If your organization has made a serious and authentic commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), you know this work is challenging. It’s even harder when not everyone in your community agrees with the journey that’s been undertaken.
How do you grapple with that? How do you talk to your most important key audiences and stakeholders about your commitment when they may not yet share it? And how do you deal with any potential backlash?
One of our client’s faced the backlash and handled it in a way we can all learn from:
This nonprofit mentors youth from communities that are underrepresented and underserved, and our work together was to develop a brand and messaging strategy to reflect their DEI commitment. This meant naming the systems of inequality they work to address. They articulated the values that drive their organization, and DEI was prominent. Building on those, we drafted the following Problem Message (one that states the problems your organization exists to solve, thereby positioning you as an expert at solving it):
We live in a society that protects and reinforces the privileges of its white middle-class citizens through systems and bias. The only way to reverse this is through a long-term commitment to change. To impact systemic inequalities, we work side-by-side with our youth and families to navigate these systems, advocate for change, and right the inequalities.
When the executive director proudly began using this message in their community they heard from one of their longtime donors—he would no longer donate to them because he did not agree with this mindset. The executive director consulted the board chair and they agreed that they would stand by this language, but not give up on the donor. If there was a chance to retain his generosity and help him see why diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism were essential to the mission he purported to support, they wanted to try.
When the board chair approached the donor, she explained why they felt like this was so important and why this stance against racism and inequality was part of their mission, their brand and the values they share with their stakeholders. It took courage, and it wasn’t easy, but ultimately, the donor decided to continue investing in the organization.
The executive director later shared with us:
We often think about the donors we might lose when we take courageous stances and an anti-racist standpoint. We don’t think as much as we should about the donors that we gain. We’ve gained a whole bunch of new donors who are ready to commit to an organization that’s ready to commit to this mindset.
When you have a strong nonprofit brand, you’re able to make decisions, big and small, with assurance and confidence on behalf of your organization. If you have made the organizational commitment to DEI and made it a part of your organization’s values and messaging, lean into those values in situations like these. This will help you make decisions that are true and authentic to your organization, help you communicate with security, and keep you accountable for the work you have set out to do.
Staying true to your commitments can and will have an impact. That is why leveraging and reinforcing your brand in those moments is crucial. It reminds your key stakeholders why they supported you in the first place and helps you attract more people who believe in the work you are doing.
Frida supports and executes Mission Minded’s Marketing and Client Relationship strategies where she manages social media and digital content, oversees conference speaking opportunities, and acts as project management support on various client engagements.
See all posts by Frida Silva