Planning · October 15, 2020

Diversity Grants Can Help You Bring Equity to Your Hiring Practices

Diversity is an increasingly important component of assembling a strong employee team. Research from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, suggests that diverse teams outperform their more homogeneous counterparts, in part because diversity promotes innovative ideas and collaboration.

But finding candidates with the right combination of know-how and diverse attributes can be a challenge, especially because unequal access to resources and preconceptions about particular industries might limit the demographics of your applicant pool. Diversity grants across a range of sectors and specializations can help you find, recruit and train employees from various backgrounds so you can put together the strongest team possible.


The public and nonprofit sectors offer the overwhelming majority of workplace diversity grants, particularly for the health sector. To enhance workforce diversity, the NIH offers support directly to graduate students, post-doctoral candidates and eligible investigators from groups that are underrepresented in health-related research. These groups may include individuals with disabilities, underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This support primarily takes the form of pre-doctoral fellowships, doctoral research grants and dissertation grants. Healthcare organizations can take advantage of these programs by seeking out candidates who've received this funding to help them establish expertise in their fields. This can be a helpful resource if you're looking for specialized knowledge but having trouble assembling a diverse pool of applicants.


The Health Resources & Services Administration, or HRSA, provides accredited nursing schools and programs with workforce diversity grants under its Nursing Workforce Diversity, or NWD, program. The program's objective is to increase opportunities for disadvantaged individuals, including those from racial and ethnic minorities who are underrepresented among registered nurses. HRSA provides funding for scholarships, stipends, tutoring and other activities that support the training, development and retention of suitable candidates.

If you're looking for diverse applicants to fill vacant nursing positions, seek out these schools and candidates who've gone through this program. Many participating schools offer robust hiring support to help increase candidate success, so consider reaching out to schools in your area that offer the program. Employers can request a list of NWD grant recipients to better align their diversity recruiting efforts.

Conferences and industry events

Conferences are one of the strongest resources available to businesses. Recognizing this fact, many organizations have established grants to encourage conference attendance by employees of diverse backgrounds. Taking advantage of these grants can be an important part of developing and retaining diverse team members and showing them you're invested in their professional growth.

Typically, these grants are provided by the trade association hosting the event or by a participating sponsor. They usually award free conference admission as a one-time grant to eligible individuals—typically racial or ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

A large number of conferences in industries ranging from library science to construction to technology offer such grants. If you're interested in taking advantage of this type of program for a particular conference, search the event website for diversity grant notices and assist employees in applying.

Small businesses

While few grants are provided exclusively to help small businesses hire a diverse workforce, they can take advantage of the Workforce Opportunity Credit. This IRS business tax credit encourages companies to hire specific groups of diverse candidates. These include but aren't limited to ex-felons and people living in empowerment zones—areas of the country identified by the IRS as economically distressed communities.

For-profit businesses can apply the credit against the Social Security tax it owes for all employees, not just those hired for in association with the credit. A firm can also use the credit to offset its business income tax liability. Normal carry-forward and carry-back rules apply.

Next steps

Research educational institutions, nonprofits or foundations in your area to see if they provide workforce diversity grants that your business can leverage. These can be a key resource in expanding your applicant pool to include diverse employees who've benefited from these grants.

Next, contact organizers of conferences that your business frequently attends. Ask if they provide grants for diverse attendees. These can supplement the training and development of current employees, improving retention while offsetting training costs.

Building a diverse workforce is the right thing to do. It's also a way to improve your business and deliver more value. Programs and grants for diversity and equity like these can help you find the diverse candidates you need to make that happen.


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