By MEL AND PEARL SHAW
We are no different from you our readers. We have been grappling with emotions, engaged in conversations, and reflecting on our role – and the role of the nonprofit sector – during these times of protest and grief. With this column we share a few of the questions on our mind. We don’t have the answers, but we know the answers lie within our hearts and minds, and within the work we have engaged in over the years to help create justice and equity.
We have been engaged in advocacy, research and direct service. We have proposals for how to move forward, and are ready to partner with city, state and federal leaders to address policies and biases.
At the same time, we know that all of us are part of this American conversation. No answers are written in stone. We must proceed with open minds and hearts, putting forth our solutions, and simultaneously questioning ourselves. Here are a few things we have been questioning.
Do we need to examine our mission, goals and priorities? What are we doing to educate others about the needs within our community? How are we inviting diverse groups to hear our case and offer solutions? Are we open to diverse leadership on our boards and management teams? Are we serving the total community, or a segment of the community?
Are we taking optimum advantage of our resources and those we have access to? If increased resources are directed to our nonprofits, how are we prepared to use these? Do we have plans that effectively speak to the needs of our young people? Do we have projected outcomes and measurements? Do we know how to ask for help to build our infrastructure so we can truly make an impact?
Can we stand up to scrutiny and transparency as we build trust and support? Are we open to collaboration and partnerships to best serve the total community by sharing resources and skills with others?
History has shown that when America faces these types of crises, the nonprofit sector has been a platform for making the case and finding solutions. Because of our history, commitment and compassion, nonprofits can serve as the sanity and the bridge to bring together all segments to best serve the community. Are we up to the task? Are we ready to offer specific solutions?
As African Americans we can educate and invite others to join us in the work we have been engaged in for years. We can reach out to those who may be reluctant to use our services or accept our leadership because we are African American. We can let people know we are ready to link arms and to lead.
As people who are not African American we can reach out to African American leaders and learn from their experience in the realms of social justice, economic development, education, and job training.
The bottom line: Nonprofit leaders can provide solutions.