Actioning DE&I: How Classy empowers company employees (and the world)

Photo of a woman looking on in a group meeting

4 mins, 45 secs read time

Classy is a software company that powers online fundraising for nonprofits. With a mission to mobilize and empower the world for good, Classy is also turning the lens inward and prioritizing many internal diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. We spoke with Nancy Vance, Senior Manager of People Operations, to learn more about their DE&I; initiatives and areas of focus for this year.

Greenhouse: How did you define what diversity means to Classy?

Nancy: One of the main data points we used was a direct survey to employees asking what diversity means to them. We ultimately defined it as a combination of different backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. From a demographics perspective, we were interested in identifying diversity across race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability status, and religion, among others.

Above all, we want to promote respect of different backgrounds and perspectives. While we tend to have a very socially conscious culture, we don’t want to make the mistake of assuming that we’re further along this path than we actually are. So, we’re consciously focusing on promoting education about diversity, growing together as a company, and showcasing the common ideals of the diverse nonprofit community.

Greenhouse: How did you gain the momentum to get diversity, equity, and inclusion goals on your company-wide objectives and key results (OKRs)?

Nancy: It was a multi-faceted approach. This year, we formed employee resource groups called “Classy Communities” - one of them is focused specifically on diversity and inclusion. This community has been very vocal about wanting to see tangible commitment from our executive team on making progress. In addition, as a People team, we were doing a lot of systemic analysis to show that DE&I; is a business initiative that affects our recruiting and retention. Both of these factors in combination helped to drive the addition of that particular OKR.

Greenhouse: How is that goal structured and what types of change does it promote?

Nancy: The goal is to promote systems and behavior changes, and we broke it down into three main categories.

The first category promotes accountability around diversity in our hiring & employee development practices. A key initiative here is making sure we have visibility into our baseline metrics so we can measure improvement. For example, we’re looking at interview panels and checking what percentage are made up of women and people of color. We’re also focusing on equity; we have a committee who’s completely responsible for auditing our systems to make sure we have fair promotion practices. Each quarter, we take a snapshot of team promotions, hires, and departures by demographic groups, and those reports are discussed with our executive team.

The second category is promoting employee development by providing more channels for discussion, as well as enabling people to build practical skills. We’re investing in employee resource groups and facilitating more networking and mentorship opportunities.

The third area we’re working on is targeted education and awareness. We’re doing unconscious bias trainings with our People team, more in-depth training for people managers, and having our executives work with an industry leader to become more well-versed in these topics.

Greenhouse: What are some of the ways you track progress on the overall goal?

Nancy: We conduct surveys to measure engagement and employee happiness, so we’re looking to see both an overall increase in that score, as well as an increase by demographics. We’re also paying special attention to the retention and development numbers of underrepresented groups.

Greenhouse: What are some of the challenges you’ve observed as you’re rolling out these initiatives?

Nancy: When you’re moving really fast as a company, it can be difficult to catch up with structure and process. We wanted to minimize the risk of unintentional harm created through unconscious bias, so as a result, we’re focused on promoting intentional processes and mindsets. Using Greenhouse Inclusion is one of the ways we’re tackling that challenge—the tool helps us put checks and balances into place within our hiring processes. A by-product of having Inclusion layered on top of our system is that we’re able to lead thought-provoking conversations with employees around diversity, and show them that we’re taking meaningful steps forward and investing in DE&I.;

Greenhouse: What are some of the key wins you’ve seen so far as a result of focusing on DE&I;?

Nancy: It’s becoming apparent to me that this work is very much about small changes aggregating to big impact. Using the Pipeline by Demographics report we were able to understand how many people from underrepresented groups are applying to roles at Classy. Seeing, for example, that there are many people who identify as gender non-binary in our funnel prompted us to address some of our assumptions around gender identity. Putting processes into place to get more visibility into these statistics helps us meet the needs of our population and become more inclusive as an organization.

I’m proud of the fact that DE&I; is starting to feel like a seamless part of our People team strategy, rather than a separate initiative. We now have dedicated resources to devote to these programs, and a company-wide platform to share progress. We’re making a conscious effort to tie all of these principles back into our leadership and how we develop employees. Our motivation to focus on DE&I; is to mobilize and empower each other (mirroring our company mission to mobilize and empower the world for good), making sure we’re bringing out the best in everyone and enabling our community to feel energized, excited, and proud to work here.

Learn more about Classy, the #1 online and mobile fundraising platform, and how it helps tackle the world's toughest challenges, here.