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Posted in DEI by Whole Whale

Non-Inclusive Language is off-brand... How Consultants Can Help

Non-Inclusive Language is off-brand... How Consultants Can Help

As a nonprofit consultant, it’s your job to provide services to organizations with the goal of achieving their mission—and part of that mission should be to foster an inclusive and welcoming community. To do your job effectively, it’s important that you look beyond just the data or project objectives when you partner with an organization. It’s also essential to evaluate how they present themselves and their messaging in terms of language, visuals, and tone.

Inclusive language is a critical part of any organization’s identity and can have a big impact on whether or not diverse audiences feel welcomed by them. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for using non-inclusive language on any website or communication piece—yet too often this still happens. 

When working with partners at nonprofits, you should always ensure that the organization is actively engaging in best practices for creating an experience free from the exclusionary language we used to see in the past. This includes gender-neutral language, voiding stereotypes and biases across different platforms (print/digital/email campaigns), and avoiding ableist phrases such as “the disabled community," etc.). There are over 1,000 phrases that nonprofits should consider updating built into the InclusivityTool.com

It's definitely not enough to simply preach inclusion without actually looking out for it throughout every step of your work - including doing a quick scan on any site or materials you're helping manage. A surefire way to spot non-inclusive language is by having a DEI professional edit your client’s content (unless you’re already the DEI consultant!) or by editing the content against your client’s DEI style guide. With any text, make sure they are reviewed against these guidelines before going live. You can make this go a little quicker by using our Inclusivity Tool to flag possible instances of non-inclusive language! 

Also, be mindful that some images can unintentionally communicate exclusionary messaging too - things like stock photos which falsely illustrate homogenous groups rather than represent broader communities. This type of attention-to-detail isn't just for magazines; it’s also essential if you want your work as a consultant to support diversity and inclusivity.

Not Just Risk Mitigation

Checking for noninclusive language is not just about avoiding risk. There is an opportunity cost to using language that is offensive or makes certain groups of people feel excluded. More than ever, people are increasingly more conscious of the language that is used to describe and portray them. An organization's messaging should reflect a commitment to understanding and respect for this fact.

Often these types of narratives are addressed in updating an organization's brand or website. There is now an opportunity for an organization to find language that betrays the brand and update it. This can have a real positive impact when customers, donors and partners learn that the organization takes these steps to build an inclusive community and culture. 

As a consultant, you are in a unique position to help organizations do this, so it’s always best to be cognizant of these issues and bring them to their attention during any project related to creating or re-designing a website or communication piece. Doing so will show the organization that you are knowledgeable about inclusion on all levels and can have an impact on both their success as well as your own. 

In situations where there is more culture change that is needed it may be helpful to pull in a DEIB expert to help facilitate the right types of conversations. Sign up for Nonprofit.ist to reach out and get quotes from our network of DEIB experts!