How Can Nonprofit Organizations Tell Inclusive Stories?

Every word counts and when telling inclusive stories, it’s important to use language that both values and prioritizes people. This is especially the case for organizations that are committed to meeting member expectations, looking to attract or retain donors or driving innovation in their organizational efforts.

I was reminded of this while attending last week’s PRSA Western District Conference, where Amira Barger, an executive VP on the Global Health Sector team at Edelman and seasoned fundraiser, communications strategist and DEI expert, shared how to communicate your organization’s mission and the work you do through inclusive language and models.

During Barger’s presentation, she covered the foundation of speaking and creating in an inclusive way, shared tools for shifting focus to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and gave examples on how to infuse allyship in the work you do.

For communicators, it is important that we are ready to face difficult or sometimes confrontational questions about racial equity. To help prepare professionals on how to communicate about race in a way that can move people toward better outcomes and create positive change, Barger shared the research-informed Affirm, Counter, Transform (ACT) model.

Developed by the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI), the ACT Model highlights the importance of effective and strategic communication and the impact it can have on advancing racial equity when discussing the topic of race.

The first step of the ACT Model is to Affirm, which calls for communicators to affirm the shared values they have with the audience in connection to what they are discussing, whether it be the vision of the organization they are a part of or the mission of a client that they represent. In this stage, it’s critical to engage with your audience and make it clear that we are all in this together regarding the problem you are communicating.

Next, it’s time to Counter. This is the time to go deeper into the challenge, explaining the problem that a community may face and sharing the institutional and structural drivers that have impact it from improving. Barger notes that this is the time to share facts and stories surrounding the problem to paint a better picture and provide historical context surrounding the issue.

Lastly, it’s time to Transform! This is the place to reiterate that we are all in this together and give your audience a clear step or solution to overcoming the challenge you have shared, this will help them commit to what you have discussed and give them a mission to put their teachings into practice. For organizations, this is the time to echo your message and how your actions are helping make progress in the issue you shared.

During the presentation, Barger used racial disparities in education as an example for utilizing the ACT Model. While she started with the affirming idea that all children deserve high-quality public education, she was able to effectively counter the audience by sharing a statistic that only 50 percent of African American, Latino and Native students graduate on time and explaining the structural factors behind this problem before entering the transform stage and offering solutions on how to reduce disparities in schools.

In addition to the ACT Model, Barger also covered the significance of developing a guide when communicating race in various formats and provided the general strategies to keep in mind when communicating the topic of racial equity.

Some strategies include:

  • Lead with shared values.
  • Be relentless about your vision.
  • Balance data with story.
  • Be reflective.

Barger further suggested a few ways to stay committed like engaging in conversation with someone that is different than you with the intention of learning something new and sharing any new learnings with your teams. She also shared additional resources such as Stanford Social Innovation Review’s feature on aspirational communication.

Not only do these discussions and strategies help you become a more effective leader, but these will also help improve your team while advancing racial equity in the process.

Need assistance sharing your message with the world? Find out how HMA can help!

Written by
at May 4, 2023

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