Reflecting a Community: The Importance of Diverse Boards

Margaret-Sawyer-Arcenio-LopezBoards that reflect the constituency that an organization serves is an important value for the McCune Foundation. Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) in Oxnard works to empower indigenous farm workers from Mexico, and the group has been intentional in involving Mixtecs on its Board of Directors. Executive Director Margaret Sawyer says that the organization’s bylaws require that 40% of the Board be indigenous. Four Mixtecs, including three farm workers, currently serve on the Board. How has MICOP meaningfully engaged new leaders? Board meetings are held in Spanish on Saturday nights.

“Since many Mixtecs are field workers and some attend college in the evening, Saturday night worked best,” Margaret says.

Budgets and board materials are prepared in both Spanish and English, and trainings are offered to Board members. Associate Director Arcenio Lopez says that meeting reminders are done by telephone since some members do not use e-mail. He suggested that a first step an organization can take is to add a bilingual Board member. As mono-lingual Spanish speakers are invited to serve, there will be a greater level of comfort, he says. Engaging “clients” in leadership roles can support organizations in making more informed decisions on behalf of the community they serve.