Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Wade Hinton works to connect minorities with opportunities to serve on local nonprofit boards.

Name: Wade Hinton

Age: 46

Occupation: Vice president of diversity and inclusion for Unum; founder of Board Connector

Hometown: Chattanooga


Before diversity and inclusion became touch points in the ongoing national dialogue, Wade Hinton began looking for a way to start the conversation locally. He settled on a perhaps unexpected nexus: nonprofit boards.

While those organizations are tasked with supporting the community at large, they often lack the perspective of the broad base of those served, he realized. He's personally served on the boards of dozens of organizations, from The Benwood Foundation to the Chamber of Commerce and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP to Friends of the Festival.

In April 2017, Hinton launched Board Connector to help connect other nonprofits with a diverse pool of talent.

"What I say in a nutshell is we help organizations and individuals reach their potential," he says.

Two years ago, Hinton became the first vice president of diversity and inclusion at one of Chattanooga's largest employers, Unum, which just launched a Social Justice Fund to support organizations working to end racism, discrimination and bias. Though he says he keeps his two roles separate, the results often carry over — and into the community at large.


Here, he shares what he's learned along the way.

>>> When you do have more diverse teams, a lot of studies show that you're going to have a better bottom line and will produce better results.

>>>  When you unlock that inclusive environment, you get the benefit of having those diverse perspectives as an organization. When you unlock that awareness, if you will, or are more mindful of bias and other things that impact your perspective as an individual or program, that removes barriers for people to succeed and to be helpful, but also more impactful.

>>>  I've been very fortunate to serve on a number of boards throughout the community and other places as well. What I've found is there was not the representation of the community serving on boards in this community. More than that, I knew a number of talented professionals that had not been asked to serve on a board at all.

>>>  I would hear from a number of nonprofits, "We really can't find talent." Something just didn't fit right with that, so I thought I could create an easy way to connect those.

>>>  I think we have so much talent and need to make sure we're taking advantage of the talent that's right here in Chattanooga.

>>>  We did a survey and at that time got some responses that people thought there was enough diversity, if you will. That was a bit unexpected.

>>>  I would love to see nonprofits with boards and a staff that reflect our community. I would love to see our community, especially those who are people of color and women, feel confident in their abilities and that there are opportunities to serve on boards. That creates more leadership opportunities for those who serve.

>>>  I think the added benefit to both of those is having more impactful and innovative nonprofits and organizations.

>>>  The Hunter Museum, for instance, is a great example where they made a concerted effort to do more outreach to the African American community, and now they have Black Professionals at the Hunter (a networking group). It helps with growing membership to the Hunter Museum, it helps with fundraising activities. I think part of that came from representation on the board who thought this was important.

>>>  As a community, we have a real opportunity to create a place that is inclusive and that has a sense of belonging for everyone. That's not only at our organizations and our companies, but also our nonprofits and the boards that help make those decisions.

>>>  I would suspect [the Hunter] probably had more [general] engagement by African Americans over this past year and a half due in large part to this group, Black Professionals at the Hunter.

>>>  [Board Connector] will be encouraging nonprofits to, especially during this time, to make sure they continue to lean in and that they look at the makeup of their board and whether that's reflective of the community, and also [look at] their staff [demographics].

>>>  I see more folks who'd not been asked to serve on boards being invited to serve. Even if you don't get asked to serve on a board, I'm hearing other instances of people saying now they know they can do this.

>>>  When you see people of a background similar to you, it gives you more confidence that you can serve.


To learn more about Board Connector and sign up for its services — whether as an individual looking to serve or a nonprofit with board positions to fill — visit