The HSBC Lumberjack Ad: On Nonprofit Boards and Diversity of Perspectives

Brilliant. In a matter of seconds, even without sound, the new HSBC lumberjack TV ad tells us that communities – even families - are comprised of people with very different points of view. The ad is visceral; it conveys both the intensity of the differences, as well as the closeness of the bonds. The point is that in spite of the differences, the individuals are part of one family, and one community.

This ad reminds me of the value of diversity of perspectives on nonprofit boards, while working together towards a common mission. Standing in front of boardrooms facilitating retreats, I hear a distinct qualitative difference in the discussion among boards comprised of people with a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, where different points of view are encouraged, appreciated, and respected. Such boards engage in the most thoughtful conversations of community needs and interests; create a vision for the organization to distinguish itself in adding value; and build support through the broadest networks.

The big question now is which nonprofits will survive new financial threats. Given that nonprofit funding sources are government, philanthropy, and fees, there is no question that the organizations that are best positioned to thrive are the ones with boards that are comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, expertise, and networks, as well as a deep commitment to the mission and the community.

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  • Deborah Vesy

    When thinking of Board diversity I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in which he hopes that his children will be "judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". Board diversity should not be judged by the color of the people sitting around the Board room table but by the beliefs, perspectives, and life experiences that lie within.