The excellent Rosetta Thurman recently wrote a blog post about “Whites Only” nonprofit leadership. It focused on how the Nonprofit Times had their list of top nonprofit leaders, and only 10% were people of color.

It makes me wonder, are we missing the boat?

Are we blind, racist, or just plain stupid?

Even if you are blind and racist, and don’t see the obvious advantages of mentoring women of color, let me lay down a business case for you. By 2050 people of color will be the majority of people in America. Your donors will most likely be people of color. Statistically.

Shouldn’t you be learning what African American, Asian-American, Hispanic American, Indian and other groups want and need? Shouldn’t you be working to advance the field of development by mentoring people of color?

Why are development professionals not mentoring more people of color? What can we do about this? Do we need to follow Norway’s example, and mandate that our nonprofit boards be 40% women of color in five years?

Here are some inspirational black female nonprofit leaders, who deserve all of the support you can give.

Sharon Lettman is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading civil rights organization for LGBT African-Americans. Lettman has a long career working on behalf of people of color, gays and lesbians and other underserved communities.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins took over as CEO of Green for All in March 2009. Green for All is the nation’s leading organization working to bring environmental justice to communities of color. So far under her tenure, Ellis-Lamkins has lobbied for two significant improvements to the House version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act: securing funding for job training, and guaranteeing broad access to clean energy jobs.

LaDonna Redmond is a food security activist working on Chicago’s west side. She is the President and CEO of The Institute for Community Resource Development (ICRD). Redmond recently opened Graffiti and Grub, a grocery store and venue focusing on supplying the community with sustainable, organic, and locally-grown food.


Faye Wattleton was the youngest president of Planned Parenthood, cofounded the Center for Gender Equality in 1995, an organization which focuses on the equality of women. Today, she is the President of the Center for the Advancement of Women as well as a member of Columbia University’s Board of Trustees.

Adrienne Livingston

Adrienne Livingston, Executive Director of the Black United Fund of Oregon which provides small grants and a community calendar to the African American community in Portland, Oregon.

Honorable Mention:  Majora Carter is an African-American “green” economic consultant from the South Bronx area of New York City. She founded the non-profit environmental justice solutions organization Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) before entering the private sector in 2008.

Any leaders I left out? Who would you want to see added to this list?

Please comment, and let me know what would help you or what would have helped you get involved in a development career.