PCHR’s 2017 report recommended his organization get involved in developing the CLPI because it had begun its own board and membership diversification efforts.

“We were proud and honored to be asked to participate [in CLPI] because we believe that diverse and inclusive boards are better for our LGBTQ organizations and for the City, and that more voices and backgrounds should have a seat at the table where decisions about and for the LGBTQ community are happening,” wrote the head of Philly’s Chamber of Commerce for the LGBTQ business community and its allies in an email.

Wilcha said IBA’s 20-person board currently includes seven members of color, seven female-identified members, two trans members and two members who are allies. Twelve members are between 40 and 55 years old, and eight members are younger than 40.

“At the IBA, we’ve been measuring Board diversity by several factors: racial and ethnic background, gender expression, sexual orientation, industry, and geography, since we serve 11 counties,” he said. “Building on that list, we would welcome someone [graduating from CLPI] who represents an age or life experience not currently identified on our Board, such as an LGBTQ elder or someone on the younger side of young professional.”

Hikes said that of the local boards she’s served on, including those of William Way and the Philadelphia Dyke March, diversity has always been valued.

But “even in those organizations, we were constantly having conversations about needing to be representative,” she said.

If this program is successful, those conversations may get a little easier.


Office of LGBT Affairs

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