Let’s talk about something that’s going to make some of you really uncomfortable: diversity and inclusion. In the nonprofit world, we all talk a good game, saying that we want to be a diverse workplace and have an inclusive atmosphere. But do we walk the walk? I’m going to talk about that in terms of our hiring and recruitment practices at a later date but first, let’s tackle our communications. I am tired of seeing Polly Perfect in your communications all the time! Nonprofits have to stop using stock photography and one image of diversity (race) in order to truly represent the populations they serve and the donor base they want.
A few examples of missing the real world I see represented overall in donor communications:
1. The perfect mix of black and white - If you haven’t yet read Three and a Tree by 160/90 download your free copy and read away. It covers all that is wrong with university marketing and forced diversity. Forced diversity is just as harmful as a lack of diversity. Diversity should be created at a cultural level instead of only filling a quota of diverse photos. Race isn’t all about black and white and Hispanic. It’s about all the shades in between; it’s about a multiracial world, it’s about looking outside of checking one box and instead embracing that the lines are blurred in a wonderful way. Diversity comes in many forms and should be embraced for how it challenges the status quo just as it is celebrated for how it fits in. Take a look at your photos. Are they representative of the folks you serve? Does it look like your community? Here is a great example from the Y of Greater Charlotte that looks like the Charlotte population!
2. The lack of people of different sizes - the average size of an American woman is now 16. How many women and men who don’t fit into a medium t-shirt are in your communications? From very petite to people who are much larger, are you being representative in your communications? We still have a long way to go in body shaming and showcasing real bodies, but including people who aren’t the typical stock photography size would be a start for you and your organization.
3. The lack of people with disabilities visible or not - Not everyone’s life is perfect. A lot of people have intellectual or physical disabilities. It’s our job to show them living their best lives. Do your communications utilize best practices in these areas? When was the last time you included a photo in your publications of someone with a visible or non -visible disability? There are amazing examples out there from Target to OshKosh B'gosh and others. Embrace it, because after all, who wouldn’t want photos like those below in their communications. Scars tell our stories, don’t be afraid to show them.
4. All faces are beautiful, not just those with makeup on. All hair is fabulous, not just straight sleek shiny hair. This one stands out to me more now than ever. Showcase models who have an array of hairstyles and textures. Bald is beautiful, not just on cancer patients. When’s the last time you showcased someone embracing their natural style? Bold colors, fun cuts, natural curls, covered with a sheitel or hijab, beautiful locks, they all have a place in our organization’s communications.
I’m not saying that you need to go rip apart all of your communications and redo them. I’m asking you to have awareness and be realistic when it comes to representative imagery. Images are powerful, and our inclusion of them in our publications sends a message to all involved in our organizations. If our organizations truly exist to help change society for the better, then can we start with the photography we use? Think about it, think about the images you would have liked to see or would still like to see in your world, embrace them, show their beauty and lift them up as examples for others to use.
If you need more evidence of why images matter, you can also look to the pageant world. Say what you want about the system or the process but social media recently rejoiced at the following image and what it says about our country.
Miss USA (a Gamecock!!), Miss Teen USA, Miss America