Philanthropy Roundtable Offers Holistic Framework for Embracing Diversity

Since Philanthropy Roundtable first introduced the idea of True Diversity last year, we’ve heard from many voices in the charitable community about the need for a more inclusive approach that expands diversity beyond physical and biological characteristics alone. We couldn’t agree more. 

This week, the Roundtable announced an expansion of its True Diversity initiative with the release of a statement of principles supported by more than two dozen charitable organizations and community leaders. The statement defines True Diversity’s goal: to serve as a unifying vision that returns love, compassion and empathy to the diversity conversation. 

True Diversity is an equality-based initiative that promotes a thoughtful and holistic framework for embracing diversity. It provides an opportunity for charitable organizations to evolve from rigid box-checking and quotas to celebrating the full kaleidoscope of identities and characteristics that make each person special. By embracing the richest possible diversity of unique traits, backgrounds, perspectives and experiences with every individual, True Diversity offers a way for organizations to most effectively advance their missions, help communities and make every person feel they truly belong—and matter. 

“With the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and now increasing costs from inflation, charitable organizations are needed more than ever to provide assistance to those who are struggling. Unfortunately, a rigid focus on box-checking policies is putting the effectiveness of these vital organizations in jeopardy – harming those who need our help the most,” said Philanthropy Roundtable President and CEO Elise Westhoff. “True Diversity is a better path forward that values every individual and allows charitable organizations the freedom to focus on advancing their core missions, which are essential for strengthening communities around the country.”

As the statement of principles explains, “The time has come for a new framework that recenters on the core American idea that every individual is valued and that no one should be left behind simply because of how they look, who they love or the circumstances of their birth.”

The True Diversity framework rests on five key principles: 

  1. Value each individual. Each person is a unique individual worthy of dignity and respect. It is only by taking the time to know and understand them, their challenges and their circumstances, rather than simply making assumptions based on how they look, that we can best support them.  
  2. Advance the mission. Excellent results are best achieved by bringing together people with diverse skill sets, backgrounds and perspectives to further a common mission. Each organization is in the best position to know what types of diversity in leadership and staffing will best support its mission—and thus strengthen the communities it serves.  
  3. Seek diverse perspectives. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and there are many ways to address social challenges. Bringing together people with diverse views is the key to encouraging a robust competition of ideas, experimentation with different approaches and ultimately better answers and outcomes.   
  4. Embrace conversation. Discussion and debate open the door to progress. Direct, honest and respectful conversation may take courage, but it is the antidote to division, resentment and stagnation.   
  5. Cultivate empowerment. The best way to uplift individuals and strengthen communities is to foster the sense of agency that only comes when everyone is empowered to reach their full potential.   

Patrice Onwuka, Philanthropy Roundtable adjunct senior fellow, says the initiative will help organizations more effectively accomplish their work. True Diversity also holds meaning for her personally.

“I don’t fit neatly into any one box. No one does. I am more than my skin color and more than my gender. Everyone brings a kaleidoscope of perspectives and lived experiences that form their identity and inform their work,” said Onwuka.  

“Effective organizations are mission focused with people who are valued for what they offer not how they look. True Diversity takes a holistic approach to diversity to help society embrace diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences as critical aspects of strong teams,” she added.

The signatories to today’s statement are committed to this thoughtful framework “that recognizes the value and dignity of each person and allows donors and nonprofits the freedom and flexibility to pursue the best strategies for achieving their goals and missions.” 

The True Diversity initiative will offer additional research and resources for charitable organizations that will be released in the coming weeks. To learn more or join this conversation, please visit 

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