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Bright ideas in nonprofits: researchers




Research is the bread and butter of quality organizations. Nonprofit organization research informs the mission of a nonprofit, and in turn, affect its ability to inspire change, engage the public, and attract donors to fundraise for their initiative.


Nonprofits rely on different methods of research to impact change in their cause, but few are as well-rounded as the studies performed by Catalyst, a global nonprofit geared toward building women-forward workplaces. Since 1962, Catalyst has relied on pioneering data-backed research, co-organizational programs, and the use of practical tools like workshops to perform research and impact change to positively affect the strength of women’s leadership roles in business.

Particularly, Catalyst has a unique approach using action-oriented research, implemented in three ways:

  • By partnering with organizations to address barriers and culture issues within individual workplaces.
  • By engaging with their cause through workshops and consulting services to work directly with individuals and groups to better understand the cause of gender gaps in workplaces.
  • With fact-based, scientific methods like large-scale field studies and longitudinal panels.

Hands-on research allows Catalyst to make the difference they intend to in women’s and minority’s professional lives. Catalyst’s research suggests that people in the workforce operate on an unconscious bias toward others of a certain race or gender. In partnering with organizations looking to change their internal structures with the times and work toward more equality and inclusivity, Catalyst has found a method of field research that engages people across organizations and builds robust solutions for workplaces. By connecting with the immersive Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) program, for instance, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) leaders and teams trained were able to garner better understanding of their unconscious biases and implement new internal structures. “Every time we do succession planning on the team now, we add a lens around diversity and gender balance,” says SVP, Chief Data Officer in Technology and Operations, Jose Ribau.1



It’s through hands-on research that Catalyst can make the difference they intend to in women’s and minority’s professional lives.

Executive Director for Catalyst’s U.S. Region, Deepali Bagati, knows that women shouldn’t have to adapt to meet outdated organizational norms:  “We realized that it’s strange to have women in the workforce if the workplace is not ready for them, and that caused us to shift our focus from individual women to organizations themselves.”2 Using a strictly research-based approach to finding actionable solutions, Catalyst is able to determine many of the problems women face in the workplace in a hands-on way.


What’s more, by engaging their audience through workshops and consulting services, another effective form of fieldwork, Catalyst is able to identify the business goals of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and determine tactics for driving success in these areas of business development (like recruitment, employee retention, and career development). “We know that ERGs have great potential to amplify inclusion and create inclusive workplaces,” says Vice President of the Inclusive Leadership Initiative, Krista Bookman.  Through offering dynamic workshops for these groups, Catalyst uses its research to inspire ERGs to “increase employee engagement and team performance, connect to communities in which business takes place, be a partner for recruitment and retention, foster innovation, and enhance the bottom line.”3

While a priority for these organizations, the execution of proper research is often not in the budget or scope of resources for nonprofits. According to Randy Stoecker of the University of Wisconsin, “outside evaluation research, the crucial area of collecting, managing, analyzing and using research data is neglected by the trainers and the researchers working with nonprofits.” Organizations like Catalyst have been able to make a change by placing research at the forefront of what they do, where all organizational initiatives are an opportunity for study, growth, and establishing a unique impact on the problem at hand.



[1] Ribau, J. (2017, June 22). CIBC: Gender Balanced Leadership #StandForInclusion. Retrieved from
[2] Vollman, A. (2015, December 18). Catalyst Takes Research-Based Approach to Developing Inclusive Workplaces. Retrieved from
[3] Brookman, K. (2016, July 13). ERLI 2016: Krista Brookman. Retrieved from
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