State Equality Org Staff & Boards Creating Social Change

State of the States: Part 3

The accomplishments of Equality Federation members each year is a testament to the dedication of the staff and boards that do the work of winning equality in their communities.

The median number of employees for staffed organizations is three, but larger organizations, have up to 26 staff, driving up the average to five. This is smaller than last year’s average of eight, with marriage campaigns winding down and organizations pivoting to new work.  Notably, field and communications positions have been reduced in some organizations.

While the majority of our members have an Executive Director, fewer than half have other key staff members:

  • 39% (16) have a Development Director;
  • 27% (11) have a Communications Director; down from 39% last year
  • 39% (16) have an Office Manager/Administrative Director;
  • 22% (9) have a Program Director;
  • 27% (11) have a Political/Policy Director;
  • 15% (6) have a Field Director; down from 27%
  • 17% (7) have a Finance Director;
  • 5% (2) have a Technology Coordinator;
  • 27% (11) have a Lobbyist.

One reason our members are able to accomplish so much is that they have dedicated volunteers, including their boards of directors. These boards, at an average size of 13 members, govern, plan, strategize, evaluate, and help raise critical funds to support these organizations.

Diversity in Staff and Boards

As our movement becomes invested in working for transgender equality, it is important that we create a culture of leadership that embraces and empowers transgender and genderqueer people. The good news is that our organizations are making progress. In 2008, transgender and genderqueer people made up only 6% of staff and boards. That is up to 18% of staff and 13% of boards this year.

We still struggle with racial diversity in the leadership of our movement, and this remains true in our member groups, with only 25% of staff and 21% of boards made up of people of color.

For the past several years, we have seen the numbers on people of color staff and boards remain low, and there is no indication of an upward trend. That’s why this year, as part of our own organizational development, we began working with Race Forward to incorporate a racial equity lens into our work with our members. For the first time at Summer Meeting, we offered an extremely well-attended session called “Working for Racial Justice in White-Led Organizations,” and we have continued this work with our regional cohorts.

The Impact

For the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work closely with Equality New Mexico‘s Board. Not only have we have been able to work with them on strategic and organizational planning, but we have also been able to learn from their extraordinary commitment of building the board they need to succeed.  

amberAs Amber Royster reported in her Summer Meeting 2015 FedTalk, EQNM’s board, which was mostly white, mostly male, and mostly cisgender, committed to a big change. With thoughtful consideration, extraordinary dedication, open hearts and a willingness to learn, they switched from a “recruitment model” to an “attraction model.” Today, their Board is diverse and dedicated to intersectionality and social justice. They’ve given away half their grant dollars to POC and trans led organizations while still tripling their organization’s budget.

One thing the State Leadership project learned from Amber is that, “institutional tools should not prevent you from doing what you need to do to build a strong board.” We love to help you create and follow bylaws and policies and to set goals for board development. Amber helped us see that sometimes these tools, often put in place with no thought to the place we are in our movement today, can hold us back. We thank EQNM for letting us be a part of your journey and helping us bring this framework of courageous change to other members.

The State Leadership Project is committed to continuing to partner with our members at all phases of organizational development — from groups run entirely by a board of directors to our largest staffed groups — to evaluate current impact, create strategic frameworks, and build out plans to help maximize the impact of their limited resources and infrastructure. And we are excited to continue to learn from the work you are doing and help you network and spread best practices to win equality in the communities you call home.

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Fran Hutchins

Fran works on the ground with state leaders to plan, hire great people, develop leaders, and grow and strengthen our movement organizations.

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