Race and Equity in Volunteering: From Lived Experience to Leadership

Race and Equity in Volunteering: From Lived Experience to Leadership

Volunteers support and represent work in every aspect of our social fabric, providing essential support, enriching our communities and cultural life, and taking action where change is needed. However, volunteerism can also reinforce patterns of power and privilege that uphold systemic racism. In our conversation on April 21, 2021, we learned how to recognize volunteer activities and patterns that perpetuate inequities, how to thoughtfully engage community, and ultimately, how volunteer engagement, when designed well, can be a part of supporting an end to racial inequity and social injustice.


  • While asking the right questions may be uncomfortable, it represents a sign that you are on the right track to creating inclusive volunteer messages and programs that meet the needs of your community.
  • You don’t have to be the CEO or executive director of your organization to be a leader. Control your space and inspire those around you to begin their race and equity journey.
  • Host thoughtful listening sessions to understand the needs of the community you wish to serve. To make sure your session is inclusive of your entire community, consider providing childcare, a meal or reimbursing transportation costs to meet attendees where they are.
  • Look at your own work and make equitable changes to the things you can control. Then invite others to do the work with you and share it out to inspire your community to make their own changes.
  • Language plays a powerful role in how people are perceived.  Avoid deficit based language, and instead focus on empowering communities and focusing on their talents.
  • It’s important to not only be mindful of who is at the table, but to look at who is making the agenda and who is allowed to speak. We must move away from a transactional view of volunteerism.


Listen. Learn. Act to End Racism is a Points of Light initiative in partnership with Morehouse College that is designed to empower businesses, nonprofits and individuals to use their influence to fight against systemic racism. Visit our site for more information and conversations: https://www.pointsoflight.org/listen-learn-act-to-end-racism/ 

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