Diversity, Equity And Inclusion in Nonprofit Storytelling

Few things connect people together better than stories, which is why it’s important that your nonprofit showcases as many diverse and inclusive stories as possible. 

But how do you go about that? How do you tell stories that are influenced by and meet your standards for your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives? And how do you share stories in a way that honors the people featured in them?

First, start with your organization. 

Step one is evaluating your organization’s diversity, inclusivity, and equity initiatives and carrying those out in every aspect of what you do. 

When recruiting new board or staff members, be honest with yourself about who is represented within your organization. You can look at things like a candidate’s gender, race, religious affiliation, ability, etc. Think about the voices you need on your team in order to effectively serve the population you want to help, seek out those applicants, and pay them fairly. 

Why is this important? Because everything starts with your mission and with how you approach the work you’re trying to do—the work you’re asking donors to support. By having a more diverse and inclusive range of voices internally, you’ll be better positioned to find voices outside of your organization that you can share with your community. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

If your organization is just starting to set and meet DEI standards, you might feel overwhelmed at the amount of work you want and need to do. That’s OK! That’s actually normal

I recommend approaching these things from a place of humility. Nobody knows everything. If you don’t know something—ask! There’s no shame in seeking another perspective even if you feel ignorant or embarrassed that you don’t know something already. 

In fact, bringing in an expert might be the smartest move here. Find a variety of individuals and tap them to fill a variety of roles so you have, you guessed it, a diverse and inclusive support team for your goals. 

Give people the opportunity to share their stories in a way that empowers them.

Let’s say you want to start reaching out to people who may be interested in sharing their backgrounds and perspectives. If you’re thinking about sharing someone’s story, the very first thing you should do is get permission to do so. Just because someone shared something with you doesn’t mean they want to share it with your entire constituent base! 

Next, think about how you’re sharing these stories. It’s not your job to change the story to best suit your narrative or goals. In fact, that’s (mostly likely) unethical and can lead to losing the trust of your donors and community members. You don’t want to undermine your mission so pay attention to how you collect and share these stories

To help ensure you’re preserving the original essence and integrity of a story, use the subject’s original phrases, facts, quotes, and testimonials as much as possible. 

Once you’ve crafted the story, revisit it with the individual and ask them what they think. 

You can ask questions like: 

  • Do you feel you’re accurately represented in this story? 
  • Do you hear your voice?
  • Would you like anything to be changed? Added? Removed?

As nonprofit storytellers, our goal is to acquire a variety of narratives, perspectives, and experiences from multiple individuals so that we can communicate the most holistic and inclusive representation of our community possible. 

Start internally, approach experts who can help you accomplish your goals, and start reaching out to people so you can tell stories that will change your community and the world for the better. 

Madison Gonzalez

Madison Gonzalez

Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc.
Madison Gonzalez is a National Public Speaker, Storyteller of the Year Award-Winner, Best-Selling Author of Dear Mirror, Events Manager, and Published Poet. She is also the Advancement Director at Morning Light, Inc., and Indianapolis-based nonprofit that fosters community programs in Indiana for the terminally ill, seniors, families and the home-bound. As a storytelling coach and consultant, it is her mission to empower others to share their stories for impact and income. Madison can be reached at madison@toldcoaching.com.