10 Ways to Practice Institutional Racism at your Non-profit Organization



  1. Maintain white leadership. Ensure that white people predominantly occupy your board leadership and executive management positions, even if your organization primarily serves people of color. Come up with some really excellent excuses as to why you can not diversity your leadership.
    • They have to be qualified…
    • We can’t find qualified candidates…
    • They need to meet the minimum qualifications…
    • Team culture is important here…
    • We just don’t know any people of color…
    • We have good qualified white people that should be promoted…
    • We asked [a person of color] once to help find candidates and we never got any applications…
  1. Frame the issues & lead the strategies for people of color. Ensure that white people predominantly frame the social issues and lead the strategies to impact social problems, even in institutions that serve primarily communities of color. Invest mostly in your white non-profit leadership to receive high quality training and resources needed to pursue their strategies and ideas. Make value statements that minimize strategies created by people directly affected by the issue and people of color and do not invest in their capacity or strategies.
  1. Limit partnerships with (and Feedback from) communities of color. Limit your time creating partnerships with communities of color to sending an occasional marketing email about your programs. People of color will request an opportunity to offer feedback on programs, implementation, and evaluation. Limit this type of feedback to an email survey and do not come back to share if that information was used in any way.
  1. Ignore complaints of bias and racism from workers and clients. Ignore micro-aggressions and micro-inequities social workers of color experience by their white colleagues.
  1. Value credentials vs. the skills needed to serve diverse populations. Carefully select employment criteria and credentialing requirements and do not require candidates to demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to effectively serve a culturally and linguistically diverse population. If pressured, you can diversify your lowest paid workers that usually do the actual work of providing services to clients to increase the diversity of your staff.
  1. Do not involve people directly impacted. Do not involve people directly impacted by your organization into the planning, implementation, and evaluation of your service. Without their input you can maintain a dependency of your services and never really address the systemic issues. You can also avoid providing people of color the training, resources, and opportunity to learn the skills needed to address social issues in their own communities.
  1. White wash the diversity language. White wash the racial diversity by expanding the definition to include other forms of diversity (i.e. gender, occupation, background, socio-economic status, and geography.) to minimize racial and ethnic diversity issues. 
  1. Maintain the social dynamic of white non-profit affinity groups. Don’t participate in social initiatives predominately led by people of color. Focus on social events where you can share resources between other predominately white-led organizations and increase your fundraising revenue (i.e. annual galas). When non-profit leadership staff donate to each other, it will show strong community support for your organization. It doesn’t really matter if people of color donate to your organization anyways.
  1. Exploit black clients in poverty. Exploit black clients and front line staff on marketing materials. Show the most disadvantaged heartbreaking stories of clients you served and how you helped them. Use this to raise money and have the appearance of a strong commitment and connection to communities of color. If every organization does this, the narrative will be that communities of color could not do this without white people. This will also minimize the achievement of communities of color and organizations led by people of color who often show a more positive and empowering image.
  1. Offer cultural competency training every few years. Include cultural competency training for your staff (there are many white people that provide this training) to have the appearance of wanting to address equity. Learn the language to have better conversations about race and equity, but do not create an action plan. Avoid action steps that you could be held accountable for.

I realize that institutional racism may not be your goal or intention. You may not even be aware of the complexities of racism at your organization. I hope this post moves you from implicit bias to intentional allyship.



Dedicated to my friend, Nate Bowling, in response to: “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having.

I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.” – Nate Bowling


8 thoughts on “10 Ways to Practice Institutional Racism at your Non-profit Organization

  1. Many white people In job look people black or Latino or who speak different language from the heath to the toes,body lenguajes are discriminatory and is part of structural racism

  2. Some white people start organizations and when is time to structure formally org. Push people of color to have the heath of the organization them wash hands and let people with all responsability of imagen,but them want manipulate people behind and want to say the org way,using a different culture for take money of people.

  3. Good information for us all. Racism was not seen as an issue for me and after reading this I have come to the conclusion that I am racist. I can see that these 10 ways to insure white privilege is prevalent at all levels of employment, community and schools everywhere. I read this information and I see where I ( A white man ) have judged without knowing an individual on the color of skin and the way a person is dressed. We all have cultural backgrounds that we are taught thru life that hinders our progress of unity. We must realize that to resolve the issue, we have to acknowledge that racism exists in our lives and others. Yes I have seen racism and did not do anything about it. Shame on me! So to sum up on my voice on the subject, I am dedicating myself to defeat racism at home and away. If you are not willing to accept my decision to unite all races in America, then you are not a part of the American dream of our forefathers that All Men ( and Women )Are Created Equal .
    ” Live Life Free ”

    Signed Charles Ashcraft

  4. Pingback: Homepage