At the Alliance, we envision resilient landscapes cared for all people who live, work, and play in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Last year, the Alliance amplified its commitment to all Chesapeake Bay communities to continue to build a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within our organization and through all the work we do.

The organization formally began taking steps toward meeting this commitment back in 2015. This work began at our annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum and expanded into our organization by investing in educational DEI training, a board resolution, and developing staff and board-led committees. We’ve continued to expand our internal efforts through the insight and tenacity of our staff and board each subsequent year. Still, while we feel progress has been made, the expertise of an outside consultant – to assess the internal processes and operations through the DEI lens – would offer an unbiased perspective to ensure that our systems and processes are equitable and align with industry best practices.

In fall 2020, the Alliance’s board and leadership elevated their commitment to the proposed DEI work by dedicating funding to further invest in our future DEI success. The organization approved an internal investment during the 2021 annual budget process, allocating funds to enlist the services of a DEI consultant. With over 20 applicants who expressed interest to our RFP, we were thrilled to move forward with Nonprofit HR. As our strategic partner, Nonprofit HR has initiated a multi-phased discovery process starting with a robust equity assessment of the Alliance. The phased process will allow us to fully evaluate our current state and practices, identify areas of opportunity to incorporate higher DEI standards, and design an outcome-based strategy to better infuse equity throughout our organization. This strategy will also advise our leadership on the most appropriate DEI training options for staff and the Board, which will be provided in late 2021- early 2022.

Each of our short-term tactics identified in our commitment statement is directly benefited by the expertise of Nonprofit HR. Their consultation will accelerate our growth as an anti-racist organization and provide guidance in establishing a more inclusive and equitable work environment that will meet the diverse needs of our current and future team members. While our leadership and board have championed this undertaking, we notice a higher level of engagement and accountability from staff across all roles.

We’re excited to continue this process over the next several months and are looking forward to sharing our short- and long-term goals stemming from this work. Furthermore, we’re eager to leverage lessons learned to strengthen the Alliance’s ability to serve the diverse communities representing over 18 million individuals who reside in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.