Meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.

Equity Through Service Part II: Examining Leadership and Culture

Two females having a conversation with a male at the New York Cares Gala

"It's time we become comfortable with the uncomfortable conversations about race. Instead of being color blind, we need to be color brave.” - Mellody Hobson

Before recent Black Lives Matter protests, New York Cares was working toward an understanding and practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Working with DEI consultants, holding employee unconscious bias workshops, and running internal committees helped pave the way. However, we saw that we needed to do more to address this critical issue, and decided that we needed a major organizational shift. In July 2019, we welcomed Chief Talent Officer Nyisha Holliday to our senior leadership team. Over the last year, Nyisha has helped our organization view every decision through a new lens of equity.

Below is an update from Nyisha and Executive Director Gary Bagley, on where New York Cares is heading on DEI, and how we are examining our progress in our commitment to equity through service, from the inside out.


We set the tone for our workplace culture.

In the words of leadership and management expert John C. Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls with leadership.” And we agree.

We knew that a talent officer needed to have a seat at our senior leadership table. Someone who could help provide an equitable view of the employee experience. Someone who could help us remain accountable as we prioritized DEI to employees, community partners, volunteers, donors, and the communities we serve.

In our recent statement against racism and discrimination, it was important that we remained authentic and acknowledged that there is much more work to be done. We identified diversity, equity, and inclusion as an aspirational value. We knew we valued it, but even more importantly, had a growing duty to embrace it.

To embody those values, we continue to have difficult and vulnerable conversations with staff, senior leadership, and our board. We have observed that a lot of the work that really moves the needle is not the work that is upfront and showy.

We are putting resources, time, and effort into making DEI happen.

To ensure that our aspirations are operationalized internally, a cultural shift is critical.

Currently, we are:

  • Increasing the diversity of our leadership team as positions become available
  • Placing DEI competency as a preferred qualification in our hiring process
  • Pursuing additional cultural competency and anti-racism training for all staff, including the senior leadership team and Board of Directors
  • Setting DEI competency as a measure of job performance

These bullet points summarize our internal starting points. How we approach DEI within our organization also directly informs how New York Cares shows up in the communities we serve.

Another key strategy is to have a more focused impact in the neighborhoods that need it most. 

Due to structural racism, these communities continue to be hardest hit by food insecurity, education inequities, and income inequities. In order to ensure we are entering communities as servants and not saviors, we first need to listen, understand, and see how racism manifests itself.

We will be sharing more about how we are approaching this work and invite you to follow along here as we continue these internal and external initiatives.

Doing DEI work is a marathon. It is a difficult and joyful journey that we are committed to taking together.

To our community:

We are listening. We are learning. And all of us are charting a new course for New York Cares.


Co-authored by Chief Talent Officer Nyisha Holliday and Executive Director Gary Bagley


Gary Bagley's picture