A Vision for Our Future

Jeanne Tedrow, President & CEO, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits

If your vision is for a year plant wheat, if your vision is for a decade plant trees, if your vision is for a lifetime plant people. –African Proverb

Creating a vision statement guides us into the future. It helps us reflect on where we have been as we consider the path forward. The Center has been on a multi-year journey to strengthen our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and we’re sharing our journey as we travel this road.

In the spring of 2022, the board and staff of the Center began the process to refresh our 2017-2023 strategic plan. This would offer us a good opportunity to review and renew our vision statement. There is a purpose in setting a vision at the beginning of the strategic planning process. The vision statement is a starting point to guide our mission work, our strategic direction, and establish goals and objectives that help us achieve the vision.

As we entered this work, we wanted to build upon the work we had been doing through the equity committees of our board and staff. Both have been very active over the past couple of years guiding the process of using an equity lens to review our internal operations including personnel policies and procedures. We continued to use this equity lens to consider our external, outward facing programs, services, and relationships.

Our 2017 vision statement: North Carolina’s nonprofit sector is a vital leader in building and sustaining equitable and thriving communities.

In support of our 2017 vision and with input from many other organizations and thought leaders, we partnered with Greensboro-based North Carolina for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and launched the Walking the Talk initiative to help shape policies, practices, and organizational cultures within nonprofits. Feedback from staff and participants in the initiative’s early programs told us:

  • There was a theme of awareness and beginning dialogue within the sector in North Carolina, but there wasn’t cohesion to it. If you go back and look at topics, they were all over the place. Some of that was by design based off an initial survey, rooted around the question: “Why do we need to have these conversations?”
  • "For the first year, we’re not walking it yet, we’re crawling it."
  • “When we were starting to roll this out, there was a survey that asked ‘where do you need additional support?’ That guided a lot of the initial programming.”
  • “When I reflect on the topics, I think we met our expectations, but I also acknowledge the bar was pretty low. Again, some of that was by design.”
  • “I would say that it met my expectations in terms of what I thought it was going to be, but it’s more like surface awareness.”

Through the initiative, we developed many equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) resources for nonprofit organizations. We hosted events including eight webinars for the Walking the Talk series in 2018 and 2019, additional training on varied EDI themes, and forums like the EDI Roundtables for Nonprofit Executives. We regularly share blogs, social posts, and other communications to give voice to equity topics like EDI and the executive search and to respond to social and racial injustices with the commitment to inclusivity for our organization and the broader nonprofit sector.

When the Center endeavored to refresh our 2017-23 strategic plan and vision, we looked forward to the future and reflected on where we had been. As we evolved and changed our practices and operations internally, our vision for the Center’s future progressed as well.

When our board and staff prepared to do the strategic refresh, we took the time to consider the ways in which our vision had changed and how the Center’s culture had changed. We wanted to center racial equity into our new vision statement, and we wanted to include the board and staff in the process to assure buy-in and full support across the organization. We wanted to continue to go beyond words and put into practice our “Walking the Talk.”

To do this, we partnered with an outside consultant and worked within the board and staff equity committees. In each of our committees, we assessed our own policies and procedures through an equity lens. As we reflected on internal policies, we revised our personnel policies and staff recruitment practices, and integrated equity, diversity, and inclusion into our key Principles and Practices, programs, and services.

We knew from our own experience and from reports and research from the Building Movement Project that there has been little progress integrating equity into the nonprofit sector, its organizational and operational systems, especially with respect to executive leadership.

Going forward, we wanted to raise the bar, reach a little higher, become more aspirational. To do this, we need to be intentional and explicit in our approach. With this renewed vision, we are ready to go to the next level of creating a strategic plan that will frame the Center’s future and have an impact on the whole nonprofit sector.

Thus, our new vision statement adopted by our board of directors in June 2022:

We envision a North Carolina where nonprofits are intentional in their commitment to holistically build healthy, equitable organizations while centering racial equity to strengthen communities.

The Center’s work champions our belief that leadership, policies, and organizational practices in the nonprofit sector must change to reflect and encourage the diversity of our communities. We continue to Walk the Talk. We know we have a long way to go. We will likely make mistakes and have some missteps. This is a journey for the long term. We are hoping, through our efforts and in collaboration with North Carolina nonprofits, that we are building for a lifetime.

The Center will continue to integrate EDI into our programs, services, and policy work, as well as renew the EDI Roundtables. Moreover, we have made equity a central theme within our annual Conference for North Carolina’s Nonprofits – join us for Building on Inclusion, Achieving Equity on November 2-3, 2022 in Durham – and will continue to expand upon these topics.