A few years ago, I read a life-changing little workbook titled “Do Disrupt: Change the status quo. Or become it.” STOP! This is not a book recommendation. It is not a book dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion but things got REAL in the sense of {Respect, Equality, Awareness and Learning} during one of the exercises.

I’ve been to more than a dozen forms of DEI training but this dramatically changed my role in the world in the nonprofit space. I’ve done it all as a volunteer coordinator, grant writer, media relations director, executive director and funder. I offered to remove myself from the situation of fake-equity.

Now for the first time in my storied nonprofit career, I’ve had the honor of working with a team, including my cohort Nicki Faircloth, that not only centers on equity but also works actively to uproot systems of oppression internal and external.

We will talk about what that looks like during our webinar on Thursday, June 30th at 1 p.m. ET.

So, here are some examples of steps we took:

  • Joined a like-minded cohort and mentor program that would challenge our methods and specifically “called us in” rather than “called us out”
  • Started being honest without fear of failure or imposter syndrome
  • Surveyed current board members and screened new ones for a DEI commitment
  • Offered training for board and staff based on shared organizational values
  • Looked around who wasn’t at the table or represented in our communications and hired “experts”
  • Invited those who were underrepresented to make change and followed their leads
  • Presented a board with a reparations line item for communities that might have been harmed by our “well-meaning” intentions
  • Co-created heritage months to recognize communities and actively sought to understand places of pride and unique challenges
  • Co-collaborated to create summits/retreats with those underrepresented

That is part of our journey we plan to share with those attending the webinar.

If you are struggling with DEI, know that we are not coming from a place of judgment. From last year’s Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, we know that while DEI statements and plans were the latest buzz in 2020…few people are confident about progress within their organizations.

“This year, we asked about implementing diversity, equity and inclusion policies in communications work. Less than half (41 percent) of survey participants said their organization’s DEI policy was clearly articulated. Of those with policies, only 17 percent said the policy provided them with clear guidance as communications professionals. Nearly half (46 percent) of nonprofit communicators personally feel they have a strong understanding of DEI concepts, with another 45 percent saying they understand somewhat. For comparison, 56 percent of survey participants in the Communications Network’s 2021 DEI Survey said they personally felt they had a strong understanding of DEI concepts.”

Here is what we learned from the report:

Having a DEI policy alone does not shift organizational culture.

Many of you COMMs folk out there feel like you are only an island when it comes to DEI.

Practical guidance is needed from every aspect of the organization. No matter where you are in the organization structure, here are three quick ways you can shift or positively impact the structure:

  1. Recommending authentic training. No more workshops where people cry, clap and crap. Resist going back to doing the same old routine. Raise your hand and ask, “So what are we going to do differently?” Your DEI policy (if you have one) is a shared value, not a grant requirement, so feel free to bring leadership back to it.
  2. Awkwardly be “that person.” My friends and family sometimes correct themselves around me when they use words like “crazy” or misuse pronouns. Honestly, I am not qualified to be the language patrol. I want to do better and am excited that others around me are being influenced to do better.
  3. Seek out the “experts” around you knowing that most will not have titles. I’ve learned so much from Indigenous sisters about the layers of invisibility. Our friend and co-collaborator Kim Pevia has trained with us before. She often reminds us that healing these types of spaces moves at the speed of relationships. The “experts” around you are those you trust to read that annual report for tokenism, call you out on a fundraiser filled with exclusionary practices, call you in on appropriation and still be willing to have coffee with you.


If you are being real about DEI, it will feel uncomfortable. Even my 110-pound retired service dog runs to the bathroom when I start talking about inequity. Nicki Faircloth and I have worked together for more than three years as co-directors of a North Carolina based nonprofit, (alongside a rotating third person).

We have laughed, cried and had those WTF moments. We look forward to sharing our experiences and providing more practical tips during the webinar. When it comes to DEI, no one has all of the answers. I hang out with some damn good trainers and they are constantly learning. What we can commit to is getting you started on asking REAL questions. If you’re looking for a magical DEI solution, I can assure you that will not happen during this webinar. We plan to share some practical tips, and not to sound flippant, but when you start the REAL conversation and change the status quo “answers will come.”