ProInspire's Race Equity Journey

A Decade in the Making Series Part Three

In honor of our 11th anniversary, we are publishing sections from A Decade in the Making: ProInspire’s Lessons on Leadership and Equity to share our journey on this blog. Below you will find the third blog in the series on ProInspire’s Race Equity Journey. To learn more about our learnings from 2019 and areas of work for 2020, register for ProInspire’s 2020 Impact Call on March 11th from 12:00- 1:00pm EST. This call will give the ProInspire community the chance to engage directly with our team and hear more about our exciting future.

ProInspire’s Race Equity Journey

Our organization’s race equity journey started in 2015 and continues today. A key learning for us has been that the deeper you get in race equity work, the further you realize you have to go. We expect our racial equity transformation will continue over the next decade and will push us even further in shaping our team, our values, and our work. Here are some of the key milestones in this journey.


ProInspire participated in the Casey Foundation’sSocial Sector Talent Pipelines Strategy & Learning Lab. This program supported our team’s capacity building around Results Count® and tools to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.


We engaged Ericka Hines to serve as Senior Advisor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, supporting our internal and external work around equity. We began to disaggregate internal data to better understand the impact of our programs on leaders of color. We published op-eds in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on What Nonprofits Can Learn from #OscarsSoWhite and How Nonprofit Workers and Leaders Can Make a Difference as Racial Tensions Flare. With support from the Kresge Foundation, we incorporated training on implicit bias into the ProInspire Leadership Institute. We also recognized that implicit bias focuses only on the individual level, and we needed to provide more support around race equity at the organizational level as part of our trainings. ProInspire, Public Allies, and AmeriCorps Alums launched Equity in the Center following the Casey Lab to shift mindsets, practices, and systems in the social impact sector to center race equity.


We hired two-full time staff to focus on Equity in the Center, and expanded Ericka’s role to serve as lead researcher on the Equity in the Center publication. Equity in the Center convened four working sessions with advisors to build out research for the Race Equity Cycle. We held a one-day training with Race Forward for our staff, consultants, and some Board members to deepen knowledge around structural racism. We also curated a set of resources for Independent Sector’s DEI Resource Hub.


Equity in the Center published Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture and hosted its first public convening in Baltimore. With support from the Newman’s Own Foundation, ProInspire engaged Ericka Hines to co-design the Race Equity and Leadership program to support our staff in advancing race equity. It was piloted internally during four full-day sessions, and included a staff survey and follow-up equity coaching for staff. Staff assessed ProInspire to be at the “Woke” stage of the Race Equity Cycle, highlighting that our culture reflects two characteristics of white dominant culture: a sense of urgency and a fear of open conflict. As a result of this internal work, we made a number of changes:

  • Updated our vision, mission, and theory of change to clearly address equity

  • Defined our organizational values (see previous page)

  • Made program shifts to Managing for Success to more clearly incorporate equity

  • Developed staff job levels with compensation ranges

  • Updated our staff benefits

  • Conducted our first Board demographic survey and identified gaps on the Board

  • Engaged the Board in a full-day retreat focused on race equity. The Board also assessed ProInspire overall at the “Woke” stage of the Race Equity Cycle. However when we looked at specific Board practices, we identified some of them at the “Awake” stage.


Internally, we deepened our knowledge and analytical frame around structural racism through staff participation in trainings with Crossroads Anti-Racism and Racial Equity Institute. We recognized the need for more team members with expertise facilitating workshops around race equity, and began restructuring the team. Other changes include:

  • Updating our programming

  • Updating our hiring process

  • Launching new cohort programs focused on staff and Board teams advancing race equity together

  • Testing our leadership competency model with a race equity lens

  • Initiating a Board-approved, participatory decision-making process to determine next steps for Equity in the Center

This is the third of a series of blogs from A Decade in the Making: ProInspire’s Lessons on Leadership and Equity. Check out the other blogs in the series:

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