A few weeks ago, I attended the AMA Nonprofit Marketing Conference in Washington, D.C. As I dove into the latest trends in nonprofit marketing, a session I found particularly interesting was Carrie Fox’s talk on, “The Missing Narrative: Elevating Unheard Voices”. As we explored the value of speaking directly to your target audiences, I began to wonder how our own nonprofit clients might use inclusive marketing for their messaging and content strategies.
As nonprofits consider taking a more inclusive approach to marketing, here are a few questions I think are worth exploring and answering as a first step.
What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?
Before jumping in and changing your approach to messaging and content strategy to be more inclusive of other audiences, it’s important to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion. Jennifer Brown, author of Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace, and the Will to Change, offers an excellent breakdown of the two:
“Diversity is the who and the what: who’s sitting around that table, who’s being recruited, who’s being promoted, who we’re tracking from the traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability—inherent diversity characteristics that we’re born with. Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how. Inclusion is the behaviors that welcome and embrace diversity. If you are a great leader for inclusion, you have figured out how to embrace and galvanize diversity of voices and identities. If I could have my wish, every leader would say, ‘Where is the diversity in this conversation?’”
The main takeaway here for nonprofit marketers is that it is important to not only be diverse, but inclusive as well. Are you including diverse audiences in marketing meetings, but not actually giving them a real voice or seat at the table when decisions are made?
Organizations should strive to be diverse and inclusive in both internal and external environments. Consider whether your organization is trying to appeal to a minority group or bring about awareness for a social injustice issue. Your organization should help bring about change to your mission by including those affected in your marketing campaigns. Outreach efforts should include a diverse and inclusive mix, spreading the word to all groups to achieve a bigger impact.
What role does inclusive marketing play in the nonprofit world?
As nonprofit marketers, we’re not only creating roles for the audiences who will support our mission, but also for those who are directly impacted by our work. At Forum One, we do this for our clients through audience research. We take note of opinions and experiences from a diverse set of perspectives, and make design and content choices based on the input.
While doing your own audience research, there are a few questions to consider to ensure your organization is being inclusive:
- Are we reinforcing negative stereotypes about the communities we are trying to support?
- Are we authentically connecting with the community we are trying to help?
- When doing research on target audiences, are we going deep enough and actually speaking to the people who are most affected by our work?
- Are all of our marketing decisions being taken internally? Are we allowing for our target audiences to be involved?
By answering these questions, your organization will gain a better understanding of how inclusive or exclusive your marketing structure is and what areas should be strengthened. If your organization is struggling to answer any of these questions, it may be time to consider extending your audience include more voices. It’s important to realize who your audiences are (all of them!) and consider whether or not your organization is consciously striving to make them feel connected to your mission.
How can you apply inclusive marketing to your existing strategy?
In order to effectively apply an inclusive approach to your marketing efforts, there are two main steps to take:
1. Eliminate blockers
If you find yourself not being able to take audience research driven decisions, or have the right setup to be inclusive, this suggests you have some blockers to clear. For example, a blocker could be that your Facebook campaign isn’t seeing the right results because you didn’t do any initial audience research. Take the time to go a level deeper, and talk to those you are attempting to reach. Their feedback will be invaluable and contribute towards positive results.
2. Instill a culture of diversity
As nonprofit marketers, we can’t rely on a personal/single perspective to drive our organization’s mission forward. We need to take feedback and ideas from a number of perspectives to understand the lay of the land. We can do this by asking ourselves, “did this new approach take enough feedback from different audiences into account?” Or, “is our work representing diverse-enough ideas?” You are not expected to be the creator of all new ideas; however, you are responsible and accountable for making sure that your approaches take various perspectives into account.
A key element of marketing is to stay abreast of current trends and best practices. Understanding how to have an inclusive approach is important for optimizing your creative capabilities and outreach efforts to all communities. Inclusive marketing can drive more impact to your mission by reaching more people and in turn gaining more support, funding and awareness for your cause.