Inclusiveness is good for business

By Naomi Harris

Whether your organization runs a museum, housing program or youth mentoring project, inclusiveness can help you create a more harmonious and stable workplace, increase your volunteer corps, deliver more effective programming and boost your donor base.

For your outreach strategy, you can tailor each approach and tool individually to target donors, funders, constituents, board members, volunteers and community supporters.

Within each target group, identify subgroups. If an organization serves youth, for example, it will want to reach not just youth, but parents or caregivers as well.

To create your program:

* Remember that building trust is an ongoing process.

* Let people know they are welcome.

* Demonstrate your willingness to go to the community, not the reverse.

* Recruit outreach workers who are respected in the community.

* Use culturally-relevant bilingual materials.

* Do not assume that people who speak the same language have the same needs, interests or share the same cultural background.

* Focus your message on how your target audience will benefit, not what you need.

* Recognize allegiance to family and the role religion plays in the family structure of many ethnic groups.

You should focus on relationships, not projects:

* Face-to-face outreach is effective and yields a greater community-based outcome in the long run.

* Seek feedback and learn about their experiences with your programming from your target population through interviews, focus groups, surveys or casual conversation.

A community-based advisory committee can provide you with valuable information:

* Welcome the advice of members regarding language, effective activities, community leaders, customs and norms, as well as open-ended advice regarding your standing in the community.

* Verify the terminology you use.

* Elicit venues that would be effective for your outreach activities.

* Report back to the committee about ways in which its advice and input have been used.

* Provide honorariums for its members’ services.

* Stay connected and in communication with the committee.

You also should be aware of the barriers your target audience may face:

* Lack of trust.

* Stigmas or myths regarding your program.

* Issues of accessibility, such as hours of operation, transportation, physical constraints.

* Poverty.

And you should connect to hard-to-reach populations:

* English-as-a-second-language classes.

* Designated staff members who work with special populations in school systems.

* Local farmers’ markets.

* Health clinics.

* Senior centers.

* Soup kitchens and free food services.

To ensure longevity of your outreach efforts, incorporate your goals for engaging a diverse target audience into your organization’s strategic plan.

Naomi Harris is a resource development and communications specialist with JVA Consulting in Edgewater, Colo.

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