Why Diversity on Boards Matter

In a year of significant changes to every aspect of life, it is no surprise that it is also a time of reflection, advocacy, and reconciliation. Organizations, regardless of the sector, are currently examining their diversity among the leadership teams or lack thereof. Though well-intentioned, Boards often do not reflect the diversity of the communities they serve nor their members. Thus, there is a disconnect which leads to gaps in voices heard, ideas generated, and overall satisfaction.  As an umbrella organization with over 250 members, Volunteer Ottawa understands the importance of having members feel adequately represented. It has actively sought out diversity in its leadership and has benefited from the plurality of ideas. To assist others, reach the same benefits, Volunteer Ottawa has taken this knowledge and created the Diversity in Leadership Ottawa’s (DLO) program in 2018. Organizations can now easily address skill gaps in Board make-up while increasing diversity. The DLO program works to address this gap by identifying, recruiting and training professionals from under-represented groups and matching them to not-for-profit Boards of Directors. Volunteer Ottawa currently has over 300 candidates from a wide range of backgrounds and a variety of professions, all keen to serve on Boards. As well as coming from under-represented groups, eligible candidates are:

  • Lawyers, accountants, doctors, educators, police officers, researchers, advocates, entrepreneurs.
  • Professionals in finance, HR, communications, employment, IT, marketing, and event planning.
  • Students that bring fresh knowledge of the latest developments in their field and retirees with decades of personal experience.

Along with professional diversity, candidates from the DLO program come from all walks of life. They include individuals who self-identify as: First Nation/Métis/Inuit/Indigenous, visible minority/racialized person, new Canadian, LGBTQI2+ person, and/or a person with a disability. Imagine what it can do for your members to see themselves and their clients reflected within your Board. The benefits of a diverse board also include a positive impact on financial outcomes. Access to highly engaged professionals translates into the following benefits to associations:

  • Opening new avenues of fund development and donor networks
  • More robust and effective decision-making
  • A wide range of perspectives
  • Promoting innovation in strategic planning
  • Better reflection of, and response to, the diversity of your members

But how do you get the right candidate for your board? Leadership roles can be highly selective due to the nature of their work and requirement to fill a missing skill set. Volunteer Ottawa’s DLO program is unique in that it that it does all the work for not-for-profits. All candidates are trained to the highest standards in Canadian board governance courses, including ethics and financial management. Moreover, our candidates are professionals who are screened and selected specifically to meet your exact needs. Simply put, Volunteer Ottawa helps you find the best match! Post your Board vacancies through our convenient web portal and let us connect you with qualified candidates that share your vision for your association.  What Ottawa’s not-for-profits are saying about Diversity in Leadership Ottawa: “If you are looking for new pre-qualified Board members for your charity, then look no further. Working with DLO has been an absolute delight. Oumy (staff member) was quick to comprehend what we were looking for and provide us with a number of pre-qualified candidates. The result of this collaboration has not only saved us valuable time and energy in our recruiting cycle but provided us with high quality Board members.” Bo Turpin, Director, Upstream Ottawa Mental Health Community Support

“We worked with DLO to help us find a suitable candidate with professional expertise in HR and leadership. The process was simple and reduced the burden for our small organization. We have been so fortunate to recruit a skilled, reliable and professional individual with international expertise and passion for supporting refugees and women. It was such a positive match and experience that we are now using DLO to try to fill another upcoming board vacancy.” Sophia Lowe, Board Member, Carty House. To learn more about the DLO program, please contact us at: [email protected]

Eleonore Eaves is the Director, Programs & Fund Development at Volunteer Ottawa. Her range of experiences over the past two decades began with her graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, followed by positions with renowned institutions such as the London School of Economics and King’s College London. Upon her return to Canada, she held positions in both the public and private sector, where she acquired best practices from various organizations to develop her management style. Eleonore strongly believes in the importance of volunteering