We saw the lights flashing behind us, my husband calmly flipped on his blinker and began to move to the shoulder. Before he had even come to a complete stop, I watched as he quickly pulled his wallet from his pocket and took all of his documents from the glovebox. With focus, he placed them on the dashboard. With everything laid out in front of him, he rolled all the windows down and placed both of his hands open and against the top of steering wheel. He stayed so calm and quiet. It was very clear to me in this moment that his experiences growing up as a black man in Ohio were very different from my experiences as a white woman from Utah. In that moment, I recognized my privilege -- while I was learning how to talk my way out of a ticket as a teenager, he was learning how to survive getting a ticket. This experience was heartbreaking and one I will never forget, but for him, it was just life.
My husband and I each had an experience that day – and while different – our experiences shape us. Our experiences form our biases and opinions about people, places, brands, and more. As fundraisers, we know the power of an experience. We work every day to ensure our constituents feel seen, heard, and valued. And while we know that our relationships are built on this foundation, many are still working to ensure the experiences we deliver are inclusive. Committed to representing the rich diversity of the communities that support, and are served by, our missions we look to the imagery we us and the stories we tell, ensuring we succeed (because failure is not an option).
This work is not easy, and there is no one right place to start. As you consider where you, your leadership, and your organization are in this journey, here are a few ideas:
Leadership & Board Representation – Those who are closest to the problem are oftentimes the closest to the solution. Do the individuals your mission is serving have a seat at the table?
Direct Response and Marketing – Individuals are far more likely to engage with brands that allow them to see themselves in the story. Are you considering the diversity of your communities in your segmentation strategies? What about in your images and stories?
Words Matter – We oftentimes use words and phrases because they are familiar, yet many carry connotation that is offensive or demeaning. Take a minute to do an inventory of slang, idiomatic expressions, and industry terms you commonly use – what you find may surprise you.
I am fortunate to serve on the DE&I Committee at Pursuant, and to work alongside so many nonprofit organizations that are taking the important steps toward creating more inclusive donor engagement strategies. Organizations like Children’s Health in Dallas which formed the Health Equity Diversity and Inclusion commission to address health inequities across the system and the communities they served, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals that updated gender identification to include Non-binary/Gender Fluid/Third Gender/Trans Spectrum as well as the ability to self-describe gender, and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that updated their demographics to understand LGBTQ incidence within their current supporter population. These are just a few examples of the many great organizations taking steps to understand who their constituents are, as humans, and allow those human insights to shape the ways they deliver experiences that inspire connection and engagement in more meaningful ways.
Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organizations is not a check the box activity, it’s a journey. The next step will look a little different for each of us – and that’s OK – what matters is that we take it.