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


  1. Maintain white leadership. Ensure that white people, even in institutions that serve primarily people of color, predominantly occupy your board leadership and executive management positions. This is going to require you to come up with some really excellent excuses to mask institutional racism.
    • 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 black person] once and we never got any applications…
  1. Frame the issues & lead the strategies for people of color. Ensure that white people, even in institutions that serve primarily populations of color, predominantly frame the social issues and lead the strategies to impact social problems. Invest in mostly white non-profit leadership to receive the training and resources needed to pursue their strategies and ideas. Make value statements that minimize the strategies created by people directly affected by the issues and do not invest in their strategies.
  1. Limit partnerships with (and Feedback from) communities of color. Limit your investment in creating partnerships with communities of color to sending an occasional marketing email about your programs. People of color will request an opportunity for feedback on programs or service design, implementation, and evaluation. Limit this feedback to a 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 social work colleagues.
  1. Value credentials vs. the skills needed to serve diverse populations. Carefully select employment criteria and credentialing requirements and do not require demonstration of the knowledge and skills required to effectively serve a culturally and linguistically diverse service population. In addition, you can diversify your lowest paid workers that usually provide direct service to ensure you have some diversity in your staff.
  1. Do not involve people directly impacted. Do not involve people directly impacted into the planning, implementation, and evaluation of services at your organization. This will maintain a dependency on the services you provide and ensure that people of color don’t receive the training, resources, and opportunity to learn the skills to address social issues in their own communities.
  1. White wash the diversity language. Minimize the critique of institutional racism by expanding the definition of diversity to include other forms of diversity (i.e. gender, sexual orientation, occupation, background, socio-economic status, and geography.)
  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 recycle donations to each other, it will show strong community support for your organization. 
  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 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. Cultural competency. 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 that would ensure equity and empowerment within your organization.

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 unintentional racism 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

1 reply
  1. Charles Ashcraft
    Charles Ashcraft says:

    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

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