New York State Legislature Considers Bills Requiring Diversity for Nonprofit Boards

A bill related to nonprofit board diversity was reintroduced by Senator Kevin Parker and Assembly Member Pamela J. Hunter during the current session of the New York State Legislature.  Senate Bill 5971 and its companion version in the New York Assembly, Bill A3620, would require nonprofit boards receiving state funds to reflect the ethnic makeup of the communities they serve.

The bill follows New York’s passage in 2019 of another diversity related law which calls for a study of the number of women serving on certain corporate boards.

The bill’s sponsors say ethnic diversity is critical to a nonprofit board’s ability to understand its community’s needs.  They say when the ethnic makeup of a nonprofit board mirrors that of the community it serves, the board is more able to relate to the shared experiences of its community, and is therefore better equipped to identify problems and feasible solutions.   The bill makes an analogy to ethnically diverse police departments, stating that as data bears out that diverse police forces provide better service to diverse communities, the same may be true for nonprofit boards.

On January 5, 2022, the bill was referred to the Senate’s Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee.  It’s unclear whether this bill will gain traction during this legislative session.  Nevertheless, the call for more diversity on boards is trending not only in New York, but in California, Maryland, Illinois and other states where board diversity requirements have either been enacted or proposed.  Given the growing expectation for greater inclusion of underrepresented minorities on boards, nonprofits should consider familiarizing themselves with best practices for board diversity.