Akron-area nonprofit boards lack diversity reflective of the community, according to a study commissioned by the GAR and John S. and James L. Knight foundations.

The study, released this week, was administered by BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence, and shows that board positions at such organizations as hospitals, economic development agencies and social welfare institutions need to improve their representation from women, minorities and younger generations.

The survey reached 196 nonprofits with a 73 percent response rate.

Here are some highlights of the 29-page report, which can be found on Ohio.com with this story:

•?Board members age 50 and older make up 65.2 percent of all boards.

•?Those under the age of 40 compose 13.2 percent of board members and 1.6 percent are under the age of 30.

•?Men make up 59 percent of all boards and 60 percent of all organizations with budgets over $500,000.

•?Whites make up 86 percent of all boards with black board members composing 10 percent, Hispanics .03 percent, Asians 1 percent, multiracials .03 percent and unknown 3 percent.

•?The boards of arts organizations are 93 percent white, 6 percent black and have no Hispanics.

The results verified some “hunches” that Christine Mayer, president of the GAR Foundation, and Josh McManus, former Knight Akron program director, had before commissioning the study, Mayer said. But it also debunked an assumption that a few served on many boards. The survey found that only 3 percent serve on three or more nonprofit boards, she said.

Mayer said the low number of blacks on arts boards (6 percent, compared with 15 percent of the county population) was a surprise. She said it also was surprising that only five of the 122 respondents identified themselves as focusing on economic development.

The data show that organizations need to do a better job of tapping younger board members, and “not just to sit at the kiddie table ... but soliciting their opinion,” she said. “As a community, we need to build our capacity to have the uncomfortable conversation.”

Before having this data, people probably thought all was fine, said Kyle Kutuchief, interim Knight Akron program director. “There’s clearly work to be done. We’re not OK. We’re not diversifying the way we want to.”

The next step is simple and starts with the next opening on every organization’s board, he said.

“Take a serious look at what range of candidates you have interviewing, including age, race and skill set,” he said. “It needs to start with what you can control.”

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.